Lay Your Nose on the Altar

By Rhonda Harrington Kelley
Originally published in SBC Life, journal of the Southern Baptist Convention

Rhonda Harrington Kelley
Rhonda Harrington Kelley

Several years ago, my husband took me to a fancy restaurant in New Orleans for our anniversary dinner. He told the maître d’ that our reservation was for two in the name of Kelley. To our surprise, the gentleman responded, “How did a man named Kelley get a Jewish nose like yours?” Chuck’s reply has stuck with me through the years: “I have a Jewish Savior named Jesus Christ who loves me so much he gave me his nose.” Wow! That is turning a casual comment into a conversation about Christ.

I could not wait to ask Chuck how he thought of the reply so quickly. He joked saying, “I took Nose Evangelism at Seminary” and “I laid my nose on the altar and said I’d blow it for Him.” When I pushed him for a serious answer, my evangelism professor husband made it so simple it was impossible to ignore or forget: “If Jesus is on our minds, He will find a way out of our mouths.”

My dad, Bob Harrington, was an evangelist known for many years as “The Chaplain of Bourbon Street.” He was a bold witness to anyone and everyone. When I was a teenager, Dad took my sister and me shopping. He was more indulging than our practical mother but also more embarrassing. I exited the dressing room to show my dad the outfit I wanted and was humiliated to find him witnessing to a mannequin. He finished the plan of salvation and then placed a gospel tract in the lifeless hand. Shocked, I asked him, “Dad what are you doing?” He replied sincerely, “I decided to practice witnessing to a dead prospect so I will be ready when I get a live one.” Wow! He was using every opportunity to be a witness.

While I am not an evangelism professor or an evangelist, I am a Christian who should have Christ on my mind. And, since I like to talk, a witness will come out of my mouth when He is on my mind. Jesus is teaching me that I am the PERSON in PERSONAL evangelism. It is my responsibility to have Jesus on my mind so He will come out of my mouth.

Jesus spoke clearly to His disciples about witnessing in Matthew 4:19 – “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” His command to us is follow. His promise is that He will do the work, to empower us. And, the result is obedient followers who are fishers of men. Like my husband’s “if-then” definition of witnessing, Jesus gives us an “if-then” challenge to be witnesses in Matthew 4:19.

1. Follow Christ. The command is simple and clear, but difficult to accomplish. Every follower of Jesus, not just the gifted or the called, must follow Him and His purpose – not personal plans. Believers are to develop the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, serving, and witnessing. We are to follow after Christ, not self or others. Jesus said it this way in John 12:26 – “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also.”

2. Christ will make you. The promise is perfect and complete. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, not human ability, that enables the believer to share Jesus with others. Whether you feel weak or strong, the power of the Holy Spirit will help you witness. We are to allow Him to speak through us words of faith and hope. Jesus said, “It is not you who speak but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you” (Matt. 10:20).

3. A winner of souls. The results are left up to Him. A believer plants the seed and the Holy Spirit waters it, bringing forth the fruit—the salvation of lost souls (John 15:1-8). We are to plant the seeds and trust God for the harvest. He is the winner of souls; we are His vehicles.

It has helped me personally to understand God’s plan for spreading His gospel. When believers follow Him faithfully, He works in our lives to make us witnesses, and He works in the lost person’s life, drawing him/her to salvation. His command to us is fulfilled by His promise and with His results.

As I have followed Jesus, I have found several effective ways to let Him come out of my mouth. I say “God bless you” instead of “Good luck.” I say “I’ll be praying for you” instead of “I’ll be thinking about you.” And, I carry around a Thank You note which expresses gratitude and a brief testimony plus the plan of salvation. It can easily be left with a tip or with a store clerk.

On a recent trip, I handed a Thank You note and a tip to the skycap who checked my luggage at the airport. As I walked off, he called out to me: “Hey, lady! Are you a Christian?” I smiled and responded with a nod. He said, “That’s great. I am too, but my buddy here is not. I’ve been witnessing to him, so today’s your turn.” My Thank You note provided the opportunity for Jesus to come out of my mouth.

So, follow Jesus. Lay your nose on the altar. Witness to a mannequin. Or share a Thank You note. Keep Jesus on your mind and He will come out of your mouth!

[Editor’s note: Rhonda Harrington Kelley is married to Dr. Chuck Kelley, President and Professor of Evangelism at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. She is a speaker and teacher who recently co-authored with Monica Rose Brennan the book, Talking is a Gift: Communication Skills for Women, published by B&H Publishing Group. (See her blog: talkingisagift.com.) In addition, she is co-editor with Dorothy Patterson of The Study Bible for Women as well as Old Testament and New Testament Commentaries for Women also published by B&H.]

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