John Coltrane was not a Christian. Though he was reared in his grandfather’s church and was familiar with the ways of Christ, he pursued God outside of Christianity. Why he did not he come back to the church we don’t know, but I think the church has something to learn from him.
All too often, we as Christians assume unbelievers have had no experience with God. Coltrane shows us that perhaps we should examine our evangelistic methods. Instead of trying to get people to have an encounter with God, maybe, we should assume they have already had one!
Coltrane had had a profound encounter with God that was catalytic to his becoming drug free and had an acute effect upon the rest of his life. What if getting people to repent of their sins is not the only way to convince someone to come to Christ? What if the opening question is more along the lines of, “Tell me when you first experienced God?” ( I have been utterly amazed at the responses I have been receiving to the latter question.)
That’s what Epiphany is all about…some wise men that were doing something they were not supposed to be doing…seeking guidance in the stars, astrology, instead of God. God met them in their sin and gave them an astronomical experience of the Christ. The woman at the well didn’t need to be convince of her sin all she wanted was to know how, where and who to worship. Jesus told us that the work of the Holy Spirit is to convince the world of it’s sin (Jn. 16.8-11) this frees us up to focus on what it means to know and be known by God.
Coltrane had experienced God and was in search of a religion that could reconnect him with God…the classical approach to evangelism seeks to convince people about who they are and what God says about them. Maybe that’s the problem…people want us to present God not facts about God…when you've experienced God only God will do!