Witnessing to My Ninth Grade Teacher

A friend and I recently walked the streets of our town to talk to people who were coming in and out of the bars about the gospel. We noticed that a restaurant, typically closed by the time we head downtown weekly, was hosting a party with a band. We stood in front of the restaurant for a little while (on public property), passed out tracts, and hoped someone might be interested in having a conversation with us. Finally, a lady came walking down the sidewalk in a bath robe—part of the restaurant’s pajama party.

Eventually, my ninth-grade gym teacher also walked out to where we were standing, and I greeted him. I could tell he didn’t recognize me, but I wouldn’t have expected him to after about 14 years. We gave him a tract, and had a few minutes of conversation. My friend started going through a few of the Ten Commandments with him, and my teacher admitted to being a liar (9th Commandment), a thief (8th Commandment), and an adulterer at heart (7th Commandment, and Matthew 5:27-28). At this point the conversation took a turn for the worse.

He said he had been a history teacher for 36 years before retiring (interesting, because he never taught history while I was in high school), and he knew the Bible was unreliable. My friend pointed out that if he doesn’t trust the Bible, he would have to throw out all ancient literature and history, because the Bible has many more manuscripts on record than any other ancient writing. Then, he claimed that Christians have misinterpreted the Bible, and what we were telling him wasn’t true.

We gave him a few other apologetics for the veracity of the Bible, but the more we talked, the louder he became. When my friend put his hand on the guy’s shoulder to try to calm him down a little bit, he grew even angrier. Even touching him, he said, is assault and battery, and if we touched anyone else, he threatened, he would call the police.

I was very disappointed that someone who should be a pillar in the community would act so immature. I don’t think he was drunk (but I’m not an expert at determining if someone is drunk). As far as his eternal soul, I’d be more worried if he seemed apathetic than if he reacted how he did. It brings to mind the old saying: When you throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the one that yelps the loudest is the one that got hit. All we can do is pray for him. And please do.


7 Responses to Witnessing to My Ninth Grade Teacher

  1. sprocket23 says:

    The good thing about the encounter is that you obviously touched his conscience. He may have been mad and abusive towards y’all, but the Word definitely touched a nerve in his conscience. No fruit may come out of it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this guy is not a Christian soon. Like you said, better to be hostile than apathetic (better to be cold or hot than lukewarm, right?). Your encounter is an inspiration to all of us, we all need to be out there doing that kind of witnessing.

  2. Kullervo says:

    Don’t worry about the battery thing. Unless there’s some kind of criminal statute, that kind of touching is only battery under Tort law. And even then, there’s an exception for mere pleasantries, which is all you intended.

    Even if it wasn’t found to be a mere pleasantry, he would still actually have to sue you and find some kind of injury, which you certainly did not do. Unless it was offensive battery, but then it would have to be so objectively outrageous conduct, which it wasn’t.

    The point is, I may not be a lawyer (I’m not), but your ninth-grade teacher certainly isn’t.

  3. billphillips says:

    Sprocket, thanks for your encouragement.

    Kullervo, thanks for the legal information. That’s good to know.


  4. Kullervo says:

    Again, keep in mind I’m not a lawyer and am unqualified to give legal advice. Also keep in mind that while it seems like you and your friend were on the legal (or at least not actionable or no damages) side of the line, you were probably really close to the line. It’s probably not the kind of thing you can go to jail for (depending on what your state/local criminal code says), but if you do go over that line, you could be sued.

    And you wouldn’t be getting sued for preaching the gospel (which I imagine you wouldn’t really mind), you would be getting sued for touching folks when you shouldn’t.

    Once again, though- I’m not a lawyer so take what I say with a grain of salt.

  5. bdf says:

    To be honest, Bill, I probably would have reacted similarly if I were put in that position. Clearly I wasn’t there and can’t say for sure what happened, but if someone were to start pushing their views on me and engaging me in a religious discussion, I would probably get a little testy as well. It’s not a matter of immaturity at all.

  6. billphillips says:


    I’m just fine with discussing, and even passionately discussing the trustworthiness of the Bible or whatever. The part that disappointed me was that he started yelling about assault and battery, and threatened to call the police.

    Whenever someone says they don’t want to talk to me, I’ve always stopped talking. When someone wants to argue, that often works out well. When I can rationally answer their arguments, we often end up having a good discussion. I’m sorry that having a discussion about the Bible and the gospel would make you testy.


  7. bdf says:

    After reading the story again, I understand more where you’re coming from. Threats like that do seem to be a bit of an overreaction.

    I’m wasn’t saying that simple discussions would make me testy – I love a good debate every once in a while – but when it’s uninvited, it can make one a bit uncomfortable and can induce reactions that may not be typical of the person on the receiving end.

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