Several years ago I had one of those airplane conversations preachers are always telling about. I hate to admit it, but I usually try to avoid those conversations. Maybe I shouldn’t. But the truth is that when I’m flying, I have a difficult time with conversations. I don’t hear all that well with background noises, like jet engines. And I am a bit introverted. Still, one of those conversations found me.
I was returning from Minneapolis on a Continental flight. I found my seat that Wednesday afternoon next to a “technomaniac.” He was a forty-something business type, cradling his cell phone between his shoulder and his jaw while he was unzipping his laptop case and setting up shop. He was sounding pretty important: “Yeah, I’ll be there in about two hours. The fax machine is on. Just send me the contract. I’ll evaluate it and send it back to you.” I was just watching it all.
I opened my briefcase and took out materials to work on the weekend sermon. He glanced over at what I was reading and said, “Looks like pretty interesting stuff you’re reading there.” We got to talking about religion and freedom and things like that. He asked me what I did, and I admitted that I was the pastor of a Baptist church. He said, “Our daughter went to a Vacation Bible School last week in Denton at a Baptist church. A lady across the street named Kathy goes to that church and invited our little girl to go.”
I asked, “Do you go to church anywhere?”
“No, I quit going to church a long time ago. My wife is a Buddhist. She’s from Japan.”
“Are you a Buddhist?”
“Well, sort of.”
“You quit going to church?”
“Yeah. I grew up in a Methodist church but when I got old enough, I quit going.”
“Tell me about that. Why did you quit? What sent you away?
“To tell you the truth, the thing that bothered me most about it was that I knew everybody in this little town I grew up in. I’d see them in church on Sunday, and I knew what they did the rest of the week. Quite honestly, there was just no consistency between what they were doing on Sunday and how they lived the rest of the week. I decided I didn’t need that.”
So it had been more than twenty years since he had been in church. We talked a bit further, and he said, “But you know, this woman Kathy, across the street – she really lives it. She lives what she says. In fact, we had a party in our neighborhood for her. I got to give a little speech. She had been helping everybody in the neighborhood, and we had a surprise party for her. We invited her over to our house and gave her a present. She was completely flabbergasted. She really lives what she says.”
We talked a little further, and I said, “I’m the pastor of a church, and one of the things I’m interested in is finding people like you and helping them come to know God through Jesus Christ. How can I do that better?”
“Well, if you could get more people like Kathy…”
Storms are opportunities. The world around us will have a chance to see what we are made of, how our testimony matches our lives.
About the author:
Dr. Robert Creech has been a member of the Truett Seminary faculty since 2009 and serves as Professor of Christian Ministires and Director of Pastoral Ministries. You can keep up with Dr. Creech on his blog: The Journey Continues