Over the last two days, I’ve given 14 Uber rides, during six hours and about 150 miles of driving. I had a few repeat customers, but every new customer received a gospel tract. And I was blessed to have a couple of gospel conversations. What follows is a conversation I had yesterday on a short Uber ride with a lady named Jill. I hope you are encouraged by this.
Breaking the Ice
Jill: How’s it going so far today.
Me: It’s going good. A little quiet, but good.
Jill: It is kind of quiet today.
We continued to make small talk and then Jill asked, “So, how long have you been driving Uber?”
Me: Oh, about a month and a half.
Jill: Do you like it?
Me: Yeah. It’s a good way to get out and meet people. I don’t do it full-time. I drive just a few hours a day.
Jill: A few hours a day is probably enough. You’ll probably earn enough to buy lunch.
Me: Yeah. I’m not in it for the money. But I imagine if someone does this full-time in a busy area, like Chicago, he might be able to make a livable wage.
Jill: I bet you could, but you would still need to be in your car all day.
Me: I did 20 years as a deputy sheriff, so I’ve done my time in a car.
Jill: Oh, really? Oh, my! Here in Davenport?
Transitioning Toward Spiritual Things
Me: No. Out in Los Angeles.
Me: Yeah; my family and I moved out here about two and a half years ago.
Jill: “What a change!
Me: Yeah; it was a big change.
Jill: Why did you move out here?
Me: After 20 years, I retired about 12 years ago and then I went into full-time Christian ministry.
Jill: You’re too young to retire.
Me: I started young. But I was called into Christian ministry and that’s why I left early. A church out here in Davenport was supporting the ministry I was doing in California. A few years ago the church asked us to move out here and be part of the work of the church out here.
Jill: What church is it?
Me: Grace Fellowship Church out off of West Kimberly, about a stone’s throw west of Harlan’s Restaurant.
Jill: Is it Lutheran?
Me: It’s a Baptist church.
Jill: That’s cool. Well, do you like it here?
Me: I do. I found the people here to be friendly. I do a lot of ministry on the University of Iowa campus. My youngest daughter is a student there. And I’ve found the students there to be as friendly, if not friendlier and more respectful, than any of the other campuses where I’ve been.
Jill: Cool! That’s really nice to hear. So, what do you do with your ministry?
Me: It’s an evangelistic ministry. I spend my time on the streets, college campuses, and other places sharing the gospel with people. That’s what I do.
“How Do You Approach People?”
Jill: Nice. How do you approach people?
Me: That’s a great question. It varies. One of the things I’ll do is called “open-air preaching.” I’ll stand on a bench and preach a message. Other times, like when I’m on campus, I might use a dry erase board on which I’ll write a “Question of the Day”—some kind of provocative, multiple-choice question. I’ll write possible answers on the board and invite students to answer the question. That will often start a conversation.
Jill: Now, that’s interesting. I’ve never seen that. That’s nice.
Me: Sometimes I’ll hand out gospel tracts (Christian literature). Or sometimes I’ll just walk up to people and say, ‘Hi, I’m Tony. I’m a Christian and I would love to talk to you about your spiritual beliefs.”
A Direct Question for Jill
So, how about you, Jill?
Jill: Now you’ve got me cornered (she said with a laugh).
Me: Only as cornered as you want. I’m just your Uber driver. We’ll have or not have whatever conversation you want.
Jill: I’m a firm believer in talking to God.
Me: Oh, yeah?
Jill: I was raised a Lutheran. I don’t go to church much, now. I used to. The church I grew up in, I was baptized, confirmed, and married in.
Me: Is that here locally?
Jill: Yeah. St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.
Me: Okay. I’ve heard of it. Isn’t that the one by Vander Veer Park?
Jill: Yeah. It’s right across the street. It’s interesting to watch how different things are. Things have changed. When I was in high school, my mother would always tell me, “You can’t date a Catholic.” I thought, “What difference does it make?” Back in those days, it wasn’t good to do that. Nowadays, I find that when I do go to church that the liturgy is very much Catholic, now.
Me: Well, there are some similarities between Catholicism and Lutheranism when it comes to the way they do things. It really depends on the type of Lutheran church.
Jill: The Missouri Synod is, I think, more strict.
Me: The Missouri Synod is known to be more conservative than other Lutheran denominations, such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). Is St. Paul’s part of the ELCA or the Missouri Synod?
Jill: It’s ELCA. Having the right pastor, or rabbi, or priest makes a big difference; I think.
What Jill Believes
Me: Well, one of the things I’ve learned over the years, Jill is that I take every person as they come—meaning: because someone says he or she is Catholic, or because someone says he or she is Lutheran, I don’t automatically assume I know everything about what the person in front of me believes.
Jill: Well, everybody is different.
Me: That’s right. Everyone is different. So, with Jill—what does Jill think is going to happen to Jill when Jill dies and stands before God?
Jill: I’m hoping to go to heaven.
Me: Okay. I hope you do, too.
Jill: Thank you.
Me: And on what do you base that hope?
Jill: Well, I’ve always heard it was a good place to go. And I’d like to go there.
Getting to the Gospel
Me: So, if you were to stand before God and God were to ask you, “Jill, why should I let you into this beautiful heaven where you want to go?”
Jill: I would say, “Because I love you.” It’s not because I deserve it.
Me: Well, I know I don’t. Jill, do you think you need to be a good person to go to heaven?
Jill: No. But that opens up a whole can of worms. What is “good?”
Me: That’s a good question. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 5:48, He gives us God’s definition of good when He said, “You are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Jill: I can’t.
Me: Jill, I’m 55 years old and I’ve yet to live a perfect day in my life. But God, who is perfect, who is holy, is not going to lower His standard simply because we’re unable to live up to it. That’s why we need the Savior because we can’t be good as God defines goodness.
We can be nice. Certainly, if I’m locked in a room with Jill, Osama bin Laden, and Adolf Hitler . . .
I had to pause because Jill was laughing so hard.
. . . and I’m told I have to pick a friend, I’m going to pick Jill. Now, we’ve known each other for just a few minutes and I’m already certain you are a nicer person than the other two guys. But God doesn’t grade on a curve. He doesn’t compare us to one another. He compares us to Himself. He compares us to the law He has written on our hearts. He’s written on our hearts that we should not lie, or steal, or take His name in vain, or harbor anger, bitterness, or hatred in our hearts.
Jill: The Ten Commandments.
Me: That’s right. And none of us (and I’ll put my name first on the list)—none of us have been able to perfectly keep or follow that law. Right?
Jill: Yeah (she said with a sigh).
Me: The Bible says that we’ve all sinned and have fallen short of God’s glory. But God, who is rich in mercy (although He did say He would punish sinners) is also, gracious, merciful, and kind. He has provided the way . . .
Jill: We’re here.
We had arrived at Jill’s destination. I had just a few moments before Jill would leave my car.
Me: God has provided a way for us to escape His wrath, and it’s not by going to church on Sunday and living however we please Monday through Saturday. It’s not about trying to be a good person. The way God provided for us to be reconciled to Him is through the gift of His Son.
If we put our faith, hope, and trust in Him alone—in His sacrifice on the cross—God will forgive our sin. He will grant us everlasting life. He will allow us into His heaven—not on the basis of anything we have done to earn or deserve it, but on the basis of His love, and His grace, and His mercy that would allow His Son to die for sinful people like us.
This is why the gospel is good news. It’s not a work on our part that makes us right with God. It’s a work on God’s part that allows us to be made right with Him. Does that make sense?
Jill: Yeah! That feels good.
With the Gospel in Hand
Me: May I give you something?
I handed her one of my church’s gospel tracts.
Me: God bless you.
Jill: Thank you. I appreciate it, Tony.
Me: It was very nice talking to you. Thank you for riding with me.
Jill grabbed her bag from the back seat and exited my car.
Jill: You have a great voice. I bet your voice carries. And I like the way you put things across.
Me: Thank you, Jill. You have a great day.
Jill: You, too.
With that, Jill waved goodbye and walked away.
Join me in praying for Jill.