Tuesday, September 4, 2012

When I Met Michael Clarke Duncan

Michael Clarke Duncan, star of The Green Mile, and prolific actor, died on September 3rd.  I've seen a few of his movies and he was an excellent actor.  However, my most singular memory of him comes from meeting him in 2005 or 2006 (I can't remember which, although I am leaning towards 2005) in a "chance" encounter on Venice Beach, CA.  I say "chance" because there really is no such thing as chance or luck when it comes to a world that is governed by a Sovereign God.  Believe it or not, God is even Sovereign on Venice Beach, a place where He is often hated. 

I've had the privilege of bumping into several celebrities while on ministry trips and have had the privilege of at least offering them a gospel tract.  When I see them in public they are usually surrounded by an entourage or security so the possibility of actually engaging them with the gospel is slim.  When I ran into Ted Turner, billionaire and owner of Turner Broadcasting, CNN, etc., etc., in downtown Atlanta while he was walking his dog he wouldn't stop.  That is, until his dog decided to stop and do what he came there to do.  I didn't consider my appearance as I approached Turner: I had an amplifier slung across one shoulder and a backpack across the other.  His security guard held out his hand (a la Heisman move) while he reached under his sport coat with the other, probably for his gun.  I looked like a terrorist.  I held out a Million Dollar Bill gospel tract and said, "Mr. Turner, did you get one of these?  It's a gospel tract."  He was very gracious in spite of his well known hatred of the gospel and said "No thank you" (while he was scooping up the droppings that his dog made on the sidewalk).  I tried offering it to the security guard instead, but he declined it. 

I've also run into Ozzie Osbourne, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Hulk Hogan (twice), and the producer and crew of E Network's since discontinued show, "Wild On."  Perhaps the best encounter was with the producer, but after that, the most receptive was Duncan.  At the very least he took the tract and engaged it.  Others took the tracts, some didn't and few will engage with the content, but Duncan did. 

Duncan was strolling down Venice Beach with a crowd of people following closely behind.  I didn't even know who he was at first.  I had been facing the opposite direction handing out tracts and turned just as Duncan approached on the other side.  It was obvious he was a celebrity but since I didn't know exactly who he was (he was wearing sunglasses and a hat; I wouldn't learn who he was until later) I just offered him the tract as I would have anyone else.  It was a Smart Card from Living Waters.  He asked, "What is this?"  I said, "It's a Smart Card.  You put your thumb on the square for thirty seconds and if you are a good person, it turns green."  He said, "Oh", smiled real big and shared a laugh with the person he was with and put his thumb on the square and walked away.  As I watched him go, he was looking down at the tract, presumably waiting for the square to turn green.  If Duncan's response is typical, when it didn't turn green he probably flipped it over and read this

If Duncan had stuck around, I would have said, "Huh, it didn't turn green.  Do you think there's something wrong with it?  Are you a good person?"  And then I would have taken him through some of the Ten Commandments.  Our lying, stealing, greed, blasphemy and more condemns us before God.  Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, kept the Law perfectly and paid it's penalty as if He was the one who committed these crimes against God.  Jesus was made a sin offering on the behalf of His people.  Those who turn from their sin and trust in Jesus will have Jesus' obedience to the Law credited to their account (2 Corinthians 5:21).  This is our only hope to be found "not guilty" on Judgment Day (Romans 5:8-9).  Jesus rose from the dead, conquering death once and for all (1 Corinthians 15). 

I do not know if Duncan repented and trusted Christ as the result of reading that tract.  I know of others who have.  God uses gospel tracts.  You should too.  They do not "trivialize the gospel" or "demean it"; they communicate it, which is the point, isn't it?  Well designed tracts can reach many thousands of people.  I've been blessed to write and edit quite a few tracts over the last seven years or so.  I've been privileged to hand out tens of thousands of them and use them to share the gospel verbally in countless conversations. 

Tracts historically have a bad reputation because they are poorly printed or badly written.  We were recently at the New York State Fair handing out tracts and I saw a man passing out hundreds of poorly designed tracts and watched as many of them ended up on the ground.  By comparison, the tract we used wasn't thrown out.  That's a pretty good test of a tract's design.

I hope that Duncan did repent and trust Christ.  If he did, he is now in Heaven with his Savior.  If he did not, he is in Hell.  This is the reality all of humanity must face.  A holy God has one way of salvation through Jesus Christ alone.  Have you taken the time and effort to share the gospel?  Everlasting souls are at stake. 

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