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  • Writer's pictureKatie McGuire


I had a conversation with a man at a coffee shop. That conversation was a game-changer for me.

A game-changer for how I view Gospel sharing.

A game-changer in the way I represent Jesus.

A game-changer in the way I hope to encourage other Christians

& encourage them to spread the Good News of the Gospel.

A game-changer.

But not at all what I was expecting when we first met.

1 Peter 3:15

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

The Story:

It was a warm day in early December. I walked the streets of Encinitas with my sister and our good friend, taking in the vibe of the city, falling in love with the feel of it, hoping to randomly run into our favorite musician (no sign of him, but we spotted his infamous van). We crossed a street and found a coffee shop. We ducked inside to see if we could find the owner of the van (no, we’re not creeps, I promise) and that’s when we were greeted by a man with caring eyes, and face that looked like he loved Jesus. The shop was crowded, so we sat out in the sun, waiting for the evening to come so we could admire the Christmas parade that would fill the street nearby.

Later on, as we were settled into our spot, pulling our books and work out of our bags, the man who had greeted us earlier walked up and asked what I was reading. He then read the title of my book aloud, “Listening to God in Times of Choice: The Art of Discerning God’s Will, by Gordon T. Smith." He asked me what it was about. I fumbled over my words (because my natural state is that of awkwardness, and I wasn’t really that far into the book yet), and ended up describing exactly what the title alluded to (good one, Kates). “Interesting” he said, as he nodded his head and then went back to work (apparently he was the boss of the shop. I found this out later in the evening). The moment the door closed behind him, I reevaluated the whole scene, face-palming and cringing at myself the whole time. Why was I so awkward in describing the book to him? At first glance, this man had that “Jesus glow,” but was he really a Christian? Or maybe he didn't know Jesus? Did I say enough? I was kind of beating myself up over it. My sister encouraged me that I was totally fine. In my heart I felt a peace that if he didn’t really know Jesus, what I had just shared with him, and even the fact that I chose to read that book at that moment would be the planting of seeds in some way, shape or form. And if we were supposed to deepen our conversation, I was praying that he would come back out and I would have the chance to share the Gospel with him. God would move. I knew that.

He walked in and out of the shop doing tasks, helping people prepare for the parade, and in my new routine of playing everything back in my head, over and over, and wondering if I had messed up, I noticed his shirt: a giant “K” surrounded by a design of green leaves. Kings Kaleidoscope! I instantly knew it was the Christian band Kings Kaleidoscope. I settled a bit: he was a Christian.

A little over 5 minutes later, I peered through the coffee shop window to see him filling up 3 cups of water. I had a feeling that it would be for us. He came up to our table, struggling to hold the cups in his hands, and asked if he could bother us. I said of course!

He then asked me a question that took me by surprise. From all of the vibes this man gave off, what came out of his mouth took me aback for a second. “Do you mind me asking...which God?” Then he asked if we were part of something that I didn’t know of. I responded to him by saying that we were Christians, so our God was Jesus Christ. He nodded. That’s when things got really crazy. He set the water down, officially introduced himself, and crouched by the table. He then told us how in the past 2 weeks, 4 ladies came to the coffee shop and sat outside reading spiritual stuff. Each one had apparently turned him away. I was trying to figure out what he meant by that...In my mind, we were the first to accept him? In my sister’s mind, this was an attack that we were like the others. So many thoughts were swirling around in my head at this point. Was he questioning his faith because of his interactions with these girls? How did I turn him away? I was so confused.

After that, he brought out his phone to read a verse to us. In my mind, I was still thinking that this guy needed me to share the Gospel with him, or at least defend my faith. That I was supposed to explain what a certain verse meant or something. It slowly, very slowly became clear to me.

He read from 1 Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”

Okay...yes, this is true. We must always be prepared to defend our faith. Was this my moment to defend my faith to a man who was doubting the God I believed in?

What was he going to say next? What had happened in his life to make him start to question things? Did all those girls who turned him away make him doubt his faith? I was lost.

Alas, no. The next words out of his mouth both confused me tremendously, but also cleared so much up.

He told us that we were sitting there, learning and filling ourselves up on the Word, but not aware of the need to share the Gospel with those around us. That we weren’t very enticing. He shared that he had been praying that God would send Christians to the coffee shop. But apparently his hope was for those who came to be more than just customers.

He was a Christian. But he had disguised that fact in order to test us. To see how we would react in sharing about Jesus.

I was hurt. In the moment my heart ached so much. Here I was, thinking that this was a chance to share with this man about Jesus, to help him come back to faith, because he clearly knew some things about it. But instead he already knew God, and wanted to hide that to see how we would react. He was out to challenge us, rather than encourage us. I felt defeated and discouraged. Humiliated and stupid.

I had failed the test, but wasn’t really given the opportunity to succeed either.

He didn’t see the whole picture. He didn’t know the thoughts that were swirling around in my head. He didn’t know that after that first interaction, that I was beating myself up for not saying more about the book. He didn’t know that I sensed he was a Christian. He didn’t know that I recognized his shirt as being a Christian band. He didn’t know any of that. He only assumed that I was turning him away, when in fact I was ready to share my faith with him if he only gave me the chance.

Maybe I should have straight up asked him if he knew Jesus after he asked me what my book was about. Would he have been honest with me and said yes? Or would he have lied to see how far I would go to share my faith?

My spirit was crushed, and I couldn’t find the words to explain the situation to him. My emotions were baffled and I was silenced. He knew that he had just put us through the ringer in his conversation, and said anything we wanted was on the house. For the next few hours, waiting for the parade, I just sat there. I didn’t read my book, I couldn’t. I didn’t do anything. I just sat there. Discouraged.

The Lesson:

As I've reflected back on this whole conversation, I've learned so much from that interaction.

Like I stated in the beginning, this conversation was a game-changer for me.

Here's what I've learned:

1. Actions {most often} speak louder than words.

I don’t know about you, but when I strike up a conversation with someone, my first thought isn’t to ask them if they know Jesus. And to be honest, I don’t typically ask people who look like they know Jesus if they know Jesus (sorry, dude. that was my b). My tactic is something else...

My first hope is to be a light. To shine for Jesus. The way that I treat others, the way I show kindness and love is a testament to my relationship with Him. Sometimes being a light looks like wearing a shirt that explicitly shines the truth, or it's reading my Bible or a book about God in public. And sometimes these things open up the door of opportunity to share of the good news with those who inquire of it.

Like the man at the coffee shop, my book struck up conversation. It was an opportunity to share about God. When he asked me about my book, I explained what I knew of the book. I didn't intentionally shoo away the man by saying, "ohhh, it's just a book." I owned up to what I was reading. I did my part, even if it turns out that I wasn't "enticing" enough. If our seed-planting is to be watered by us, those conversations will open up and God will use us to deepen them.

2. Don't be Afraid of the Little Bit

When I started beating myself up over the fact that I didn't say more, I knew that what I did share was the planting of seeds. If we're open to having conversation, whether we feel like we've said too little, hear me on this: GOD USES OUR LITTLE BIT. We're planting seeds by the way we act and love and by shining the light of Jesus, and even the littlest amount of seed-planting can grow in someones heart the desire to know more. Don't beat yourself up, because sometimes Kingdom building takes time. You did your best. And your best is just fine! Allow God the opportunity to move in what you've laid out, and trust Him in that.

3. Encourage One Another (oh, and don't hide your faith!!)

As for the man at the coffee shop, his intention was to encourage me and to help me become a better evangelist. However, his tactic in this was not the most helpful... Instead of feeling encouraged, I felt attacked and humiliated.

If we are to encourage one another, let us do so in love.

If we are to encourage one another, let us do so by way of support, and not judgment.

How I wish the conversation would have gone:

Mr. Coffee Man, after asking me what my book was about, and returning with the water, replies:

"Hey, I'm a Christian. By what you're reading, are you a Christian too?"

(If he was hoping for me to ask him that question, which I already knew the answer to, then he very well could have done the same thing and shared the Gospel with me!)

"If you don't mind me sharing...the past 2 weeks there have been 4 ladies who sit out here and read spiritual stuff. Not one attempted to share the Gospel with me by their words. However, the fact that they chose this spot to sit and read about God is impactful. I've been praying that God would bring Christians to this spot. My hope is that we, as Christians, would be bold in proclaiming our faith, and open to sharing the Gospel with those who inquire. When I asked you about your book, you were quick to respond, rather than shoo me away. I commend that. But don't be afraid to deepen the conversation and be the first to open up about faith! You're on the right track! But don't forget to be bold, even if you have a hunch that I already know about Jesus. Don't be afraid to ask someone if they believe. Have a blessed day!"

Leave them feeling encouraged! I would still be challenged to do more (which is a good thing), but I would have left that conversation feeling so much better than I actually did.

"What you say has the ability to plant seeds, but your actions can do the watering."

I pray that we can encourage one another, rather than test one another. I pray that we can come alongside our brothers and sisters in love and truth, rather than judgment and criticism. I pray that our actions will be the way that others see Jesus in us; by our fellow Christians & those who don't know Jesus. Don't hide that you know Jesus. But rather, boldly proclaim to all that you know Him!


How are we representing Christ?

Are we standing up for Him, or are we hiding that we know Him?

Are we attacking others or are we encouraging them?



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