Twenty plus years ago I professed Christ as my Savior.
I had no idea what that meant or what I was supposed to do next.
Mine was one of those crazy, emotional conversions–the kind some people scoff at, including my pastor at the time. Our church was hosting a faith renewal weekend. I wasn’t interested, but attended the Friday evening session simply out of a desperate need to get out of the house and away from my family. I was not impressed, and planned to skip church on Sunday. God apparently had other plans.
On Sunday, my husband practically bounded out of bed, uncharacteristically enthusiastic about attending church. He was clueless about the renewal activities; had he known, I’m confident he would have been far less excited. However, I didn’t want to discourage this new exuberance for church, so I dutifully got myself and the kids ready and off we went. This particular Sunday was orchestrated by God so that I would accept Christ. I’m not being arrogant–I was the only person who responded to the invitation at the first service! When I went forward, tears streaming down my face like something out of Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show, my pastor whispered in my ear, “Thanks for rescuing me; it was embarrassing when no one came forward!” In his mind, my acceptance of Christ as Savior was not legitimate because it was rooted in emotion rather than intellect.
But for the grace of God, I would have joined the ranks of the pew-sitters. Our churches are full of them–those folks who profess Christ as their Savior, dutifully sit in the pew every Sunday, drop their money in the offering plate, and go on with life as usual Sunday afternoon through Saturday night. An hour or two out of their week, a dollar or two out of their paycheck. Lest you think I’m harsh, I assure you that I’m not passing judgement. Maybe they just don’t know any better. Perhaps their commitment, like mine, was written off as less than sincere. Or perhaps someone introduced them to Christ, led them in a prayer of acceptance, and then moved on to the next soul ripe for the harvest. (I’ve been known to proclaim that evangelism without discipleship is irresponsible!)
I was blessed. After several months of trying to figure out what that moment of surrender truly meant, my husband and I joined a small group in our church where we met Ron and Donna. They spent the next few years discipling us through Bible study, deep conversations, shared meals, and ministry partnership, thus ensuring that our minds were being transformed along with our hearts. They invested in us, in spite of the crises they experienced during those years–crises of health, employment, and teenagers. Whatever was going on in their lives, they were always willing to share themselves and their Godly wisdom with us. It was a life-on-life discipling, one that taught us how to follow Christ in our everyday walking around life.
I have to be honest and say that I’ve not followed their example as well as I could or should. I’ve made excuses for why I can’t invest in others the way Ron and Donna invested in me. But they are excuses, not reasons.
- If I want to see my faith community grow spiritually, I need to be available to disciple those who are willing and eager to learn.
- If I expect fewer pew-sitters and more disciples, I need to invest in those people God brings my way who are hungry for more of him.
- If I want to transform the culture of the church, I must begin with the people.