“[The small group] was full of sweet and patient Christ followers who would allow me to ask questions without feeling ashamed or embarrassed.” – a report from a friend of a friend of mine who decided to follow Christ at 29 years old
A good friend of mine told me about a girl he dated as a young man. He was very fond of her, but because of his pursuit of Christ’s life and her lack of it, they parted ways.
Some would say it’s not a good reason for a couple to break up, that their love for one another should be enough. In some cases, and depending on the maturity of the couple, I would say that’s true. In others, however, I would suggest that the the life and ways of a devoted Christ follower are so vastly different from all other ways of life that the act of love for one another is to break up – if they weren’t going to attempt it together (Paul says this a little bit more bluntly than I would in 2 Corinthians 6:14-16).
Anyway, out of the blue, 15 years later, he gets a letter from this girl. Here’s some excerpts:
I am writing to share with you and your family the place you marked in my journey with Christ. When you and I knew each other I did not know God. I remember how you responded to me. You started inviting me to church and gently talking to me about God to try and get a grasp of where I was in my belief system. One evening you tearfully pleaded with me to realize God is real and wants me to be His. At the time, I felt offended and put off and I could not grasp what you were trying to explain to me.
It would be years later before God would rescue me and pull me into a relationship with Him. I was 29 years old when I was baptized.
I married a wonderful Christian man when I was 24 and still a “non-knower”. He hosted a Bible study in our home and it was full of sweet and patient Christ followers who would allow me to ask questions without feeling ashamed or embarrassed. My precious husband lovingly supported and lead me to Christ and I will be forever thankful.
Sometimes I would wonder why God waited so long to save me. Then I remembered you. You were the first person to really talk to me about who God is and what He wants from us. God did love me all along. Even when I was not seeking Him, He called on me.
I think a lot about God and how He loves us and how He uses us to love on each other. I hope you are still bold and courageous for Christ. Thank you wanting so desperately for me to know God 15 years ago. May it encourage you to know that even though I rejected that message that day- today it marks an expression of God’s love for me, through you, even when I was lost and not seeking.
My friend was a relational expression of God’s love for her. The group of folks that met in her house were too.
Because of where we are as a church here in Amarillo, I couldn’t help but notice not just the message that she heard (the greatest one I’ve ever heard) but the method through which she was able to hear it.
She heard it through relationships.
Not sermons on Sunday. Not a large group gathering in a building designated for it. I’m not opposed to those things, and indeed they can be an expression of God’s love for people, but they are not relational expressions of God’s love. The sermon can be heard through the computer as easily as it can be heard on Sunday. The large group gatherings in a church building can be as impersonal and non-participatory as a movie in a theatre.
Our leaders are asking everyone in our church family to reorganize ourselves into small groups. Not because it’s the only way to make disciples of Christ. But because the unique call on the Southwest church is to make disciples through relationships. And small groups are a better way for all of us to learn how to do relationships (an under-practiced skill, as you know) and then communicate Christ’s love and message to others through them.
My friend is doing it, and evidently, has been for a long, long time.
May God bless all of us who have found a better life in Christ to share it by being sweet and patient, relationally expressing God’s love for people, open to questions and conversations with anyone and everyone without making them feel embarrassed or ashamed.