I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. In fact, I didn’t come to Christ until I was a senior in high school. A friend of mine and I decided that we would start going to our local Young Life club not because we were spiritually minded but because a lot of our friends attended the meetings—including a number of cute girls! We weren’t seeking a relationship with the Lord but with other kids our age.
The meetings were fun events, with comedy skits that made everyone laugh and songs that required lots of participation, such as stomping your feet, clapping your hands, or standing and sitting in rapid succession. We also heard testimonies from some of our friends who had come to Christ, and we were impressed with the difference they claimed he made in their lives. At the end of every meeting, a Young Life staff member gave a simple gospel presentation.
The social attraction of the meetings remained a high priority for me, but a spiritual hunger began to grow in my heart. My friend David usually took the lead in contacting me the day of the meetings and driving us to the group. But the fifth week I didn’t hear from him, so I called and asked if he intended to go that evening, especially since the group planned to meet at a central location and then drive to a theater to watch a Billy Graham movie.
I need to confess something here. At that time in my life I didn’t know who Billy Graham was. My family didn’t go to church, so I was clueless. I thought Dr. Graham was a political figure.
At any rate, my friend said he didn’t want to go to Young Life that evening, so I was faced with the first of three key choices I had to make that day, all of which had to do with relationships. I had never gone to Young Life by myself, and I was shy about going alone. So when my friend bailed on me, I almost decided to stay home. But even though it went against my natural inclinations, I got into the car and drove to the meeting.
When I arrived at our customary meeting place, everyone with a car was asked to pull up out front so that others could ride with them. I had driven in a cool Pontiac Lemans convertible, so I rolled up to the entrance feeling confident that kids would pile into it. But they didn’t. Other cars quickly filled with teenagers, but I sat there alone, embarrassed, and exposed, since I was in a convertible. I seriously considered saving face by driving out of the parking lot and going home. But instead, I chose to park my car and then asked a group of kids whether I could ride with them. To my relief, they welcomed me warmly.
After we got to the theater and took our seats, we watched a movie by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association called The Restless Ones. During the movie I discovered that Graham wasn’t a politician after all but an evangelist who preached to huge crowds in large auditoriums or even football stadiums. The movie climaxed with one of his evangelistic crusades.
At the end of the movie, someone from the Billy Graham organization went to the front of the theater and asked whether anyone would like to come forward to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior. Frankly, I expected everyone to go forward, since this wasn’t a typical movie-going audience but rather a highly religious group of Young Life members. I didn’t realize that many of them had already received Christ and therefore didn’t need to make that spiritual decision. Like I said, I was clueless.
No one in my row stood up, and I was seated awkwardly in the middle of the row. As you know, the herding instinct is strong, and I didn’t want to go forward by myself. Although I was briefly tempted to stay in my seat, I felt a new and powerful impulse, which I now recognize as the Holy Spirit, drawing me to get up and go to the front of the theater. So for the final time that night, I went against my instincts and chose to stand up alone. Stepping over feet, popcorn, and candy wrappers, I went forward and accepted Christ.
I tell this story for one simple reason. Although we alone must make the decision to receive Christ, few people make that decision alone. Instead, they are strongly influenced by relationships with Christians in their families, at work, at church, and in other social settings. My desire for friendships preceded my hunger for Jesus Christ.
That shouldn’t surprise us. After all, from the very beginning, when God created us in his image and said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (genesis 2:18), we’ve been relational beings—people who need not only God but also each other in order to fulfill his purposes for our lives. As we will see throughout this booklet, relationships are the key to effective evangelism.