How do you share your faith when it’s just not cool?
I don’t think I’ve ever been thought of as a “cool guy”—you know, the nonchalant, everybody-probably-wishes-they-were-me kind of guy. If you remember the TV show, Happy Days, I was never, ever like “The Fonz” (Henry Winkler). I’ve always been more like Richie (Ron Howard). In fact, when my senior class in high school was voting on senior class personalities—you know, “Most Likely to Succeed,” “Greatest Hair,” “Most Popular”—I was voted “Most Responsible.” I didn’t even know they had such a category. And believe me, it didn’t feel cool.
Danny was cool. Effortlessly cool. Like he didn’t need anybody, but was surrounded by people who wanted to be with him. Yeah—I found myself wondering what it would be like to be like Danny.
One evening a friend and I went to see Danny because he wasn’t coming to youth group and church activities any longer. Danny invited us in and took us to his back patio. Then he lit up a cigarette, took a deep draw on it, blew out the smoke and asked, “So what’s on your minds?”
It’s cool to be direct—not threatened by anything.
“Well, we’ve missed you at church and just wanted to reconnect.”
“That’s cool, but I’m not into church stuff anymore. It’s just not where I’m at. Too many hypocrites.” He knocked the ashes off his cigarette onto the knee of his jeans and rubbed them into the fabric. (I obviously would never make the shift from most responsible to cool if I had to act like Danny).
“You’re right,” I responded.
His eyebrows rose above his round, wire-rim glasses. “I am?” he said with surprise.
“Yeah, the church is all messed up. Too many people go just to be seen, or to try to be sure they are on God’s good side. That’s garbage. But what about Jesus? What do you think about Jesus?”
“Jesus….” Long, long pause, “Jesus. I guess he’s cool.”
That opened the door to a couple of hours of conversation. Danny smoked more than a few cigarettes as we discussed the Bible, science and evolution, Jesus’ humanity and divinity, death and resurrection, and I can’t remember what else. We covered a lot of ground. And it was not because we pushed, but because he kept asking.
“Hey, Danny, we should be going. Thanks for giving us this time. Before we go, do you want to pray with us?”
Up went the eyebrows!
“Pray with you?? Nah… I’m not into that.”
“Well, after all we’ve talked about, we just wondered if you wanted to take the next step and commit or recommit your life to Christ…”
He just shook his head, “Don’t take this wrong, guys, but I’m not ready for anything like that.”
“No problem. We really enjoyed getting connected again. See you sometime.”
When we got in the car, I couldn’t help myself, “I doubt if we’ll ever see Danny in church again.”
Fast forward 5 years. I had been married for over a year and was just getting ready to leave for seminary. Sarah and I were at my home church in the worship service. When we stood to sing, this guy I didn’t recognize glanced back our way. He did it several times during the service. Like he knew Sarah or me. After the service, he came directly up to us and looked right at me through his wire-rim glasses.
“Are you Doug Rumford?”
“Yes,” but I couldn’t place this clean-cut, suit-wearing guy.
“I’m Danny. Man, I’ve been praying I would see you!”
“Wait. What? You’re DANNY?? Smoking-on-your-porch, rubbing-cigarette-ashes-into-your-jeans Danny?”
He laughed, “Yeah—so you remember me? I gave you quite a hard time that day.”
“It’s a day I’ll never forget.”
“Me neither. That’s why I’ve been praying to see you. Six months ago I prayed to receive Jesus Christ into my life as Lord and Savior. After that prayer, the man who was sharing with me asked, ‘Danny, how many people helped you get to this place of commitment? Who was the first person you remember sharing with you?’ I told him it was you, Doug. He said, ‘Then start praying you can see Doug and tell him—and everyone else who shared with you, too. It will be a great encouragement and joy to them.’ So I’ve been praying—and here you are. Thank you!”
He gave me a huge hug. Tears were rolling down both our cheeks.
“I’m sorry I was such a jerk. That wasn’t cool,” Danny said. “But Doug, you were so cool to reach out to me.”
I was cool. I was cool?… So that’s what it really means! Now I get it!
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow (1 Corinthians 3:6-7 New International Version NIV).