Since then, I have met Carl in person and have also seen some of his new books.
The following story is from his latest, out since last July, Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism. (I'm astonished. The Kindle version right now is FREE.) But whether free or purchased, I'm intrigued by what Carl has to say.
Before we get to the story, let me note how Carl introduces his theme or purpose in the book. He writes:
The story is told of the Sunday-school teacher who was having a tough time getting her class to participate. So she decided to ask an easy question: “What’s gray, has a bushy tail, and stores nuts for the winter?” The children looked at one another and didn’t say a word. Finally, brave little Johnny raised his hand and said, “I know the answer must be Jesus, but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me.”From what I have read so far, I think he may succeed.
It seems to me that we all are like little Johnny—we all know the answer is Jesus. We believe it. We say it. Yet, woefully, perhaps shamefully, our answers tend to be scripted even when they don’t make sense. I hope that in the following pages I can help you overcome that.
Okay. Now for the story.
One day I saw my Muslim-Arab friend sweating as he talked with my other friend, a fine, conservative-minded evangelical Christian. It looked like the two had locked horns in a battle to the death. It happened here in Colorado this past summer.One more story? A little indicator of where he is heading in the book.
We hosted a gathering of some of our longtime friends from the Middle East and brought in a bunch of American Christian friends to talk about God, the Middle East, and how to bring hope to Muslim countries.
There were about forty-five of us together for three days. We were having a great time—until I looked over and saw these two all tangled up.
The next thing I knew, my Muslim friend . . . had gone out on the deck and was smoking a cigarette like his life depended on how fast he could suck it down. I walked out and nonchalantly said, “What’s up, bro?”
His response: “Why the $%&^@ do these people want to convert me? Why can’t they just leave me alone? I know that you don’t want to convert me. Right?”
Talk about a loaded question full of semantic nuance. Here’s my answer and what happened.
I asked him what he thought my other friend wanted to convert him to. He said, “He wants me to be a Christian, but I’m a Muslim.” I asked him what he thought this friend meant by becoming a Christian.
“He wants me to stop living in the Middle East and loving my family.”
I told him I was pretty sure that’s not what this friend meant, but if that’s what “conversion to Christianity” is, then I agreed—he shouldn’t convert.
“See,” he said to me, “I knew you weren’t into conversion.”
“No I’m not,” I said. “Not like that. Not at all. I think you should stay in your country, love your family, and be who God has made you to be.”
Then I asked him this: “What do you think God thinks when He looks down at all 6.5 billion people on earth?”
“He thinks they’re all screwed up,” he said.
“Yep, that’s what I think God’s thinking too. So what do you think God would like to do with all these messed-up people? Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, nothings, everyone?”
He had never thought of that before, so he wasn’t sure. But he did say God would probably want to “help them not be so screwed up.”
I agreed. “So you might say that God would like to convert all 6.5 billion people on earth. Not to a religion, but to Himself. He would like everyone to be like Him. To be converted into Him. But how would He do that? He’d need a converter.”
I went on to tell my friend that if he bought an appliance here in the States and took it back to the Middle East, he’d need something to change the current from 110 to 220 volts. “What’s that called?” I asked him.
“A transformer or converter,” he said.
“That’s right. So what is God’s transformer to get us all back the way God wants us to be? To change us? To convert us?”
He gasped (literally) and said, “It’s Jesus. I never thought of that—but it’s Jesus. He’s the converter.” He got so excited he called his wife out and told her the whole conversation. She started to cry. We sat on the deck and prayed that God’s “converter” or “transformer” would change us into the current that can be connected to God. And that He would do this with all of our friends.
It was a profound moment. Amazing that just a half hour earlier he was about to bite this other guy’s head off for “trying to convert” him and now he sat with me in tears praying.
This one comes way up front, close to the beginning of Chapter 1:
I recently visited a missions school at a large church in Waco, Texas, and decided to try aBINGO! --She made the point that Carl had wanted to make from the beginning. For the rest of Chapter 1, he tells how 1 Corinthians 2:1-3 (“When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling”) came to be his life verse.
. . . test. . . .
“Tell me,” I said to the group, “what is the gospel?”
A young lady raised her hand. “The free gift of God.”
“Good,” I said. I went to the chalkboard and wrote gift from God. “Somebody else?”
“Freedom from sin,” a man near the back called out.
“Eternal life,” said another.
“Keep going,” I said. I stayed busy at the chalkboard, listing the items as they came in.
Freedom. Righteousness. Moral purity. Grace. Unconditional love. Healing and deliverance. Redemption. Faith in God. New life.
After five minutes or so, we had filled the chalkboard with a list of things that we believed were the gospel.
“Excellent,” I said. “Did we miss anything?”
The room was silent for a minute. I could see heads turning. I could hear pages rustling. Everybody seemed to think there was something significant missing, but nobody wanted to volunteer to name the missing item.
Finally, after the second minute of silence, a girl near the front raised her hand. “How come none of us mentioned Jesus?”
I encourage you to get your own copy. You may find it hard to put down.