After our CrossWalk service, I was in the normal post service chitchat with those around me. As I looked up, I saw two sisters who are in high school waiting to talk to me. The sisters had been recently attending our service on their own since January. To my knowledge, the older of the two sisters had recently committed her life to Christ. I couldn’t help but notice their urgency in wanting to talk with me. Thinking to myself, I am a pastor right? I must have something they need… wisdom… nope! A prayer request… wrong again!
It’s not what I know, but whom I know.
The younger sister without hesitation spoke up quickly,
“John, I want to be saved!”
Now, this is every pastor’s dream. Similar to what the disciple Peter was asked, “What shall we do” (Acts 2:37). Unfortunately, this isn’t the norm in ministry, but shouldn’t it be the normal expectation? To be honest, I was caught off guard.
As a pastor, in previous years I have felt more pressured to be a salesperson; promoting Jesus more like a product than the person who is the savior from sin.
I am not suggesting we shouldn’t be thoughtful in our speaking with persuasive words. However, I have learned to lean more on the Holy Spirit; praying to the Lord for the harvest and embracing my role as a “witness” (Jn. 1:8).
After hearing the words from her mouth, her words longing for salvation, in my great wisdom, I responded, “Awesome, let’s chat”! We headed to a room and as we sat down I asked “what has led you to the conclusion that you need to commit your life to Christ”? She authenticity stated with a smile.
“I. need. Jesus”!
You can’t get any more theologically real and rationalizing “I need Jesus”. She and I talked about salvation, the forgiveness of sin, and the life of being a follower of Christ. We also talked about the confession of sin and commitment to Christ.
As a follower of Christ, you might feel the pressure of getting the person to pray “the prayer”. This is where you are more like a Jesus sales person, asking your sinful client to “close the deal” with the all to familiar “repeat these words after me”. Is there something saving about a specific prayer? We often put words in another person’s mouth, putting a person’s salvation into pre-packaged prayer. When I ask people to share their salvation story, what I hear is “Oh I prayed “the prayer”, rather than actually hearing about an encounter with God. Now, I don’t discredit their salvation, but somewhere we place salvation in a prayer.
I am committed to pointing people to Christ, and not a prayer. Please don’t misunderstand me, confession and repentance of sin is important (1 John 1:9), in choosing to follow Christ. Remember, you are not a sales person or someone’s savior. So, let the person use their own words in expressing their need for Jesus, gratitude for grace, and whole-hearted commitment to Christ. You are a servant sent to share your salvation story to with your friends who are non-believers to be apart of God’s.
Knowing all this, I still felt the pressure to close the “deal” with her in a pre-packaged, sinner’s prayer. Resisting the urge, I said to her, “ I want you to cry out to God, confess your sin and express your need and love for Him in your own words.” There was an awkward pause. Her sister and I stepped out of the room to give her a moment to gather her thoughts and words.
We gathered back in our little circle, looking at her there were already tears of joy developing in her eyes. Closing our eyes, and with heads bowed came forth the most authentic, sinner’s prayer I have ever heard or witnessed. She cried out to God repeatedly with these words:
“God, I need and want you! Free me from my sin! I want to know you! I want to live my life for you! I want to be consumed by you! I want to love you and I want to receive your love!”
Hearing her heartfelt words to God “I want to be consumed by you” brought me to tears of joy and conviction. Now, if that is not a real sinner’s prayer, I don’t know what one is. We left that room celebrating her new identity in Christ as a beautiful, beloved daughter of God.Her salvation story taught me to let a person express his or her own words to God. I am not a Jesus sales person, nor a savior, but a mere servant of Christ.
I hope this post serves to relieve any tension that you may feel as it relates to sharing your faith. Pray and pursue your non-believing friends! Soon enough in God’s mighty power you too, will witness a sinner’s prayer.