I have been a Christian for a long time. And one thing that has bothered me from time to time is my low “success rate” when it comes to the Great Commission. You know, Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
Though I have shared my faith with many people and invested deeply in a few of them, I don’t have a lot of “success stories” to show for it. That friend I had countless spiritual conversations with over the years never decided to turn her life around and truly own her faith. The high school friend who I prayed for and checked in with regularly still seems far from God.
It can make me feel pretty ineffective at times. I long to see people come to Christ, and yet so many I meet and interact with seem to miss the transformation train. Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing it all wrong.
A few months ago I read the conversion story of atheist and feminist editor Nicole Cliffe. Her story begins, “I became a Christian on July 7, 2015, after a very pleasant adult life of firm atheism.”
After a series of events led Cliffe to question her beliefs (and cry each time she thought about Jesus), she reached a point of decision:
I sat myself down and said: Okay, Nicole, you have two choices. Option One: you can stop reading books about Jesus. Option Two: you could think with greater intention about why you are overwhelmed by your emotions.It occurred to me that if Option Two proved fruitless, I could always return to Option One. So I emailed a friend who is a Christian, and I asked if we could talk about Jesus.
This is the part of the story that really stuck out to me. When Cliffe realized she could no longer resist Christ, she knew exactly which friend to reach out to. They arranged to have a phone conversation.
Now, if you’ve been following along, you know already. I was crying constantly while thinking about Jesus because I had begun to believe that Jesus really was who he said he was, but for some reason, that idea had honestly not occurred to me. But then it did, as though it always had been true. So when my friend called, I told her, awkwardly, that I wanted to have a relationship with God, and we prayed, and giggled a bit, and cried a bit, and then she sent me a stack of Henri Nouwen books, and here we are today.
The quiet, yet important, role of the Christian friend in Cliffe’s story encourages me. When it was time for Cliffe to start believing, she knew exactly which friend to call. I may not always be there the moment someone decides to follow Christ, but that doesn’t mean that my witness isn’t making a difference. I want to be that friend — the first person my friend wants to call when God is crashing in.