I was pumping gas this week when a woman stopped her car several feet from the pump and leaned out her window to pitch a question.
“Sir, can you tell me how to find First Baptist Church?”
I was relieved and excited about her question. Relieved I wasn’t being asked for gas money and excited to help.
“Yes, I think so,” I said as I put my forefinger to my temple and engaged my GPS, “God’s People Search.”
“They are right around the corner.”
Surprised how easily I knew the church, she asked whether I attended there. “No,” I simply said, “I’m a chaplain and I try to make it a point of knowing where local congregations meet.”
Then she asked me where I go to church, so I told her.
That’s when this stranger pitched her most loaded question. “Would you like me to show your church how to be filled with the Holy Spirit?”
Now, not unlike the question “Have you stopped beating your wife?” this question has no easy answer.
If I said yes, I invited this stranger into my life without knowing anything about her agenda other than her fraternizing familiarity with the third person of the Christian Trinity.
If I said no, I quickly confirmed in her mind what she likely already judged from my reticent stutter — that I’m not a very good Christian.
So, I took the hard way out. I smiled and said, “No, we’re really not interested.”
Taking my answer a bit like Capt. Kirk’s Enterprise, damaged, but still responsive, she fired again, saying something like, “Aren’t you interested in the filling of the Holy Ghost and the fiery gift of tongues?”
Now, if you don’t know what “tongues” are like, read the book of Acts. But likely, you’ll still not know, and neither do I really.
But, judging by her ecclesiastical syntax, I do believe I know what she meant by “tongues.” She meant an ecstatic and unintelligible language that meets the needs of thousands of people in charismatic venues. But in the church I attend, it likely wouldn’t go over too well.
Nevertheless, my answer was a softer, “No, really I’m not interested. I’m fairly sure I know what you mean by being ‘filled,’ so my answer is no.”
And that was that. Her attempt at a drive-by conversion failed, and she went on her way.
Let me warn you, many people approach the sharing of their faith in the same way. They fire loaded questions at unsuspecting bystanders in much the same method as the infamous drive-by shootings.
People like my drive-by inquisitor reduce spirituality to some kind of tests with questions such as: “Don’t you want the spirit in your life?” or “If you were to die tonight, did you know you’ll go to hell?”
How do you answer questions like that? You can’t.
Because you don’t find God through some kind of test, not even through a pop quiz. You know and encounter God through spiritual relationship. And like all relationships, you ask questions, you dialogue, you lose your temper, you laugh and you love.
Back at the gas station, I faced another question. What did I do with my keys? I patted my pockets until I realized they were locked inside the car.
Fortunately, remembering an earlier conversation with my wife, I knew she was shopping in the adjoining grocery store. I called her and in a few minutes she was leaning out her car window with my last drive-by question for the evening.
“Do you want me to take you home and get the spare keys?”
Now that was a great question.