Many years ago, as a fifth grade teacher, I had a student who seemed to exhibit all the characteristics of a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The school’s usual protocol for a child showing symptoms was to have the parents and teachers fill out questionnaires which would then be sent to a doctor for evaluation. The doctor would perform his own tests, make a diagnosis and come up with a plan to help the child. This plan might include dietary changes, behavioral modification and/or medication.
I asked the student’s parents for a meeting to discuss the evaluation process and the father agreed to come. He agreed there was a problem, but was skeptical about his family making any kind of lifestyle changes. When I finally got to the part about possible medication, he perked up and said, “You mean all we have to do is give him a pill? Well, let’s get on with it!” It became very obvious that he didn’t want to change anything he was doing in order to help his son, but if something as easy as giving him a pill every morning could make life more tolerable for their family, then he was eager to try it.
I’ve been overly critical of that father until I realized that I’ve done that same kind of thing. For a very long time whenever I saw empty people, I wanted to take them to church, so they could learn how to fill up on God. I wanted “church” to be the magic pill. I’ve only recently begun to understand how critical it is to introduce struggling people to Jesus before we introduce them to “church”. If their first glimpse of hope comes only from a Sunday morning worship service, then I’m afraid they’ll be disappointed. They will get tangled up in how we worship instead of who we worship. But, if we introduce them to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection through scripture, they will see a hope built on true perfection. When they hear our praise for the One who paid the price for our own personal redemption and filled us with His Spirit, then they’ll want what we have.
Many of us are uncomfortable talking about what God has done for us, but that can change with a little practice. Many of our friends and family need to hear our stories. They need us to point to specific events in our lives and explain how God used those events for good. We can’t just rely on living decent lives and handing out invitations to “come to church”. We have to use our words. I’m absolutely not saying that meeting together is unimportant. It’s hard to win at life without being on a team. But, we can’t hide behind the church’s coattails when it comes to sharing the Good News. We need to step out, so we can help out.
Paul used a great many words expressing his gratitude for the mercy he had received. He told Timothy, “I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life” Paul didn’t just let young Timothy tag along hoping he would pick up a few good Christian-living tips. He didn’t just “take him to church” hoping somebody there would say something important. No, Paul used his words to tell about the blinding light on the road to Damascus, the three days of fasting, his visit from Ananias and his realization that it was Jesus, the Messiah, whom he had been persecuting. He repeated his story on more than one occasion because it was that event that turned him from Paul, the persecutor, to Paul, the apostle of Jesus. Paul made a dramatic lifestyle change.
We may not all have stories as dramatic as Paul’s, but we all have stories. If you are a Christian, you have gone from lost to saved. Hopefully, you have progressed from simply taking a going-to-church-pill to a life that is completely transformed. Let’s not take those lost people to church any longer before we find the courage to take them to Jesus. Then maybe, they’ll become the church and help make more disciples, who’ll make more disciples, who’ll make more … Well, you get the idea.