A few weeks ago my wife Carrie and I were at a wedding with a couple of friends who happened to also be the music leaders at our church.
Our friend and the groom-to-be work together and after coming to church for awhile he asked if I’d officiate. I love weddings (especially the receptions) and since these two were a great couple, I was excited to do it.
At the reception our friends Aaron and Beverly as well as Carrie and I sat at a table of people we’d never met before. Most were like us – married with children.
Except for one.
One of the groomsmen’s mother sat with us. After a little time together laughing as a table she said to me (and I quote) “When they told me I was sitting with the pastor I thought to myself “Oh, sh*t. I can’t act like myself.” but then I got to know you a little bit and you’re awesome!”
The whole crew at table 7 laughed! It was great, but I was interested in why she felt that way.
As we talked, she shared her story as to how she went through a divorce several years prior and afterward her church made her (and her children) feel unwelcome because of it.
I apologized on behalf of Christ’s church and she assured me if she ever went to church again it would be the kind that I pastored.
This was an amazing win in my eyes. She once hated church and now she realized there were people who only wanted to love on her like Jesus.
Growing up I believed there were two stages – either you fully believed and followed Jesus or you were completely against him.
If this were a scale we’d call those who are completely into Jesus (they do all the Jesus-y things with a legit passion for Jesus) a +10. On the other end are the people who are against faith in Jesus (like our friend from the wedding). We’d call them a -10.
In my opinion you were one or the other and if you were a -10 my goal was to get you instantly to a +10 and if I couldn’t get you there then we were both failures.
It’s women like this woman at the wedding that reminded me that as a Christian it isn’t always up to me to get someone from -10 to +10. There’s no way we could have that night moved her after all of her wounds.
Sometimes my job is just to move someone from a -10 to a -9. They still have a lot of doubt and even anger towards faith but they’ve at least seen one person who loves Jesus and is trying to live like Jesus. They’re inching closer towards knowing him.
Paul teaches something similar. 1 Corinthians 3.6 says “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.”
We all have our job and it isn’t always the rewarding part of seeing someone come to faith in Christ or become so caught up in his grace that their lives are seemingly immediately changed.
Sometimes we just plant seeds. We help people move from -10 (distrust or hatred of faith) to a 0 (indifference towards Jesus) or better.
This idea changed me.
Tonight, I worked with a crew of people who have been around the Pursuit these last few years and I thought about their stories.
The friend whom I have become so close to that just a couple years ago was close to a -10. Now he’s a follower of Christ and so much has changed.
The couple who started coming because their boy was sick and then when God answered their prayers they became as close to +10 people as you can find without being annoying! They hold Bible studies with their family and are moving a whole new group away from -10 and 0 and towards Jesus.
There are the friends who’ve been with us from day 1 of this thing called the Pursuit and together we’ve watched them (and they’d admit it) as they’ve journeyed from +8 to -8 to 0 and back again. There aren’t many people I’d rather be around than people this honest about their journey.
I thought of the friends who’ve had no interaction with a church ever before ours and so they were a true 0 on the scale and then I’ve watched them inch closer to truly following Jesus.
As I’ve been reflecting on these last few years this is the concept that has struck me the most.
We saw so many people at least go from a -10 to a -9.
Those are planted seeds.
And I believe that God is pleased with us because we moved closer towards him and helped others do the same.
He’ll be pleased with you as well if you stop trying to make people immediately the same kind of Christian you are and just focus on moving them one step at a time. From a -10 to a -9 or from a +4 to a +5.