We first met Mark in a restaurant for lunch, yet he was witnessing to the waitresses and even asking fellow diners if there were some issues that he could pray about for them. Mark says, “98% of my witnessing is to strangers I’ve never met before. Often a stranger will tell you something that they won’t tell their friends. It’s a great opportunity to bring comfort to them and be a faithful and good witness.”
Many reading this probably feel they could not be so bold. Mark understands there are two major reasons for this: the fear of rejection and fear of offending someone. He says the key is to just get started. “The hardest person to witness to is the first one. The second one, the third and the fourth are easier. All of a sudden you are chasing them down the mall.” He also notes that our expectations are often too high. Due to secular conditioning, it is very unlikely that someone will repent and confess faith on the first witnessing occasion. Mark says, “That’s why I always have material on hand so people can take something with them to read later.” A key point, Mark reminds us, is that “We don’t save people. That is between them and God. We are just called to be faithful witnesses. If there is rejection, we can know that people are not rejecting us.”
Mark was raised a Catholic, and later played basketball at Auburn University with teammate (later Olympic dual gold medallist) Charles Barkley. In college, four friends witnessed to him. They first gave him a Bible and he started reading it. He was also given a Gospel tract. He said, “The tract probably cost half a cent, but it really got my wheels spinning. It had an arrow pointing to heaven and one pointing to hell. I realized the life I was leading and after hearing an evangelist on TV, I became born-again.”
He was taught and believed that God used evolution to create (theistic evolution). When he started witnessing, he discovered that evolution was a major stumbling block. With the help of friends he realized that God is the incredible Creator as described in Genesis, and became fully convinced in the truth of God’s Word. He started to understand how damaging the lie of evolution is, because it teaches people that death is normal, final, and that there is no life after death.
After he was saved, he worked as a teacher in an all-boys Catholic school. He taught creation while the other teachers taught evolution. Most students placed their trust in the opinions of the other teachers instead of the Bible. He feels this is common even in evangelical circles, which is why he always keeps pointing people back to what the Bible says, so that their issue is not with Mark personally, but with the Bible and God. He’ll often tell people, “I’m about to disappear from your life, but you need to decide whether the Bible is true or not.”
Mark likes to find out what is holding people back from believing in God, and says the most common ‘intellectual’ reason given is evolution. In reality, he thinks, this is used to justify their sin or lifestyle. He adds, “When countering evolution, we are often confronting 20 or more years of indoctrination. How can we expect to turn this around in one discussion? I ask people ‘Do you like to read?’ Nine out of ten say yes, so they have given me the opportunity to give them some material or at least point them to resources.”
We asked Mark what advice he would give if asked a question one can’t answer. He said, “Don’t attempt to answer on the spot, because people will see through you. I am honest and say, ‘I don’t know. Give me your details and I will get you an answer.’ Most people have the same questions that come up time and again. So, a little preparation can make a big difference. We won’t usually see fruit instantly (conversions), because the fruit hasn’t had time to ripen.” He likens it to putting a pebble in someone’s shoe. “A little bit of truth will continue to be a pesky reminder to do something about it.”
Mark says, “Every atheist is an atheist for different or a variety of reasons. We have to find out where they are at. We can’t ram our view down their throat. I love pizza, but if you shove it down my throat, I will soon hate it.” He often gets feedback from atheists that many Christians look down on them, but they thank him for not doing the same. He reminds us to “Speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4).
Mark states, “A little bit of information can be a powerful thing. I don’t need to have read every book on creation or evolution, but enough to get a conversation going. And then I can leave people with information. Simple truth can break down intellectual barriers.” He says that he finds it quite easy to point to the creation itself. “There is so much evidence of design. A creation has to have a Creator” (Romans 1:20). “I always take them back to Genesis 1:1,” he says. “The older I get, the more I find that it is effective to be more succinct and tell it like it is. I can tell people that evolution is a lie but at the same time be loving. I try to show them both truth and lies, i.e. the law of non-contradiction. Both ideas can’t be true. That is, evolution cannot be true and God be the Creator. It gets them thinking.”
Mark has witnessed to some famous celebrities like golfer Tiger Woods (who claims to be a Buddhist), pop star Kanye West, and retired basketballers Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan. “Most people approach them to take something, like asking for a photo. So, I always try to give them something, such as a conversation, a book or a tract. It is more blessed to give than to receive. For God so loved the world that he gave!” Mark often looks for things that people are wearing, such as bracelets, tattoos, necklaces. He points out, “They might be wearing a charitable organization’s bracelet, for example, from a cancer group. It reveals what might be going on in their life and what they might believe, and I can use those things to direct my discussion. Never forget that sharing your faith one on one is not a presentation but a conversation, and all of us can and do have conversations!”
While he says evolution comes up more than most people will realize, “The questions are nothing new, and we now have answers to these questions. I’m excited when we get these questions. ‘Who did Cain marry?’, ‘How do I know the Bible’s true?’, etc. because I know I have answers.” He often asks them for the best piece of evidence that there is no God. One 78-year-old Jewish man told Mark, “I don’t want there to be a God, because that means I can’t do what I want to do.”
Mark finishes by saying, “Whether you are 15 or 50, there are only two requirements to be a faithful witness. One is that you have to be born again and second, you need to be breathing. When I read the Bible, I see that it is full of regular people whom God used under the power of the Holy Spirit. They were the ‘Marthas’ and ‘Marys’, tax collectors and even fishermen. So, even though people might see me on stage speaking at churches and talking about my experiences, when I leave the stage, I am just like them and just like you.”