As I look back over my life, the best parts all have something to do with the love of God. My choice to follow God has made me a better husband to my wife, a better father to my children, and a better human being. I’m less of a jerk than I would have been otherwise. I care about things I would not have cared about. I give my resources to causes and groups that are trying to make the world a better place. My values, ideals, and ethics are all very different because of the decision I made as a fourteen-year-old boy to accept Christ. I’ve got a long way to go in all these areas, but I’m a different man because of that decision to accept God’s grace. Truly, I have found “life in his name” (John 21:31).
We lament that many of our churches are no longer growing. Part of it is demographics, since many of our churches are located in rural areas where populations are in decline. Part of it is a lack of vitality in our music, preaching, and small groups. But I’m convinced that a big part of it is that we’ve lost our passion to do whatever it takes to reach those who don’t yet know Christ.
John Wesley believed passionately that God longs for human beings to know the love and grace of the Creator, and that God uses people like you and me as instruments to help these lost children find their way home. That passion drove Wesley and our forebears to preach on the hilltops, at the market crosses, in the cemeteries, and wherever they could get a hearing, in order to share the good news of God’s grace and love for all people.
Len was my stepfather from the time I was eleven to when I was seventeen. He was a good man who taught me a lot about life. He had a big heart. I loved the guy . . . except when he was drinking. He could be a funny drunk until he was pushed. But if he got angry, it was not good. He left my mom and our family when I was a junior in high school. Over the years I would hear from him from time to time. The alcohol destroyed his life, career, relationships, and health. But under the surface there was still that affable, good, and kind man.
Len would call me from time to time, usually a bit tipsy. He would ask about the church and my family. We’d chat for a bit, and then, before I got off the phone, I’d tell him I was praying for him. One of my regrets is not being more direct in talking with Len about Christ. He had been baptized when I was in high school; I’d even given him a Bible. Then our paths parted. He moved. I married. For years we didn’t see one another. But I always felt that someday I would sit down and talk with him about God’s love and invite him to choose Christ once more. That day never came.
Len died this past fall. There was no obituary in the paper, no formal service planned. His passing came, and few noticed or cared. To many, he was just a drunken, broken-down carpenter. The weekend he died, my mom, siblings, and I were together on vacation. We stopped to remember and celebrate Len’s life, just the twelve of us in the living room. As I thought about Len, the Scripture that came to mind was Luke 15:1-2: “Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ ”
I found myself crying as I read the Scripture, because it represented both what I love about Jesus and the hope I had for Len: that Jesus, himself a carpenter and carpenter’s son, might welcome a broken-down carpenter, a sinner who I think knew deep inside that he needed a savior. I can’t say with certainty what happens with guys like Len at their death. I can say with certainty that Jesus is a friend of sinners and drunkards, and his time here on earth was focused on reaching those who were lost. And I can say that I let Len down, and let Christ down by not making the time to sit down with Len and talk with him about his faith.
Have you accepted God’s grace? And, knowing that Christ has asked you to share the gift with others, have you told them about it? Don’t wait until it’s too late to share the story of God’s amazing grace. Who is God calling you to share his love with this week?
Today’s post is an excerpt from my book, Revival, which will be published from Abingdon Press in September.
Have you watched the webinar I did earlier this month with Shane Raynor of Ministry Matters? We talked about my travels to England where I followed the life of John Wesley, and we discussed the defining characteristics of a Wesleyan Christian. You can watch it below.