When Roger Hamilton, director of Ministry Partner Development, was a student involved with The Navigators at the University of Wisconsin, he made a conscious decision to reflect the character of Christ wherever he was—even at his part-time job in the university’s food service. The environment was decidedly secular, and it didn’t take long for Roger’s words and actions to stand out like a proverbial sore thumb.
A number of the other young men working with Roger would tease him about being the token Christian among them and would attempt to embarrass him with tales of their drinking and dating activities. Much of the time, there wasn’t much Roger could say. He simply lived out a life of Christian character—even when he didn’t have the opportunity to speak.
There were occasions, however, when he was able to talk in more depth about his faith. On one such occasion, he was able to share his faith in some detail with a coworker named Dean. Roger sketched out The Bridge to Life illustration of the Gospel in which sinful man was on one side of a chasm and a holy God was on the other side—with Jesus as the “bridge” between the two. He then asked Dean which side he thought he was on.
Dean’s response was that he was obviously on God’s side. After all, he’d been brought up in a good Lutheran home and had attended church. Roger politely—but boldly—challenged the notion that Dean’s “cultural Christianity” made him a “real” follower of Christ. “Dean,” he said, “I really don’t think you’re on God’s side.”
Dean was seriously irritated by that comment and thought, “Who are you to tell me that?” Walking away from the conversation, Roger felt sure that nothing had really come of the conversation, and eventually he and Dean lost contact with one another.
However, 25 years later the two men crossed paths on Facebook. Discovering that Roger would be visiting Minneapolis (where Dean currently lives), Dean invited him out to dinner. As they sat down, Dean told Roger, “You really ticked me off when you shared the Gospel with me in college!” Then he quickly added, “But don’t apologize. You cared enough to share the truth with me.”
Dean went on to tell him, “I was mad at you for about 12 years. You were like a stone in my shoe for that whole time.” The Holy Spirit had used Roger’s questioning of Dean’s faith as an irritation that hounded him until he finally came to a genuine and personal faith in Christ.
Even 25 years later, Dean says he can still see that Gospel illustration in his mind. And his “rocky” encounter with Roger is a reminder to him when he shares the Gospel with someone else that, “I have to love him enough to be willing to share the truth with him.”
“You never know,” says Roger, “when sharing your faith is going to bear fruit. Even when the seed you sow appears to be nothing more than a spiritual stone in someone’s shoe for 12 years!”