Super Bowl winning head coach Jimmy Johnson, on the last season of Survivor: Old vs. Young, said that of all the things he's done in his life, the game of Survivor was the hardest. He'd survived 2-a-days as a player and a coach, won national championships in college and Super Bowls as a coach with the Dallas Cowboys, but nothing prepared him for the elements he faced in the game of Survivor.
That got me to thinking. I love to "train" to evangelize. I love to watch folks that talk to people on the streets, take notes, formulate questions, ponder answers and study apologetics so I'm always ready to give a solid defense of my faith. It makes me feel like I'm really working hard on kingdom work and fulfilling the great comission.
But it's not. All of that stuff is like those voluntary off-season workouts. Sure, they help. A little. But players still arrive at training camp, out of shape and unfit for the big games to come.
Bring on the 2-a-day practices in the hot August heat. Training camp. The dread of every millionaire NFL player. It's where you begin to really earn that hefty salary, putting on the pads, hitting, running, aching, sweating....and getting stronger, faster, more agile and more familiar with the playbook. As UL softball coach Michael Lotief says, it's when you "embrace the hard." You stop kidding yourself about the shape you're in, you stop "preparing to prepare" and you get in the practice that makes you better.
It's time for me to enter evangelism training camp. I've prepared to prepare for too long. It's time to "embrace the hard" and truly start learning the playbook, getting stronger, faster and more agile as a spiritual athlete for Jesus Christ.
How? My fishing buddy gave me the idea of committing to talking with at least one person every day. There was a point in my life where I dreamed I'd have the guts to share my faith that often. That dreaming ends tomorrow. How do I get stronger? Practice. Hit hard against the objections and snarks and whatever else is out there.
Sure, I've been in a number of conversations about my faith. I can articulate it clearly. But I'm still afraid. I'll probably always be afraid, and that's okay. It's not a natural battle I'm facing, and that fear will make me pray each and every time I get out there.
So tomorrow starts my training camp. How do you train to share your faith? Share your faith. Make mistakes. Fall on your face. How do you know what you don't know? Share your faith. Think about the conversations you've had, and ask God to show you how to do it better.
I think I understand why Jesus sent the disciples out in groups of two. I once thought it was for protection. Then I realized that Jesus calmed storms (Mark 4:35-41), walked on water (Matthew 14:22-33), and told a man to go home because his servant was healed "at that moment" (Mat 8:5-13). Surely, he could've helped his disciples avoid harm if they got into trouble. That wasn't the reason he sent them out in twos. So what was it?
I believe he sent them out in twos so that they can encourage each other. When I'm with my fishing buddy, I'm on fire. I can't wait to share my faith. When I'm alone, I'm timid and fearful, like a firefighter standing outside a burning building, reaching his hand out toward the people trapped inside, instead of jumping into the building to save them.
My experience over the past couple weeks shows me how dependent I am on my safety net. It seems a lot harder by yourself, because the devil doesn't have to compete with the encouragement of a brother who's fired up, armed with the gospel and not ashamed. That is, until I pray. And Jesus is with me. My suspicion is that this "training camp" isn't going to be nearly as hard as I thought.
So, 1-a-days start tomorrow. Why not 2-a-days? Because I'm chicken, because I need to get back home to work and because my family needs me, too. Mostly because I'm chicken.
What's the playbook? If you're in Lafayette, LA and you're reading this, you've got a chance to earn yourself some cash. All you have to do is learn the ten commandments, and find me when I'm out doing my 1-a-days.
This is either going to be a blast, or a really bad idea. I'm going to approach someone and ask, "Hey, do you have a minute to help me with a project? There might be some money in it for you...I'm going to ask you one question. If you get the question right, I'll give you 20 bucks. Sounds easy enough?...I'll give you 30 seconds to answer the question. Your time starts as soon as I finish asking the question. Ready? The question is: name as many of the ten commandments as you can in 30 seconds. If you name them all (in any order), I'll give you 20 bucks. Ready? Go."
"...I'll give you another chance to earn the $20.00 (assuming they didn't name them all, of course). Would you consider yourself to be a good person? I'm going to give you a 3 question test. If you prove to be a good person, I'll give you the 20 bucks, ok?" Then, of course, I'll take them through the commandments, judgment day, the cross, and the need to repent and trust in Jesus to be saved.
It'll either be a complete dog's breakfast or a few very cool conversations. I wonder how long it'll take me to lose my 20 bucks.
Ready for 1-a-days?
Now that I've posted it, I guess I have to do it, don't I? :)
Maybe the weather will save me? 69 and sunny tomorrow. Guess I'm all out of excuses. Time to "embrace the hard." See you tomorrow.