FIRST GLIMPSE: Crossing the Redemptive Bridge
“That’s an interesting tattoo.”
I expected the same familiar response from the stone-faced young barista at my frequent coffee stop I had received for nearly two years—a grunt and a receipt.
To my surprise, she froze, glanced down at the tiny bluish-green footprints on her wrist, and then looked up at me, eyes brimming with tears.
“I got this to remind me of my baby who died,” she said, her broken voice little more than a whisper. “I miss her so much; I just wish I could see her again.”
I didn’t hesitate: “You can.”
Twenty minutes and a cup of coffee later, I had shared the gospel with her, offering hope for the future available through the Savior who sacrificed His life for ours. While my barista did not accept Christ that day, I no longer struggle to start conversations. She has questions waiting for every latté order, and I trust that, in time, she will follow the quiet leading of the Holy Spirit and place her trust in the One who cares most about her grief.
Missiologist Don Richardson describes moments like these as redemptive analogies or redemptive bridges—times when a story, practice, tradition, common interest, or shared life event can be used to illustrate and apply the gospel message. While only God can bring such moments to fruition, you and I can do several simple things to make them more frequent:
Start the conversation. Find places to encounter new people. Be willing to go beyond the “Bible bubble” to build new relationships with people who don’t know Christ. Then simply start talking—honestly and with a compassionate heart—and let God lead the way into redemptive conversations.
Be a learner. Listen first. Talk later. Follow the example of missionaries who spend years studying the “heart language” and culture to become more effective in sharing the gospel. Identify likes, loves, and griefs. Then, like Jesus and the woman at the well, meet others at the point of their need.
Look past the stereotypes. At times, we hesitate to share our faith because someone is too different, too angry, too confrontational, too radical, too alternative, too…lost. And that is the point. In God’s eyes, we are all sinners. Yet He loved us enough to send His Son to provide healing for our sin-sick souls. No one is beyond His mercy, even if his appearance or lifestyle is offensive, even repulsive, to us.
Be patient. For me, it took two years of coffee just to start the conversation. Don’t give up. Even when it seems hopeless, remember, God never gave up on you.
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have all the answers when it comes to sharing the gospel. But I have made up my mind, when God leads me to a redemptive bridge, I am going to cross it, trusting Him to help me reach the other side.
About the Columnist: Eric K. Thomsen is managing editor of ONE Magazine. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.