Tessa's Story

Why Tessa stopped keeping her faith to herself.

Tessa grew up in the church.  She loved praying and was an active member of her youth group.  Tessa’s Christian faith was strong, but she was sometimes bothered by the the fact that she never felt comfortable talking about her faith with non-Christians.  She did have some non-Christian friends who trusted her and said, “You’re not like those other Christians.” She didn’t know to say, so she was content to be kind and helpful, even offering to pray for friends when they were having a bad day.

Tessa came to college, and she found a vibrant InterVarsity fellowship.  She was excited to join a community of believers where she felt challenged to grow in her faith.  After the first couple weeks, Alexandra (the small group leader) took Tessa and a couple other freshman aside and said, “freshman year is an important year for spiritual exploration for our non-Christian friends.  We need to be praying for God to bring new life to our non-Christian friends.” She gave them each a 2+ prayer card, inviting each freshmen to commit to becoming an intercessor.  Tessa began to pray for a few friends to know Jesus.

From Prayer to Action

One night when she was studying with Pam, her non-Christian roommate, Pam smiled at her and said, “You are my first-ever Christian friend.”  Tessa smiled. She wanted to say something, but felt awkward. Tessa made a mental note to ask Alexandra about this.

The next day, she saw Alexandra and confessed that she did not know what to say. Alexandra said, “Tessa, remember the Five Thresholds on the back of your 2+ card?  We use the 5 Thresholds to try to figure out where our friends are at in their journey towards Jesus.  Then you can guess what kind of spiritual conversations are helpful for that particular threshold. Which threshold do you think Pam is at?”  

Tessa replied, “Um, I don’t have the gift of evangelism.  This has never been my calling.”

Alexandra said, “I used to think that too, but the 5 Thresholds changed my whole view of talking about faith.  Now my question is, ‘God, how are you at work in my friends?’ That way I can be a better friend, and help them take steps towards Jesus.”  

Tessa and Alexandra looked at the 2+, and they realized that Pam was at Threshold One: trusting a Christian for the first time.  Alexandra gave her some practical advice about building trust and stoking curiosity.  Later that week, Tessa said, “Pam, you remember that nice thing you said about me being your first Christian friend?  I am new at talking about my faith, so I was quiet. But I’m really interested in why I’m your first Christian friend.”  Pam opened up about her spiritual background, and her negative experiences with church. When her parents went through a divorce a few years ago, an uptight person at school told her, “Your parents are going to hell because God hates divorce.”  Tessa gave Pam a big hug and said she was so sorry. After that, most nights after they turned off the lights, Pam would pepper Tessa with questions about faith, the Bible, and Jesus.

Tessa told Alexandra about all of this, “I think she is ready to explore Jesus for herself, but how would we do that?”

“What if you led a Group Investigating God, a investigative bible study with her?  She can take a look at Jesus words and life herself.”  Tessa decided to invite a few of her and Pam’s friends from the dorm to look at Jesus’ story together.  Before their first meeting, Tessa freaked out as she prayed and prepared, “What if no one shows up?!” Pam and four other of her non-Christian friends showed up, and to her delight, they had a great discussion about Jesus’ interactions with the Samaritan woman at the well.  They showed up the following week, and week after that. Pam in particular began to open up about her questions and the pain she was experiencing in her broken relationships with family.

Making an invitation

“Tessa, do you think Pam is ready to hear the gospel?” asked Alexandra after a few weeks.  

“I don’t know... but she lets me pray with her now,” said Tessa.  Then Tessa shared her real fear. “I’m not even sure I would know how to share the gospel though.  I don’t want to mess this up.”

Alexandra coached her on how to share the gospel via the lens of the Big Story.  Tessa was excited, because it felt like good news!  She practiced drawing the diagram and explaining the good news several times.  Several of her Christian friends interceded for her the night she decided to ask people in her GIG if they would like to say yes to Jesus.  To Tessa’s surprise, Pam said, “This finally makes sense to me. I want to say yes to Jesus!” She decided to follow Jesus that night. The others said they weren’t ready, but they wanted to continue to meet and learn more.

Later in life, the thing that Tessa would remember most from her freshman year was how shocked she was that God would use someone like her to change of life of someone like Pam.  

This website is for the Tessa’s out there.  It's filled with tools, stories, and tips on how to be a more relevant, loving, and an effective witness on campus.  Take a look and equip yourself and others on effective evangelism for your community.