Michael Pemberton, a 30-year old financial planner in Atlanta, sometimes makes cold calls for a living.
Yet to pick up the phone and dial a business associate to get together and talk about issues of faith proved cause for some clammy palms and beads of sweat.
He felt a gnawing burden to do so; yet there was a need to unfetter some fear within.
“I knew evangelism was important. The church I go to said so. Sermons and Scripture pointed to it. God says we are to make disciples of men. But I was scared to do it,” Michael said, thinking back to an initial call he made to Trey — an insurance broker whom he had gotten to know through a mutual college friend.
“I was uncomfortable — so nervous,” Michael said. “Here is a guy I used to go out and party with, and now I’m calling to ask if we can meet for lunch and talk about spiritual things.
“I didn’t want him to feel like I was forcing my views on him. My heart was racing fast. I wondered, 'How this is going to come off?'” said Michael. “I prayed, 'Lord give me the power to make this call and would You please get Trey to lunch.'”
But remembrances of how his life had changed through coming to Christ in 2004 proved equally significant in compelling him to reach out in faith.
“I had been going to church about a year, trying to fight some addiction myself, and I couldn’t get past it,” explained Michael. “Finally, I said, ‘If I am going to make it, it is going to be with you, Lord.’ I surrendered myself to Christ and His work on the cross.”
“With every part of my life so radically changed by God’s love, I have wanted others to see it and have their lives changed, too. “I didn’t really feel like I was living life until I knew Jesus. That has created a burden for me to want to tell others."
In 2007, Michael shared an office next to Damian, a strong Christian and mortgage banker, who one day told Michael about a Bible study that he was attending, which focused on how to talk to colleagues about Christ.
“I felt there could be opportunity in the workplace for me to share my faith,” says Michael, “but I don’t always have control over who is around me and sometimes thought, ' Should I really be doing that?' And I didn’t know how to do it.”
Damian later led Michael to a lunch-hour Bible study being led by Mark McGoldrick, director of Priority Associates in Atlanta.
Mark works closely with young business professionals in his work with Cru. So, he was more than eager to alleviate Michael’s concerns and help train him in how to achieve the desire that God had awakened in Michael to communicate the gospel with others.
The first Bible study held in a nearby restaurant presented 5 lessons foundational to Christian living, covering such items as assurance of salvation, forgiveness, and prayer.
Next, Mark formed a couple of small 10-person groups to walk through a 6-week session he now calls “Empower Training.”
There, Michael learned more about how to best draw colleagues and friends into a conversation about the message of Christ.
At the core, Mark taught Michael and peers to begin by praying for others, whom they want to reach.
Mark prodded the group to invite a peer or friend to an informal lunch. He coached them how to use a short spiritual questionnaire or feedback form to assess the friend’s spiritual background and interest. Then at lunch, they could ask permission to tell their personal story of becoming a Christian.
Those across the table are then encouraged to ask questions, challenged to make a decision, or, as is often the case, invited to an upcoming outreach event where the message will once more be explained.
“For the most part,” says Mark, “it is so less threatening if these guys have an event to bring people to or have some kind of tool to use to open up the conversation rather than asking out of the clear blue sky, 'Hey, can I share with you how to know God in a personal way?'”
Completion of the Empower Training sessions meant it was time for Michael to initiate a call.
“Trey said, ‘Sure,’ and then,” says Michael, “I really freaked.”
His second call was to Mark to insist he come to help him through this first meeting.
Mark helped break the ice with Trey, shared his story, and then gave Michael the nod.
“It was his first opportunity to share a clear gospel presentation through his testimony,” says Mark. “He talked of what his life was like before he came to Christ, how he came to Christ (stating how one can know Christ) and what his life is like now.”
Trey told Mark and Michael that he wasn’t ready that day to pray and receive Jesus Christ.
Michael had to suppress feelings often that perhaps he had damaged the relationship.
But later that day he received a text message from Trey: “Thanks so much for being such a great friend; no one has ever brought that up with me.”
While Trey has yet to surrender his life to Christ, he has since attended 2 small-group Bible studies, a large-group outreach, and joined Michael and his wife for an informal dinner at their home.
Meanwhile, in spite of some continued discomfort and having not yet seen anyone make a decision to pray and receive Christ, Michael continues to explore opportunities to talk with colleagues and family members about Christianity.
“It is hard for it to not be about results,” Michael says. “As a businessperson, I can be results-driven. But waiting has taught me that I am not in charge as to when someone comes to confess Jesus as Savior.”
He adds, “I think that is part of stepping out in faith. God has said I have been called to that — even if uncertain of what the result will be."
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