Wrong place at the wrong time?

Written by Corey Magstadt : October 30, 2007

I had a fascinating adventure this morning. A girl from our church is in Teen Challenge, a year long faith-based treatment facility. She had a court date in Chaska at 8:30 this morning and needed a ride, so I left home at 5:30 to drive into the city to pick her up.

When I pulled up to the building on Portland Ave. at around 6:45, it was still dark. My car would not exactly be described as ‘clean’…okay, even rodents find the clutter unbearable. So I was clearing off the front seat to make room for my friend, when suddenly the passenger door opened and a girl got in and sat down. My initial thought was, “That’s odd. I thought I would have to go inside and sign her out.”

Then I looked at the girl who was waiting expectantly beside me. It wasn’t the girl who I was supposed to pick up. It took me a moment to realize what was happening, but when I did, I was kind of at a loss for words. I managed to blurt out, “I think you’ve got the wrong car. I’m waiting for someone from Teen Challenge.” She graciously got out of the car and continued on her way.

After the fact, (I do much of my reflecting after the fact), I thought about the missed opportunity to bless this young woman. When I think about how Jesus might have responded to the situation, I’m pretty sure that it wouldn’t have been to essentially tell her to get out of the car. Instead, he would have found a way to demonstrate love, justice, and the presence of the inbreaking kingdom of God into her world.

So I pose the question to you. Put yourself in that position: You are a young male pastor from the suburbs who suddenly finds himself in the city in the wee hours of the morning with a prostitute in his car. What do you do?

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12 Responses to “Wrong place at the wrong time?”

  1. joe troyer on October 30th, 2007 8:37 am

    i would like to think that i would have been some great guru who pointed her towards the love of christ. but in reality, if she wouldnt have gotten out of the car, i think i would have.

    who knows though, in a given situation, the grace of god can jump up and surprise anyone.

  2. Graeme Smith on October 30th, 2007 11:39 am

    Everything in me would love to say that I’d have been like Jesus. But I suspect that’s the religious answer! As a not quite so young pastor I suspect though my reaction would have been similar to your’s Corey or Joe’s.

    I suppose the real joy would have been to have the person I was originally picking up to join us in the car and then use the prostitute’s time to save her from servicing another client and simply being Jesus to her!

  3. corey on October 30th, 2007 12:18 pm

    Perhaps an underlying question relates to the tension between maintaining reputation and physical safety verses acting as Jesus’ kingdom agent in the world. To what extent do we worry about how we are perceived and the potential dangers that may occur in ministry? How much do we limit risks in order to maintain personal safety when we have people (children, wife, etc.) that we are responsible for?

  4. Mark Van Steenwyk on October 30th, 2007 12:36 pm

    I would have acted the same way, Corey. It takes an UBER amount of self-confidence and altruism to pull off the old “well, prostitute…since you’re here, let me tell you how much Jesus loves you.”

    This reminds me of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well. This is the same sort of situation. Jesus’ trust in God, strong sense of mission, proper self-confidence, and love for the woman at the well destroyed any potential barriers.

    I suppose if Jesus were behind the wheel of your car, he probably would have looked deep into this young woman’s eyes and said: “you sell love…but my love I give freely, go and sin no more.” ;)

  5. jim on October 30th, 2007 4:33 pm

    Excellent question:

    Personally, I think I’d have done exactly the same thing; Politely found a way to extricate myself out of the situation. I know where the desire to do what Jesus would have done comes from, but the reality is that sometimes we need to realize we are not Jesus…to think there is a whole lot I could have done in that situation seems to be spiritual hubris that may have simply served to place me in serious trouble.

  6. wilsonian on October 30th, 2007 4:43 pm

    From the female perspective… I’m sure it’s not the first time this mistake happened… but it might have been the first time she was treated with respect. You didn’t call her names or make judgements about her. Sometimes not doing anything is enough.

  7. John Chisham aka Pastorboy on October 30th, 2007 5:18 pm

    I have never had this happen, but I have a ministry friend who actually has paid prostitutes for their time for the opportunity to share Christ with them. I have thought about this, and being a pastor with a wife and kids and a church, it is a hard thing to try. But my wife etc. knows that I will witness to anybody, and I am ready always (by God’s grace) to give an answer for the hope that lies within me. So this is how the scenario would play out:

    I would swing from the natural to the spiritual, with something like this “Do you believe in fate?” or ” It is interesting that you chose this car” or “what do you do for a living?” I would likely ask about her family, her dreams, her ambitions, etc.

    I would then ask her “If this were your last day on earth, what would you do with your time?”

    Then, I would ask what she thinks happens when someone dies.

    Then, according to her answer, I would take her through the Law, so she could be aware of her condition before God.

    If she was humbled by the law, I would give her the good news of Christ paying the fine for her breaking God’s law.

    I would encourage her to think about what we spoke about. I would give her my card so she could call me anytime.

    Thats what I would do. Preferably with the girl from teen challenge in the car with me, so as to stay above reproach.

  8. joe troyer on October 31st, 2007 8:31 am

    i still would have gotten out of the car if she didn’t.


  9. Ryan Wiksell on October 31st, 2007 8:55 am


    It bothers me that you know exactly how you would steer the conversation without knowing what any of her answers would be.

    Does it seem to you as if Jesus had a pre-conceived plan in mind before talking to each person? I believe he let the Spirit guide him, and based his next comment on the what the other person just said.

    Your plan almost guarantees that you will not be listening to her at all.

  10. beyondwords on October 31st, 2007 9:29 am

    I would like to plant a seed here, John. I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but please hear me out in love. Those of us who post at Jesus Manifesto believe we’re being drawn by the Spirit into a more robust expression of the gospel than “the law” and “what happens when you die.”

    If your life was so desperately wretched that you were selling your body to survive, do you think you would be most concerned about what happens to you when you die? And can you explain what the Law has to do with this prostitute’s spiritual needs? Didn’t Jesus radically fulfill the Law and free us from it?

    Of course this young woman needs to be reconciled to God, but she needs her basic needs met and to be drawn into a loving community.

    If I were a man in the situation, I would probably have been caught off guard. But I would go back to my faith community and bring together a few men nd women to consider what we might do to meet the basic needs of young women like this one.

    In the context of a relationship with her where healing happens, my community would give her the good news that through Jesus, God is reconciling humanity and creation and building a community of people who love and serve each other. Through Jesus there is forgiveness of sins , the hope of the resurrection and a call to be a part of God’s future.

  11. joe troyer on October 31st, 2007 10:17 am


    thanks for taking the time to articulate that. it is hard to find the words to say at times. well put.

  12. pastorboy on October 31st, 2007 10:28 am

    Please don’t judge me based upon the fact that I have actually thought some scenarios through. I always allow the Holy Spirit to guide my discussions with people with whom I come into contact. I am never canned, but it also helps me to be obedient to Paul’s exhortation to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within you. I am fairly unique to modern Christians in that I look for conversations to have with people that will point them to Christ.


    I do not disagree that she has some basic needs that need to be met. However, many people in the sex trade are happy (at least on the surface) about their life, and will defend themselves because of the self-loathing that has come as a result of the trade that they are in, or the shame of the abuse that forced them into it, whether it be drugs, sexual assault, being a runaway, or whatever. In other words, their demeaner covers up the shame and loathing and addictions that they have.

    Having acknowledged that not only prostitutes but businessmen have needs, I must argue that the way to deal with their major spiritual need is NOT to bring them to a loving community, but to get them first reconciled to God. In order to do that, they must be convinced that they need to be reconciled to God. Many people who are in the emergent movement see the physical and psychological need first, almost to the point of completely removing the spiritual need. JESUS TAKES PEOPLE RIGHT WHERE THEY ARE if they will repent and trust him. They don’t need a loving community first.

    I have news for you all- Inviting people into a loving community BEFORE they meet Christ is sort of like having a live in lover before marriage. You say ‘I don’t know if this is going to work out, so we will test it for a while’. What happens nine times out of ten is that in both situations, they remain comfortable with that relationship level, and never move on to the deeper level. More often than not, both groups never move into covenant relationships, and when they ‘break up’ they leave more bitter, and less likely to enter into a similar relationship.

    The New Testament Church, found in the book of Acts, that the Emergent movement is obstensibly trying to move towards, teaches very clearly that those who were brought into fellowship, those who were shared with, who sat in on the preaching, and participated in the loving community were the people who had already repented of their sins and had been Born again. When they went to the streets, it was not to pull people into the fellowship to demonstrate how much love they could feel within the fellowship, it was to preach the Word as they were commanded by God. And GOD added to their number DAILY those who were being SAVED.

    Look, people can feel loved in an AA meeting. They can get fellowship in a PFLAG meeting. They can also feel very comfortable in their sins in many modern churches (unfortunately). That is not what church is for. It is for fellowship, yes, but fellowship between believers in Jesus Christ. After all, what fellowship does light have with darkness?

    I appreciate you love and compassion, but I feel that you, like many others I have met in the modern church, don’t believe in a very real hell that is the future home for all those who are not redeemed. YES we need to also do the work of believers here on the earth, and the grace of Jesus Christ is for more than saving people from Hell, it is changing them into bondservants. However, the first work must be done before people outside the kingdom can be a part of kingdom life.

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