I just returned from preaching at my home church for their 75th anniversary of ministry. It was a life-refreshing day being able to reconnect with many people who highly impacted my life and the life of my wife [who also grew up there]. My father pastored this church for many years and his ministry is still being felt. I talked with one of my Sunday School teachers and then caught up with some who were my peers in youth group. Many of us are out in full time ministry while others serve faithfully in their local churches. Some have gone home to be with Christ. At the end of the day I reflected back on many of these people and asked myself the question: What was it about them that made such a difference in my life in the long run? And what is it that I must pay attention to if I want to have the same long-term effect on others whom God has brought into my life and ministry?
I think that part of the answer lies in something Dorothy Sayers said in her little book Letters to a Diminished Church “…it is not the business of the Church to adapt Christ to men, but to adapt men to Christ.”
My home church did a good job of that. The men and women who so impacted me bore an authentic faith that loved us and were deeply kind to us while not diminishing the hold Christ had on them. The investment of their time, money, and the way they loved the community around them made a difference to us. As I reflect back I now see that there was a dogged determination to live out their faith consistently over the long haul. That faith rang true to my wife and I when we were teenagers. The words of Acts 13:36 come to mind as I think of this church “for David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation….” I think also of the testimony God inscribed of Moses in Number 12:7 “Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house.”
There is one other difference I kept thinking about. It is amazing how one decision can affect your whole life. My father accepting the call to this church had life-long implications. My father left a more comfortable situation to come to this church. Because of his obedience to God, I found my future mate at this church, preached my first sermon under their guidance, was called to ministry while there, was ordained there, and was launched out to my first ministry from there. Further, God used my father to challenge many others to enter ministry.
I do believe in the Sovereignty of God. Now could God have done that same thing elsewhere? Of course. But God does use his directive wisdom in our decisions to further his purposes in and through us. I am grateful for the difference my father’s obedience to God made in my life. I am also humbled and thankful for the church that modeled authentic Christianity to me as a green kid “that took the courage to adapt me to Christ and not Christ to me.” Am I ready to do that for others? Are you? THINK IT THRU