My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them.” Romans 9:2-3
You know, whatever it takes. I love being a pastor and I love it when people start coming to church. I’ve always tried to encourage the folks who attend our church to make sure that everyone…and I mean everyone, feels welcome. Church is not a country club where you pay your dues to be served. Church is more like a hospital where people come because they know they need help. Those that are already there are not there to be served but to serve. So when a guest comes to church it should be treated like a big deal…because it is.
Now being friendly isn’t costly—in fact, often it blesses us more than the one on the receiving end of our friendliness. I figure it might just give them a good reason to come back. Of course there are those times when you need to go just a little further. And this time…was one of those times. When I pastored in another town, a family began attending our church and I did my best to make them feel welcome. Mom and the kids seemed very open and before long they were regular attenders. Dad, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as open. This one, I thought to myself, needs a little extra effort and that is how it happened.
It turned out that Andy was a coon hunter. He happened to mention it one day at church and I told him I had never been coon hunting and he began to describe this late night adventure. Now honestly, running around in the woods in the dark in the middle of the night wasn’t something on my bucket list but seeing Andy get closer to God was…so I went coon hunting.
Andy told me to show up at his house about dark and we would leave from there. He had a coon dog and a flashlight…oh, and a gun. We began walking out towards the woods behind his house and before long the old coon dog began to get pretty excited. So Andy let the dog go, waited just a minute, and then said to me, “Let’s go.” Well, I soon found out that coon hunting isn’t like following a trail in the woods. Coon hunting is like walking, and running, through the Amazon Rainforest, at night trying to follow a bellowing dog who doesn’t necessarily want to be followed. We were slapped in the face by branches, tripped over big roots, and crossed a couple of creeks. Can someone say, “Wet feet?” Yup, just like that old song about going over the river and through the woods…that is what we did…but there wasn’t a grandmother or a house anywhere in the picture.
So eventually, the coon dog gave up and so did we. We tramped back through the woods and after an hour or so, found ourselves back at my car and his house. We were wet, tired and coonless. I told Andy thanks for taking me on such an adventure and I hoped to see him Sunday at church. I drove home and slipped in between the sheets somewhere around two in the morning. I was somewhere beyond tired but also sure it was the right thing.
Best I remember Andy did start coming to church a little more regularly but I don’t believe he made a Jesus commitment…at least not then. Occasionally we would talk about the great adventure and we would laugh about me tramping through the woods in the middle of the night. Fortunately, there wasn’t a second invitation to go coon hunting. Andy didn’t know Jesus yet but he did know about mercy. Smile.
So as we journey along this Jesus road we need to ask ourselves, “What are we willing to do to be Jesus to the ones we bump into?” They say the best sermons are the ones not preached from the pulpit. Amen to that. Someone also said, “People don’t care now much you know until they know how much you care.” Amen to that too. Paul, the guy in the Bible who wrote most of the New Testament said that he was willing to lose his relationship with Jesus if it meant his friends could be saved. Wow…that is commitment. That is amazing.
When you are trying to decide what to do to reach people…or what not to do…just listen for the voice of the Whisperer. Most likely you will hear His gentle voice and when you do just do what He says. Trust Him. Believe Him. Share Him. Oh, and if it involves chasing a coon dog through the woods in the middle of the night, don’t worry. He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne