A few years ago I had the privilege to spend some time with some friends in NYC. It was Queens actually. Their church was planted many years prior and was going strong, but thought it would be good to have some guys come in to serve them evangelistically.
I was immediately exhilarated by the ease and opportunities for evangelism in New York. People were everywhere. It was nearly overwhelming the first time we went. And there was so much freedom in telling people about the Savior. Not only were people everywhere but they were mostly un-churched with very little idea of what it was all about. It was a most unusual place for me to be. It was comparatively different than my religious South. God opened my eyes to so much and allowed me to step out of my hermetically sealed world into a real world. Things were all of a sudden not safe. Yes, it was exhilarating.
One day before the church meeting on Wednesday I was making my way to the meeting at the American Legion Hall and there was a couple sitting on the park bench just across the street from the Hall. The couple was not talking to one another. They had carry-out Chinese. They were focused. She was overweight. He was slightly overweight. He had reddish hair that was a bit greasy and long. He face was acne covered. They were probably about 27 to 30 years of age. They had just got off work, stopped somewhere for some rice and whatever and were eating on the park bench. This was normal. There were many people milling around them in the smallish park.
He had a T-shirt that said, “51% Good & 49% Bad: Don’t push it”. That was a welcoming sight. I approached them hoping not to push it, but yet a desire to tell them about Jesus. It was a bit surreal. They were sitting, eating, focused simultaneously downward and most certainly in no hurry. I began the small talk, which led to the deep talk. I had 30 minutes before the meeting started. He was not a Christian and knew very little about it. He was either interested or didn’t have anywhere to go so he listened to this weirdo from Greenville, SC. I’m sure it was non-threatening to him. In his own laid-back, semi-interested coolness he talked to me as did his wife.
I asked him about heaven and hell and whether he believed in either and whether he knew how to get to either. He believed, but didn’t know the course to take. I invited him to the meeting. He said he couldn’t come because we would not accept him. That might be true in Greenville, SC, but not in NY and praise God I was in NY and it didn’t matter what you looked like. He also had a six pack or more of beer at his side. I told him to come on in that he was welcome here. He was taken aback by that, in a positive kind of way. We talked some more and then I told him I had to go. It was a pleasant conversation. I did plead with him to come to the meeting.
I hung around the inside entrance for a long while. He never showed. About 20 minutes into the meeting he and his wife came in. I was so encouraged. He told me later that he got saved and the reason he was late for the meeting was because he went home to pour his beer out. He wanted to walk a new way. The truth is he was 100% bad, but God changed that.