FIRST-PERSON: A modern-day prodigal and a Gospel witness

Baptist Press
Posted: Jun 12, 2013 8:22 PM
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP) -- Even something as simple as checking into a hotel can have Kingdom implications. Here's a story of what God did in one young man's life:

A young man saw me carrying my Bible and said that if I was a preacher, he sure needed to talk to someone before he did something drastic. We stepped out into the parking lot and I prayed for the Lord to work through me. I was ready to provide a Gospel witness, listening prayerfully for what to say and do. When he started pouring out his story about just getting out of a mental health facility, I felt I was in over my head, but God was bigger than us both to bring life transformation.

The young man said he had accepted Christ and was baptized five years ago. However, he had gotten into drugs, done time in prison, and had an unhealthy relationship with a woman. He said, "I've tried physical solutions and psychological solutions, but they all failed. I think I'm at the point that that only a spiritual solution will help."

The way he said he was running from God and sick to death with his lifestyle sounded so much like Jesus' parable of the Prodigal Son. I asked him if he knew the Bible story. He did and immediately began to tell it to me. However, as I was listening, he skipped one important part of the story. I asked him what made the son want to go home. He couldn't remember. So, I told him just that part of the story -- the famine, feeding pigs, and the Prodigal's "coming to his senses." When I asked him what that meant, he actually said, "He was sick of what he had become."

Boom. He got it.

I reminded him that the son was still in a far country and had to walk back to his father. I also reminded him that not only did the prodigal son sin against his earthly father, but he had sinned against heaven, as well. I asked if he wanted to say anything to God. If he had a relationship with the Lord as he said he did, then this would reveal his heart. He was ready and prayed a heartfelt prayer of confession and repentance and pleaded to Jesus for forgiveness.

When he finished, I asked if there was anything he needed to do to get on the road "home." He pulled out a cellphone and said that he needed to call his sponsor, who was offering him a job. And so I left him on the phone working out details with his sponsor to take a bus and start a new life.

The whole encounter probably took 30 minutes -- and in a hotel parking lot. I listened at least 25 minutes and only asked about four or five of what Bible Storying workshop leaders call "heart" questions to engage him in dialogue. The guy knew what to do. He just needed to talk it out and commit to take the right road.

Mark Snowden serves Missouri Baptists as evangelism/discipleship strategist. This column first appeared in the Pathway, the newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention, online at Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook ( ) and in your email (

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