A Tale Worth Telling
Telling? Yes. Reading? I'll leave that to you.
As I've mentioned before, in early 1970, I took some spiritual training under the leadership of Doug Snider, from Tyler, Texas. Doug was an acquaintance of Charlie Spicer, one of my mentors in the 60's and 70's, and when Doug agreed to come up and put on the training .. amounting to a Friday-night-to-Sunday-afternoon, once a month for 4 months, Charlie asked me if I'd like to join the group (of 12) taking the courses.
Incidentally, you can read about the Shamgar training of long ago, here.
I said yes, principally because Charlie invited me, and also because I was still trying to attain some real level of assurance about my own salvation. In that respect, Shamgar was certainly a success for me.
The purpose of Shamgar was to train men to use whatever they had in their hand .. a notebook, cocktail napkin, scrap of paper, whatever, to share Jesus. Not to be dependent on having a Bible, a tract, or any other of the trappings we believers usually carry around just in case. Shamgar .. and you can read for yourself about him, in Judges 3:31 .. used a pointed stick to slay some Philistines, and God says he, too, delivered Israel.
Doug said we should do at least as much, and that's what his program was designed to accomplish.
The four weekend retreats were held at a campground in Mitchell, Indiana, about 75 miles away from us. The first thing we were instructed to do .. each weekend .. was to clean the place up. Police the area, Doug said. Then, the last thing we did before leaving on Sunday, was to police the area again. The thought was, that if we always did that in our lives, we'd leave everywhere better than we found it.
There were some aspects of discipline involved, but the main thrust was to learn a plan and method of leading someone to saving faith in Jesus. I'd mentioned that in a prior post, and someone asked if I might share the approach we were taught, and this post is the result. I'll write it as I tell it, I guess. We'll see.
A lot of our approach was kind of "cast in stone" by God, in our fourth session. We were scheduled to go into the community, witnessing, and he'd printed up some "spiritual surveys" for us to use. We were to tell people we were conducting a survey and would they mind if we asked them a few questions. Unfortunately (in truth .. it was fortunately), Doug's luggage didn't show up. Doug told us God has spoken on the ride to the campground .. from Indianapolis .. that there were to be no "subterfuges" ... no fibbing. We were not there to conduct a survey, we were there to share our faith with them. And, where God led, share how others might be saved, too.
That episode gave me an instant distaste for "Spiritual Opinion Polls", which has lasted to this day.
The first two weekends, we were practicing going over the scripture verses we'd been memorizing. On the third weekend, Doug taught us how to put them together in a rational presentation of man's problem, God's solution, and how man could take some action to solve his problem. We were told to share the "plan" with four saved friends during the final month of training .. I suppose with saved friends as we'd not yet been shown how to deal with someone who wanted to be saved. Most of us there were Methodist church members, and that wasn't something we'd ever been taught. So, when I got home, I asked one friend .. a Charles Chips distributor .. if I might have lunch and share the deal with him. He invited me to share it with his Sunday School class, which I did.
It turned out to be a class at the Plainfield Boy's Prison .. a facility for kids who'd have been in the penitentiary if they'd been old enough.
I hadn't intended to tell this story now, but I guess I will. I'd brought along a marking pen and a piece of posterboard to draw all this stuff out on, since it was a class. I went ahead with the presentation, anyway, but as I got to the end, I realized I had no clue what to DO with anyone who responded favorably. I didn't even know how to ask them if they wanted to be saved.
Well .. I'd read The Cross and the Switchblade shortly before this, and I remembered what David Wilkerson had done in his first theater rally, so I mimicked that as best I could. With fear and trembling, and I suspect, the hope that nobody would want to get saved.
There, among their inmate peers, six young men did. They repented in tears.
I went back a day later to deliver some pocket bibles to the kids, as they'd asked if they could get one. I had to go through the chaplain, and in that process, I got the biggest shock I'd ever gotten as a young believer.
The chaplain said he guessed it was ok to give them the little Gideon Bible, but that he wished "You guys would stop coming out here and doing this". He stated emphatically that we kept offering them hope, and everybody knew there wasn't any hope for them, in Jesus or anywhere else.
Like I said: shocked. I figured I'd done something wrong, particularly since Doug had said to share the story with believers, and here I'd shared with a bunch of (mostly) lost prison inmates. But that got set right when Doug asked us, in our final session, to share what we'd experienced sharing with our friends. I somewhat guiltily said what I had done, and that six kids had gotten saved; guiltily since I didn't know whether I'd handled the results acceptably.
You'd have thought I'd announced that all the guys had won the lottery! The rejoicing is burned into my memory, as is God's faithfulness to guide us when we get in over our head.
Nothing is over God's head.
This has gotten long, so I'll heed my carpal tunnel, stop typing, and describe "the plan" I learned, next time. You can probably tell why I like it.