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The Unexpected Adventure
Taking Everyday Risks to Talk with People about Jesus
By Lee Strobel Mark Mittelberg
Copyright © 2009
Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg
All right reserved.
Chapter One Day 1 Adventure
ENROLLING IN THE ADVENTURE
"So, Mark, are you a Christian?"
Terry's seemingly simple question was actually quite intimidating in that era of my life. We had been friends ever since we attended middle school together. I'd always appreciated his direct personality - at least until that particular moment, when he was challenging me about the inconsistencies in my life.
"Sure, I'm a Christian, Terry. What about it?" I replied somewhat defensively while trying not to raise my voice too much. I didn't want my coworkers to overhear our conversation, fearing it would ruin my reputation and spoil some of the fun I had partying with them.
I was nineteen years old and living large - or at least I thought I was. I worked in an electronics store that sold high-end stereo equipment as well as round vinyl objects called "records," which looked like oversized CDs and played music on devices called "turntables." (If you're under thirty, you'll probably need to look up these things on the Internet or in a history book, where you'll find details and maybe a few pictures to help you understand what I'm talking about.)
Suffice it to say, we sold really good sound equipment and played great music on it - loud! It was an exciting place for a young guy like me to work. I enjoyed the environment, the money, the friends, and the freedom that this season of my life brought. Thoughts of God, church, and religion were low on my list of concerns.
Then on that fateful day, Terry walked into the store, eager to make a point. For whatever reason, he felt compelled to challenge my spiritual complacency.
In Columbo-like fashion, Terry responded to my claim of faith with another question: "How can you call yourself a Christian and yet do so many things that Christians don't do?"
"Well," I said flippantly, "I guess I'm just a cool Christian." Rarely have stupider words been spoken, but it was the best I could come up with at the time.
My remark didn't go over well with Terry. Without batting an eye, he shot back, "Oh, really? Don't you know there's a word for 'cool Christians'?"
I shook my head, though he wasn't really waiting for a reply.
"They're called hypocrites!" Terry spat out.
Not knowing quite how to handle his verbal missile, I did what came naturally - I returned fire: "Oh, yeah? So what about your life, Terry? Are you telling me you've got it all together?"
"No," he replied, a bit more gently. "But at least I'm honest about it."
Even after Terry left, his words lingered. I felt angry. Who does he think he is, coming in here and talking to me like that? It wasn't until a day or two later, after I'd cooled down, that I finally realized why his challenge bothered me so much: I knew he was right.
As I kept replaying that conversation in my mind, I felt a gradual softening in my attitude. My initial anger was replaced with reflection - and within a few days that reflection turned into repentance.
Finally, after a combination of divinely orchestrated influences over the previous few weeks - including the prayers of my visiting grandmother Effa, the encouragement of my mom, some sobering conversations with my dad, the godly example of my siblings, the challenges of several sermons from a couple of gifted teachers, the influence of some new friends at a Bible study I had visited, and now the rebuke by Terry - I finally decided on the evening of November 8, 1976, to give up the fight and yield my life to Christ. I asked for his full and free forgiveness, and I told him I wanted to follow him from that day forward, all the way into eternity.
I've never been the same since that day. I immediately became aware of God's presence and leadership in my life, and I felt a new sense of mission. I realized that I was put on the planet not just to know God personally but also to spread his love and truth to the people around me.
I didn't quit my job, rush off to seminary, or join a ministry somewhere. Instead I looked for ways to be used right where I was. God opened the doors and began guiding me into spiritual conversations with friends, coworkers, and occasionally even customers - some of whom ended up trusting in Christ.
God also gave me opportunities to impact lives through teaching high school classes at my church, through helping lead the Bible study I had begun attending, and through efforts with some friends to bring contemporary Christian music groups to our town to play outreach-oriented concerts.
Two words describe all that I began experiencing. The first is unexpected. If you had told me just a week or two before that conversation with Terry that I would soon become impassioned about talking to people about faith, I would have laughed out loud. That's because I hadn't been walking with God or known the exhilaration of being used by him to touch the lives of others.
You can probably guess the second word: adventure. I hadn't anticipated that knowing Christ, seeking to follow his will each day, taking risks to raise spiritual topics of conversation, answering people's questions, making the gospel message clear, and seeing lives changed by God's Spirit working through me would all be so thrilling. It exceeded by a long shot any kind of excitement I'd ever experienced before. As Lee puts it, it offered "thrills that fulfill."
The kind of thrills, I might add, that every one of us is made to experience and enjoy.
You may not have realized it before, but as a Christian you too are called into the unexpected adventure of spreading the faith to others. How do I know? Because a "Christian," by definition, is a follower of Jesus Christ, the one who came "to seek and to save what was lost" (Luke 19:10) and who then commissioned us to follow his example and "go and make disciples" (Matthew 28:19). We were redeemed, in part, for the purpose of reaching others for Christ. Therefore, we'll never be complete in our experience with God until we allow him to use us to spread his message to others.
Stepping into the Adventure
I knew from childhood that I should follow Christ, and I had taken stabs at doing so along the way - but in later years I had resisted it. Why? In part, ironically, because I was afraid that God was going to take away my fun and sense of adventure. I had convinced myself that Christianity, though correct in its teachings, was a lifestyle for people who couldn't do much else. It certainly did not evoke in me thoughts of risk-taking or excitement.
Can you relate to that? Part of the problem, I guess, is a response to some of the religious people around us. They're nice people, but risk and adventure seem to have left their lives somewhere in the last millennium - if they were ever there in the first place. It's not surprising if we react to their examples with a yawn. Churches can be pretty sleepy places, and we need to change that.
You can begin to transform the culture of your church by first seeking God's revival in your own soul, reinstating in your own heart his vision for reaching this lost and dying world. Cultivate passion and excitement for the unexpected adventure, and you'll be amazed at how you - regardless of your age, gender, background, or experience - can stir up your church to become a more spiritually dynamic and contagious place.
Another reason we might have misconceptions of the Christian life is because we underestimate God's character and misunderstand his desires for us. We think, strangely, that his goal is to curtail our freedom and stifle our spirit so that he can somehow better contain and control us. But this is a woefully mistaken perception of the all-powerful and all-wise God, who created beauty, nature, color, emotion, art, and life itself - not to mention ingrained in us the desire for adventure and excitement.
No, our God is the God of creativity and imagination. He's an unpredictable being of perfection as well as spontaneity. He cares for the people he created with a strong and undying love, and he wants to use each of us in surprising ways to reach others with his life-changing gospel as part of his amazing redemptive plan for the entire world.
Now that's adventure, and it involves you.
Inspiration for the Journey
God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that. 1 Corinthians 1:8-9, The Message
Excerpted from The Unexpected Adventure by Lee Strobel Mark Mittelberg Copyright © 2009 by Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg. Excerpted by permission.
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