Grand Haven Pier, Grand Haven, Michigan:
2:17 p.m: "Hey Nathan, look, a guy sitting alone. I think I will go over and talk to him." So we proceed over his way...I shake the man's hand...he smiles. "Hello, my name is Chris and we are with a church group asking people questions. I was wondering, would you mind if I asked you a couple?" The man's smile disappears, he sits up, and briskly walks away from us no longer to be seen. "Nathan, why do you think the man left in such a hurry?" Nathan paused, and replied without hesitation, "It's because he is scared of you."
"Scared of me? You have got to be kidding? I am a nice guy?" But then I thought about it: I do have a dark goatee, my biceps are like two loaded guns, and I talk like Don Corleone. Who wouldn't be scared? But come to think of it, I'm not sure that is what scared him - - The man knew what I was going to ask him about....God! No, not that.
And I must say, I wasn't too smooth. In fact, accosting someone on vacation with direct questions about God is a sure fire way to get people to never talk to you again.
2:46 p.m: As Nathan and I continued to walk down the pier looking for our next victim we came across a man fishing. He just caught a 16 pound steel-head fish, and it was still flopping around on the pier. I asked him if the fishing was good? He said, "This summer was especially good for steel-head but not so much for King Salmon." He also told me how he got there early and he only caught a few fish, but each of them were big one's...13 and 16 pounds.
I was trying to catch fish too? But I was impatient, and I think I was using the wrong lure.
3:00 p.m: Some of the people in our group needed to stop at the public bathrooms. And while I was waiting for them, someone yelled at me, "Chris Weeks, what in the world are you doing here?" Two of my very good friends who I helped grow in Christ when they were younger were walking the pier with their kids; I haven't seen them in years. They sat down and talked with me for a good 20 minutes about life, and then they said, "Can we ask you a question about a very serious issue? We need advice and your prayers?" So I listened, and offered godly council.
Starting awkward conversations with strangers out of the blue is like pulling teeth; but talking to people who God has placed in your life about serious issues is a tremendously powerful and important part of Christian living. And when you really love people; helping them through the difficulties in life is easy like Sunday morning.
I was thinking about that man who caught the steel-head: It was exciting how he caught his 16 pounder, but he still had to take the fish home and clean it.
Somehow in Christian circles, we have only focused on catching fish: It only counts if you can convince a stranger to accept Jesus. It only counts if you can get someone to walk forward at a revival. It only counts if you can out argue an atheist.
But we rarely talk about how important it is to clean fish!
Jesus wants us to be available to friends to help them grow in Christ, to pray for them through adversity, to offer godly council when the world is falling apart. Maybe real fishing isn't always about meeting some "strange new fish"; but we should try reeling in those people who you already know: Friends, family, and neighbors.
8:15 pm: One of the students on the trip was sharing around the bonfire back in Kent City, and said, "I did get into a good conversation this week. I asked a lady if she prayed? She said she did, she prayed about everything, and every time she prayed she felt close to God." Wow, this was shocking. Now that was a great conversation this student had...but then he admitted that this lady was his grandma, and we were at her house sitting around the bonfire. In response, someone said, "That's not fair - - you already know her! She wasn't a person you have never met before. Your cheating, this trip was about sharing the gospel with total strangers!"
But then I asked, "How many of us in normal everyday life have ever asked our Grandma if she prayed? And if we did, don't you think she would love it?"
After I asked that question, I realized that most of us have never asked those kind of questions to the people we love. Why not? Is it too hard? Nah, try talking to a guy at the Grand Haven pier who thinks you look like Don Corleone!
Maybe it is because we simply don't care about talking about spiritual things and Jesus in normal everyday life....thinking and talking about Jesus is only meant for mission trips, right?
Not for Grandma. Why do we wait to be so old to learn to clean fish?