President’s Perspective: I’ve Never Heard That Before

My first Uber ride was a memorable experience. I was recently in Boston with a group of South Carolina pastors for a North American Mission Board “Catch the Vision” tour. We met about 15 church planters who have a passion for the gospel and for their city.

When it was time to return home, we decided to take an Uber to the airport. Our driver was a Chinese man named Michael. He and his family moved to Boston from Hong Kong 37 years ago. Three other pastors were in the car with me, and we began to engage Michael in a gospel conversation. It was an amazing ride, as he was genuinely interested in what we were sharing.

Michael was very much against religion. Everyone seemed to have their own religion, he said, and none of it was of any use to him. I agreed with Michael that religion would not provide the answer he was looking for. I mentioned to him that the Bible teaches that you can have a relationship with God through Jesus. That’s when Michael said, “You can have a relationship with God? I’ve never heard that before!”

It’s not just what he said that amazed me, but how he said it. He seemed genuinely surprised and excited at that possibility. Later in the conversation, Michael asked again, as if trying to comprehend what he had heard, “You can have a relationship with God? I’ve never heard that before — never.” The pastors and I continued to talk to Michael about Jesus and the new life He makes possible.

As we were approaching the airport, Michael stated for the third time, “You can have a relationship with God? I’ve never heard that before.” This time Michael seemed to be talking to himself. He was fascinated by the possibility of this new information he was hearing. Suddenly, Michael blurted out with amazement, “If that’s true, it would change your life!”

I thought about Michael a lot on the plane ride back to South Carolina. Everyone deserves to have a day like Michael had — a day when he heard good news he had never heard before.

I’m asking pastors to go with me on vision trips to places like Boston, Cleveland and Southeast Asia this year, because there are so many people like Michael who literally have never heard what we take for granted. Lost people don’t understand who Jesus is. They don’t understand the gospel. But every time you go and share, you are helping them connect the dots. You are helping them understand the picture — until one day they see it — and they are amazed that Jesus died on the cross for their sins.

Evangelism doesn’t just happen. Most of the time, it happens as a result of intentionality — people who know Christ intentionally connecting with people who don’t. We need a new realization that Jesus has placed the news that changes eternities in our hands.

Pastors, would you consider going with me on a vision trip to Cleveland in August, or to Southeast Asia in September? I want to introduce you to church planters and missionaries, and to people like Michael who need to hear what we have heard all of our lives.

Church is not just a place we go to, it’s a place we go from!

— Keith Shorter is pastor of Mt. Airy Baptist Church in Easley and president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.