Looking back at those who have undergone major transformations as they became followers of Jesus Christ, Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Christ, stressed the need for evangelism. He also revealed that he continues praying for his atheist brother to this day.
Strobel, once an atheist journalist intent on disproving God who later found Christ, talked in-depth about the importance of evangelism with Roger Marsh of the Family Talk program, which is produced by the James Dobson Family Institute.
Strobel, who became a pastor and has been writing books looking to point others to the faith, began his two-part discussion on Monday by explaining that the “overriding passion” of his life is “to share the good news of Jesus Christ with people who don’t know Him.”
“I’m an evangelist at the depth of my heart, and I see evangelism not as just something that people gifted in evangelism do, but something we’re all called upon to do. We’re all called upon to share our faith,” he stressed.
“What I’ve found is if four things are true of you, if you are motivated to share your faith because of the love of Jesus Christ in you, if you are available to share your faith, if you make time in your day to interact with nonbelievers, if you are prepared to share your faith in a simple and natural way, and if you are prayerful about opportunities, then God will lead people your way, who you can, in a very simple way, talk about Jesus Christ to.”
Strobel then shared instances throughout his life, stretching back to when he first became a Christian at the Chicago Tribune, when he surprised people with his faith and told them about Christ.
He said that one scenario in his mind that helps him reach out to others is imagining, “What if Jesus lived in my house? How would He reach out to my neighbors?”
“He would certainly see them in a different light, wouldn’t He? He would see them through Heaven’s eyes. There would be a love. That’s Jesus, the friend of sinners, right? Jesus would have a love for these lost people in the neighborhood that would far outstrip my own,” the author envisioned.
He recalled one instance during a baptism service at Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois, where he previously served as teaching pastor, when a woman came to be baptized.
“We were baptizing hundreds and hundreds of people. So we didn’t know them all by name. So they had name tags on as they came up. We said, if you’d like to bring someone with you for support, you can do that. This woman comes up to be baptized, and she walks over to me, and she has a man with her. He looks like a real tough construction worker type. He probably didn’t even use nails when he hammered in things. Just boom, boom. It’s just fist. Tough guy.
“I looked at her and I said, ‘You’re here to be baptized?’ She said, ‘Yes, I am.’ I said, ‘Have you given your life wholeheartedly to Jesus Christ?’ And she said, ‘Yes, I have.’ I was just about to baptize her, when something inside of me caused me to look at her husband. I said to him, ‘Are you her spouse?’ He said, ‘Yes, I am.’ I said, ‘Have you given your life to Jesus Christ?’
“I’ll tell you what, his face screwed up. I didn’t know what’s going to happen. And then he burst into tears. This tough construction worker in front of thousands of people is sobbing and sobbing. He said, ‘No, I haven’t. But I want to right now.’ I thought, ‘Wow, okay. Time out.’ I prayed with him in front of the huge congregation.”
Strobel added that he prayed with the man to receive Christ, and baptized both him and his wife together. After the service, a woman who would turn out to be the construction worker’s sister said that she had been praying for nine years for him to have a change of heart, and it was only on that day that he suddenly did.
In his message to listeners, Strobel noted that many others have been praying even longer for atheistic loved ones to change their ways, though they have yet to do so.
“I have a brother who is an atheist to this day, and I’ve been praying for him for 17 years, since I first became a Christian. I don’t see any progress. I think he’s as far from God today as he was 17 years ago. You know what? I want to give up? I want to say, ‘I did the prayer thing. Now give me an evangelistic trick.’ God says keep praying. Keep praying,” Strobel revealed.
“Jesus prayed right until the end. If you have someone in your life who you love desperately, who is headed for a Christless eternity, keep praying. Keep praying.”
The author recalled many other stories of God reaching people that others wouldn’t expect could be reached, but also warned Christians against being fake and pretending like their lives are perfect.
“Is your church preaching reconciliation, but they walk into it, and they can feel tension between this part of the church and this part of the church? There’s a split, and they can spot it like that?” he said of what might push nonbelievers away.
“Do they see a church that’s putting on a slick program, trying to reach lost people, but it’s not motivated by hearts that are broken for the lost. What are they seeing?” he warned.