Craig standing beside the baptismal font in Christ Church Anglican, Queanbeyan NSW
Evangelism is outward focused. We must look beyond where we are in our Christian community, doing the things we do, to bring others to Christ. And often this can happen in the most unlikely ways.
Craig Roberts – assistant priest at Christ Church Anglican in Queanbeyan, NSW and an Anglican Army Chaplain in training – recently had an interaction that highlighted the need to expend energy and effort in contacting people outside our regular Christian community. This story shows the desperate need for us to value those on the margins, who easily slip off our radar, just as highly as our committed church members. And it all began with an ‘coincidence’ and furniture.
It was Sunday morning. The service was underway when a man entered. A greeter approached him, but it soon became evident he needed help. Craig was called over, and the conversation began. The man had suffered a personal tragedy and in his grief, had been drawn to enter the church. He couldn’t explain why.
Craig doesn’t recall how it came up, but the man mentioned he needed some furniture. ‘Coincidentally’ the church was clearing out a unit of its furnishings. The man couldn’t believe it. Craig simply told him, “God knows what you need.”
After receiving the unexpected gift of furniture, the man began to visit Craig on Wednesdays. He would ask questions – sometimes difficult ones. Craig would listen and answer as best he could. But the man stopped coming.
Craig’s church decided to start a seven session ‘Christianity Explored’ course. Weeks before the course was scheduled to begin, Craig felt compelled to ask the man along but no one had the man’s phone number or contact details
Did the rector have it? No. What about the driver who delivered the furniture? No. Craig’s frustration mounted. Surely the office had it? Another no. Craig reached the point of trying to find out the general area of where the man lived, just so he could drive around until he stumbled upon him. But all of this proved futile.
It wasn’t until the day the course started that the man’s contact details were found, buried in the depths of someone’s phone. It was by chance they stumbled across them over the preceding weekend. “I had to ring him on the day,” Craig said, reflecting on the moment. With literally hours left, he called the man and invited him to join them for the course. His answer? “Can my wife come too?” They attended the course that evening, and continued to do so as the weeks progressed.
The time came when Craig asked the man if he wanted to become a Christian. The man said he didn’t feel ‘qualified’. Craig simply answered, “There is no ‘qualified’ when it comes to this.” Still the man could not say yes. Craig shifted his attention to the man’s wife. She didn’t speak very good English, so the man had to translate for her. Craig told him to translate his words exactly and say nothing else. Unlike her husband, the wife excitedly answered, “Yes!” Seeing his wife’s reaction and more fully realising what was being asked of him, the man exclaimed, “Yes! I want to say yes too!” And so Craig led them both in a prayer of commitment to Jesus.
The couple are now active members of the church and involved in bible studies much like the one through which they were brought to faith.
The real wow moment of this story? Friends overseas had been praying for the couple’s salvation for over sixteen years. And it happened. Years later. Thousands of kilometres away in Queanbeyan, NSW, all because Craig was willing to chase down a ten-digit number across weeks of frustration for the sake of one man hearing the gospel.