I was sitting at the beach two nights ago watching the sun go down and having a nice conversation with another couple who had a son about the same age as our son.
Another man came up beside me and sat down and started talking to me, apparently completely oblivious that I was already in a conversation with someone else. After complaining about the Japanese government for a few minutes, he asked what I did. I told him I was a pastor. He asked what kind. I said Baptist. He began asking the difference. And I began talking about it.
Somehow, and for the life of me I can't quite figure out how, he managed to get the conversation to UFOs. He asked if there were intelligent life forms on other planets and galaxies, if I would believe that God made them. I said, "I don't grant the premise, but if it were so, then yes, I would believe that God made them."
He then began this long speech about his personal encounters with UFOs and "highly evolved lifeforms," that he claimed were far more technologically advanced than ours. He also covered government cover-ups and people in jail that were being kept from revealing sensitive information. I was bored to tears but challenged at the same time. Here was a man, sitting down and talking to someone he did not know about something that was ... well, probably complete nonsense. But he was passionate about it. And that passion enabled him to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger. So my first thought was "Why are we as Christians not able to do that with the gospel?"
Okay, that wasn't my first thought. My first thought was, "STOP TALKING TO ME ABOUT UFOs." But I restrained that one, and began to think about how I might turn this conversation into a chance to talk about the gospel of Jesus.
My opening was not far away. He talked about seeing a mom and a son carrying a ball walking towards him while he was in a park one day. He saw that ball transmutate (his word) into this non-human life form, and it was so bad he had to turn away. He said it was incomprehensible to him. I hung on to that word for the next few minutes while he continued.
At a break in the conversation, I asked him if he ever thought about what he would do with all this knowledge about UFOs. What value would it serve him when he died and left this earth and stood before God.
Then I said, "You talked a moment ago about that occasion that was incomprehensible to you. Let me tell you what is incomprehensible to me. It is incomprehensible to me that the God who created this universe would send his Son to die for me to give me eternal life."
That sparked a bit of discussion about reincarnation, what gets a person to heaven.
I mentioned the passage in Isa 53 that talks about how Jesus was so beaten for sin that he was one that people had to turn away from, just as he did on that previous occasion. And he was beaten for us, in our place.
I said to him, "I often ask people if they were to stand before God and he were to say 'Why should I let you into heaven, what would you tell him?' I have had some interesting answers to that question."
He asked what some of those interesting answers were. I told him that some people talked about works, and some people hoped that God would let them in, but the most interesting was the people who said they had never thought about it. I said, "It is totally strange to me that people have never thought about their eternal life and what will happen when they die."
He said he didn't believe that God would ask him that question, because if he was at the gates it would be because God would let him in.
I said I didn't think God would ask him either because He already knew, but I asked to find out what people were thinking about how one has a relationship with God.
He then asked me how I would answer. I told him I would answer that Jesus had come to earth to be everything I should have been, and he died the death I should have died, and I was trusting him alone to make me right with God and get me to heaven.
About that time, my wife came back from talking to another couple, and I said I needed to go.
I say all that to say this. One, we need to be more passionate about the gospel than this man is about UFOs. After all, we know one is true, and the other is probably not.
Two, we need to constantly be looking for ways to turn a conversation to the gospel. I am sure there was a better way buried in there than what I used, but it opened the door to give a clear presentation of life in Jesus alone.
Hopefully, it took some root on Mark's heart. I know it challenged mine.