Being Missionary

I’ve been playing in the billiards bar league now for over five years.  I’ve been playing with the same team of guys, more or less, for three now.  They know what I do.  It confuses them that I shoot with them, but it confuses me that they shoot with me.  It all works out.  There are times when it seems unlikely that I’ll ever have meaningful conversations about faith with them.  But sometimes things happen that are unexpected.

This past week we had two substitutes filling in for a couple of our team members who are out of town.  I know both the subs, and have shot with them from time to time over the past three years.  They’re both guys that you just instinctively like.  Guys of substance.  Men.  The one has been taking coursework towards a degree in athletic coaching.  I assumed that he attends the major public university in our area.  But this week, to my surprise, I found out he attends the local evangelical Christian college.

I found this out because he wanted to ask my opinions on the subject of one of his courses on food ethics.  What is the Christian response, in light of our intended purpose in creation according to Genesis (to be stewards of God’s creation), to the fact that much of our meat is procured from systems that mistreat the animals in order to maximize profit (no exercise, unhealthy diets, unhealthy force feedings, substandard conditions, etc.).  It’s a good question, and we had the chance to talk about it for 20 minutes or so, which is how I found out where he was going to school.

It gave me the opportunity to ask about his faith background, as I hadn’t assumed that he was Christian.  Which gave him the opportunity to articulate his soft agnosticism.  He is pretty sure that there’s a God out there, but he isn’t sure what God it is.  He’s had exposure to Christianity and Mormonism, but struggles with the essential otherness of God.  I shared a few thoughts with him that I find helpful on that topic.  We moved on with the match.

Three weeks ago another of my teammates, who I know is a Christian but, like many Christians, is not what I would call well-versed in their faith, was asking me questions about the end times and our current world situation.  I made a reference to Mark 13 and Jesus’ teaching on this subject. My teammate actually texted a few days later to ask for the Bible reference again.  I provided it with some interpretation/explanation, which he seemed thankful for.

Small moments.  I wonder at times if I am doing a disservice but not actively preaching to these guys.  At other times I have to trust that by being honest about who I am and the faith I hold and the God who commands and enables that faith, there will be opportunities for discussion.  I just want more.  I expect it of myself, though I don’t necessarily have a good reason for doing so.  Like many Christians, I assume that my duty is to share Jesus with everybody.  Like many pastors I assume that goes double for me.  What that looks like and how it works is a lot slippery-er, but I suspect leads Christians to assume they’re doing it wrong, not doing it enough.

So I’m grateful for those moments when the Holy Spirit moves and I’m able to share and respond to an opportunity, not knowing where it will lead or when.  Reminding me to actively pray for these people.  For the former Baptist girl that likes to joke about my vocation.  For the young woman who claimed to have nearly completed a doctorate in theology but seems a long way from God at the moment.  For the guys I shoot with, who when they’re drunk enough or high enough get close to talking about big questions, and sometimes I’m able to respond, even though they likely won’t remember what I say.

All people that God created.  All people that Jesus died for.  All people that I care about, and pray that I am doing the right thing by just being with them and allowing them to know me but more importantly the Lord in me.  Imperfectly, but consistently all the same.  May God use whatever means necessary, even me, to bring these people into an encounter with the resurrected Christ.  On league night or otherwise.

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