Editor’s Word: Detours on the Roman Road

For most of my 37 years as a pastor, I primarily used the “Roman Road” when witnessing to lost people (Romans 3:23, 3:10, 5:12, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9-13). It did not always lead to an immediate profession of faith, and there were often detours and surprises. I want to share a few of those experiences with you.

Early in my ministry, we would go on “visitation” to the homes of people we thought were not Christians. Often we knocked on doors randomly. On one of my first such surprise visits, my visitation partner was a UPS worker. We encountered a big, growling dog in the neighborhood. I was afraid, but he was experienced with situations like these. He slowly led us away, calmly talking to the dog as he jingled the keys in his pocket. We did not see anyone saved that night except ourselves!

On another occasion, I was in a man’s home sharing with him the Roman Road. I asked him if he would like to trust Christ as his Savior. He said yes, and I helped him pray. Then I said, “Now, if you were to die tonight, where would you spend eternity?” He replied, “I don’t know.” I then repeated the Roman Road again, prayed with him, and asked him the same question. He said again, “I don’t know.” I said, “Why did you pray and confess Christ as your personal Savior?” He said, “I don’t know. I thought that is what you wanted me to do!”

One night I was witnessing to a man who was home keeping his preschool-age son while his wife was out. I tried to move down the Roman Road with him, but his son had a little plastic baseball bat that especially made me nervous after he hit me in the head with it. The man did not make a profession of faith, but we did pray. (My eyes were open.)

Another man I visited was a professing Christian, looking for a church home. We went over the Roman Road together, just to be sure. After some conversation, I shared with him that I was going dove hunting with some friends in a few days. He said, “I don’t know about that, pastor. You know that the words ‘In God We Trust’ are engraved on the breast bone of a dove!” I thought he was kidding, but he wasn’t. I politely excused myself, realizing he probably needed more professional help than I could provide at that time in my life.

At McCall RA Camp one summer, I was the camp pastor. Several of us prayed during the week for a great moving of God’s Spirit. On decision night, as I extended the invitation, 100 boys made decisions. Just a few years ago, I was invited to speak at a Christmas event designed to help needy families with their Christmas gifts. When the invitation was given, 103 people made decisions at the altar. Those were the two largest evangelistic responses I experienced in my ministry.

One special experience stands out in my mind. It was not a time when many responded to the gospel, but when one person, through the process of time, believed. It goes back to the time when I was a youth minister, around 44 years ago.

We were preparing to leave the church for a fun night of miniature golf and McDonald’s. All the teens knew they were to bring their own money for the trip. As I looked around before we departed, I noticed a girl who seemed isolated and unhappy. I knew her situation, so I asked her privately if she was OK. She said, “I know we were supposed to bring money, but I don’t have any.” I knew she did not have anyone who could give her any money. I told her it was all right, and I discreetly gave her some money. She enjoyed herself immensely that night.

The next Sunday, she wanted me to see her new Bible. (She did not have one previously.) She said, “I was able to buy this with the money left over from the youth trip.” I did have the privilege to share the Roman Road with her, and she trusted Christ and was baptized.

Time passed, and I moved on to new fields of ministry. Many years later, when I was preaching at a church revival meeting in Anderson, this same girl attended one night — this time with her daughter. After the service, she said, “Do you remember me?” I did. She reminded me about the Bible she bought as a teenager with the money I had given her, and she told me she was active in her church serving Christ.

That was one of best investments I have ever made!

Whatever plan we use, we all have the opportunity to share the gospel with lost people. There may be some detours and surprises, but there will also be memorable blessings!