Saturday, March 11, 2006

No experience necessary

This past week spring break teams from Michigan State University and the University of Toledo were here to experience Turkish culture (or inasmuch as Istanbul represents Turkey) and spend time on campuses praying and talking with students. As the days went by, we had many good conversations and took advantage of opportunities to share the truth of Jesus with students. But when I asked spring breakers how their days were, some would inevitably say something like, "Yeah, I got to share the gospel with someone. I like doing it this way: [enter description of sharing the gospel here]. I think that really gets across the message well." Knowing that I probably once said the same thing, I held my tongue and was glad that the message was getting out.

You see, something I've been learning as a foreigner with the task of helping to guide university students to Christ is that I have no idea what the heck I'm doing. Seriously, the more I conversations I have, the less I feel like I have any clue what it actually means to successfully share the gospel with someone or have a "spiritual conversation". Sometimes when I felt like our conversation went nowhere, that student would call me up wanting to talk about it more, or perhaps he'd come to our weekly meeting. Other times, when I thought things went well, and I was able to help someone sort of understand something about God and his work, nothing would ever happen again.

But this is where the Holy Spirit comes in. Even this week I saw fruit coming from even the most stumbling, broken communication, and I'm even further convinced that all we can really do is cast seeds and prayerfully entrust God to cause them to grow. I mean, seriously, do you think that I can effectively communicate anything to a Turkish student? I barely speak the language, I've only lived here six months, I can't figure out what's going on half the time, and I don't know the culture. I'm as "outsider" as one can get. But it's precisely in this that I believe God gets the glory. Paul came not with "superiority of speech or of wisdom," but spoke "in weakness and in fear and in much trembling" of the cross of Christ so that people's faith "would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God" (1 Corinthians 2:1-5; cf. 2 Corinthians 4:7). And honestly, if it's not God's power that's at work here, not a thing will happen. If faith is something entirely from within man's will and intellect, then no one's ever going to understand and believe in Jesus on account of my measly, fumbling ways of trying to talk to people, no matter how many times we may meet up. And yet, somehow, God makes us adequate servants of others through whom people--even in Turkey--actually do come to believe (1 Corinthians 3:5; 2 Corinthians 3:5-6). Soli Deo gloria!

(On a side note, it has also been instructive, encouraging, and challenging to talk to Turks who became believers without ever talking to a Christian, but rather simply by reading the New Testament. This gives a little more punch to James 1:18 and 1 Peter 1:23)

No comments: