Jimmy was born in Texas, grew up nominally Protestant, but at age 20 experienced a profound conversion to Christ. Planning on becoming a Protestant pastor or seminary professor, he started an intensive study of the Bible. But the more he immersed himself in Scripture the more he found to support the Catholic faith. Eventually, he entered the Catholic Church. His conversion story, “A Triumph and a Tragedy,” is published in Surprised by Truth. Besides being an author, Jimmy is the Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers, a contributing editor to Catholic Answers Magazine, and a weekly guest on “Catholic Answers Live.”
Recently I was getting into my truck, and a gentleman I didn’t know came over to talk to me.
He was out front having a smoke and spotted me while I was getting into my vehicle, so he came over and introduced himself.
Turns out he’s my neighbor’s father-in-law.
He wanted to talk to me about Jesus and the end of the world.
Now, he wasn’t one of the Family Radio people who think that Judgment Day is going to occur May 21, 2011 (just watch; Harold Camping’s prediction will turn out to be wrong again), but he was—if I understood him correctly—a Calvary Chapel Evangelical who, like many in that community, think the end of the world is near, that people will be suddenly raptured away before a thousand year earthly reign of Christ, etc.
His primary interest in talking to me, though, wasn’t to swap views on the end of the world. Instead, he had something else in mind.
He didn’t actually use the following terms—our conversation took another path—but translating from Evangelicalese to Catholicese, he was concerned that I might not be saved (i.e., in a state of grace) and wanted to make sure that before I die I got to know Jesus (i.e., experienced a conversion to Christ), so he wanted to witness to me (i.e., evangelize me) so that I wouldn’t go to hell (i.e., hell).
That was right nice of him!
Turns out I was already full-up in the witnessing department—what with being an apologist and all that—but the sentiment was very much appreciated, he was a really nice guy, and we had a delightful conversation.
I hope we can chat again in the future!
I couldn’t help admiring about the gentleman the fact that he was bold enough to go up to a total stranger and start talking about sensitive personal things like whether the stranger has a properly configured relationship with God.
That’s one of the more sensitive and personal topics that can be broached, especially in a one-to-one conversation—as opposed to preaching to a big group of people and asking them individually to consider their relationship with God. The latter is peanuts. Any decent public speaker could do that. Going face-to-face with a single person and making the rectitude of his relationship with God the topic, that requires courage!
I could tell that the gentleman was nervous at the beginning of our conversation, so I did my best to set him at easy and signal that I wasn’t threatened or put off. While I didn’t have a lot of time (I was, after all, getting in my car to go somewhere), I engaged the subject with him happily and enthusiastically, and we had a great (if brief) truck-side conversation.
It brought back pleasant memories of my own time as an Evangelical.
And as I drove away, there was a prominent thought in my head: Catholics almost never do what he just did.
Why Catholics so seldom work up the courage to approach a total stranger with the message of Jesus.
One might think it’s because Catholics are chicken, that they’re afraid to do so. And of course they are. Evangelicals are, too! You have to screw up your nerve to do this kind of thing. That’s only human!
Yet Evangelicals do it and Catholics—for the most part—don’t.
Why is that?
In my next post I’ll discuss my own thoughts about why that is, but until then . . .
What are your thoughts?