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Honoring Steve Douglass - My Cru Colleague

{GUEST POST - A Tribute to A Man Who Used Questions To Share His Faith}

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Today’s post is going to be a departure from my normal LeadingWithQuestions.com posts.

This past Saturday afternoon, October 29th, Steve Douglass – President Emeritus of Cru (formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ) took his first breath of celestial air.

Steve Douglass was my colleague and friend since 1980. He was also my mentor, not in a one-on-one way, but by being influenced through observing his leadership! He was one of the most genuine, caring, wise men that I have been privileged to know.  

Steve came to the ministry of Cru after graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Business School. Through more than five decades of service, he held a variety of positions, including Vice President for Administration and National Director of the U.S. Ministries. In July 2001, Steve took over as the President of Cru from its founder Bill Bright. In October 2020, he passed the baton of President to Steve Sellers.

There are so many stories I could share – but one of my favorite Steve Douglass stories took place in Russia in 1994. Steve and his younger daughter took part in our mission trip to deliver food/medicine/clothes/toys to Russian children in hospitals, orphanages, and schools. Steve and his daughter just wanted to be regular volunteers and were assigned to a bus with 28 other volunteers.

On the very first day, one of the women on that bus came to Steve to share that her Dad, who was on the trip, was not a follower of Jesus and asked if Steve would please share with him. Steve, of course, agreed. But the week had passed without Steve finding any opportunity, until the final morning when Steve and this man ended up sitting across the bus aisle from each other as they headed out to their final day of distribution. Steve also noticed the man’s daughter sitting in the row behind them. She caught Steve’s eye and folded her hands and nodded – of course encouraging Steve to take advantage of this opportunity.

Steve began to engage her Dad in conversation and soon shared his story of how he had come to faith in Jesus. Steve then pulled out a little booklet, called “The Four Spiritual Laws.”

Her Dad quickly responded to share that while he meant no disrespect – he was not interested. So Steve put the booklet back in his pocket and continued to engage the man in conversation. He discovered that he had just retired at age 65 and had started saving for his retirement at age 22 and had been very disciplined in putting money aside every month and wisely investing it. Steve commended him for his efforts.

Steve then asked him how long he expected to live.  He said he hoped to be at least 85.

Steve then asked him, once you die how long do you expect to be dead? The man smiled and said, “I think that will be forever.”

Steve then asked him this question: “If I understand correctly you prepared for 42 years for your retirement which you hope will be at least 20 years. Am I correct?” The man confirmed that was true!

Steve then asked him this profound question: “How much time have you spent preparing for forever?”

The man was silent for quite a while. He then asked if Steve still had that little booklet, “The Four Spiritual Laws,” handy – as he was now interested in hearing!  Steve shared the booklet with him and when Steve shared that he could place his faith in Jesus right there on the bus, this man prayed with Steve to ask Jesus into his heart.

Steve shared with me later that it was God, who in that very moment, had given him those words and questions to ask. This was not something he had ever previously used.

If Steve was visiting with you today, he might ask you the same question: “How much time have you spent preparing for forever?”

One of my forever memories of my colleague Steve Douglass is that I do not remember ever a time that I was with him, either in person or via a phone call, that he did not end our time by praying for me! Every single time!

Here Steve shares his story of coming to Christ:

 

Below – I am reposting a “Guest Post” from Steve that posted this past February – of course sharing how he frequently engaged people to hear about Christ by asking them questions:

Helping People Become Interested in Hearing the Gospel Through the Use of Questions

 

Guest Post by Steve Douglass

We all have needs in our lives, don’t we? Some are pretty easy for us to meet—we are hungry, so we buy or fix something to eat. But some are much more challenging and seem to be beyond our ability to meet.

One time I was writing an article while sitting at a table in a McDonald’s restaurant. I was very focused and didn’t notice a woman walking toward my table until she was standing right in front of me.

She pointed and said, “Is that your Bible?” I said, “Yes”. Then she asked, “Are you a Christian?” Again, I said “Yes”. At which time she started explaining that she thought she was a Christian too but had some problems which were really bothering her. She had been living with a man for the last 10 years and had a child with him. The child was “special needs” and was challenging to care for.

After she went on for several minutes, I said, “Time out, time out! I think you are saying that you want to follow God as a Christian, but don’t seem to have the power to do that, right?” She said, “Yes”, to which I said, “Please sit down; you have come to the right table.”

She did sit down, and we talked for 20 minutes or so. I shared how she could appropriate God’s power to live her life according to God’s will. We prayed together and as she looked up, a big smile was beaming from her face. She had to go to work, and as she left I remember joyfully thanking God for what had just happened.

Think back on that interaction. I started by listening, discerned her need and asked if she felt she needed power to follow God. Normally I have to ask a few more questions to discern a person’s need. But once the need becomes clear, it is most often possible to connect that person with the powerful, wonderful fact that God is available to help, if the person is willing to trust Him.

I have found there are many needs which often surface:

  • Peace/Freedom from anxiety
  • Significance/Purpose in life
  • Love/Belonging
  • Forgiveness/A fresh start
  • Happiness/Enjoyment

And, I have found it is very helpful if I can give an example where God has met similar needs in my life.

So how do I find out what a person’s specific need is? I simply ask questions and pursue what I begin to learn about the person with more focused questions.

Let me give you an example. I was flying to Chicago O’Hare Airport. Across the aisle from me was a woman with whom I struck up a conversation. Her name was Joanne. Early in the conversation, I asked her “Where are you going after you land at O’Hare? I assume you might be connecting with a flight to another city since O’Hare is a hub airport.”

She said “no”, that she was driving on to her hometown. I asked, “And where is that?” She answered, “Rockford, Illinois”. I exclaimed, “You have got to be kidding me! That’s my hometown.” I asked a few more questions and found out that I had actually been in the furniture store her dad owned on the east side of town.

Before long she felt the freedom to volunteer that she had just gone through a divorce and was raising four young children by herself. I said, “Well, Joanne. I have never gone through a divorce, but I can only imagine that has caused you a lot of pain. Is that true?” She said, “Yes it has”. So, then I asked, “Could I tell you about how I have learned to deal with pain and anxiety in my life?” She said, “Yes, please do!”

Let me pause the story here and comment on what God used to get us to that point. Through initial questions and conversation, we established a measure of trust. Eventually, she was vulnerable enough to share a need she had that was beyond her ability to meet. Then, through two simple questions, it was possible to bring her to the point of listening to a portion of my experience with God.

So, I shared a personal example of how God gave me peace in spite of a challenging negative circumstance. And then with two more questions, I transitioned from my testimony to the gospel: I asked, “Joanne, have you ever experienced a relationship with God like the one I have experienced?” She said, “No, I never have.” Then I asked, “Would you be interested in hearing how you can?” She exclaimed, “Yes, I would love to hear about that!”

So, I explained the gospel to her and at the end asked if she would like to become a follower of Jesus Christ, accept His forgiveness, and begin to operate in His power. She said she thought she might have made some decision like that when she was young, but she eagerly prayed to be sure and especially to be sure she was operating in God’s power and peace.

SUMMARY: So, what am I saying? We all have needs, some of which are beyond our human strength to meet. But God is able to meet those needs. He does that if we confess our sins, accept His forgiveness, walk in fellowship with Him, and trust and obey Him. And the best way I have found to help someone be motivated to consider the claims of the gospel is to:

  • Ask questions and listen.
  • Discern what they already see is beyond their human capacity to cope.
  • Share how I have experienced God’s love and provision, even in challenging areas.

Almost always, at that point, people are very willing to hear how they can have that kind of relationship with God.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Douglass was President Emeritus of Campus Crusade for Christ/Cru.

Steve is survived by his wife Judy and their three grown children and ten grandchildren.

Steve was the author or co-author of several books, including How to Get Better Grades and Have More Fun and Enjoying Your Walk with God. His radio program, Making Your Life Count, aired daily on 1600 stations.

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