Yesterday, Oct. 29, 2006, Jack and his live-in girl friend Sally (not their real names) gave their hearts to Jesus Christ. It was their very first visit to our church, Anaheim First Church of the Nazarene. It was a special Sunday for us. Every time there is a fifth Sunday in a month (4 times a year) we have what we call a Brunch Sunday. Instead of meeting in our sanctuary for our morning worship service, we gather in the gym around tables for up-beat worship, a children’s choir presentation, a creative arts presentation of some aspect of the gospel (drama, video, or interpretative dance), an evangelistic message from God’s Word, and a delicious brunch.
Jack and Sally had come on our invitation to watch their 11-year old daughter, Julia, sing with the children’s choir. They were visibly overwhelmed by the love and friendliness of God’s people. Praise the Lord. Sometimes God’s folks just do the right thing!
I watched at least eight different people come up to our table and greet them and introduce themselves to Jack and Sally. They had all been praying along with us for Jack and Sally’s salvation for many months. And now, at last, they were actually visiting our church service!
For almost four years, the men I am discipling and I have eaten several times weekly at the local Denny’s restaurant where Sally has been our excellent waitress. We have claimed her soul for Jesus for a long time now. Every time we saw her we looked at one another and declared, “We are going to lead her and her boyfriend to Jesus!”
Over the course of time, we had the opportunity to take Jack and Sally groceries as they have fallen on hard times. They live with their daughter in a single motel room where they pay by the week. This particular dump is one of the sleaziest joints in town and it is also the home to 10 known sexual predators. But it is the best that they can afford right now.
Jack has had a difficult time holding down a job. He has had various run-ins with the law and he has had a problem with gambling in the past. Sally has been the primary bread-winner most of the 11 years that they have been living together. They are a racially mixed couple and they have faced rejection from both ethnic communities and their families.
Over time we won Sally’s trust and she would share prayer requests with us. Then last summer she began to allow us to pick up her daughter for Sunday School and church and Wednesday nights. Soon after that Sally allowed us to scholarship her daughter to Children’s Camp where she gave her heart to Jesus! A district Children’s Talent Show followed where little Julia won a yellow ribbon for a simple painting. She was so proud to show it to her parents!
My wife and I had taken Jack and Sally out to dinner several times and slowly won their trust and friendship. Then we picked them up for church yesterday, since they have no transportation.
As I preached a simple message from the Lord’s Prayer, God’s good people were praying for Jack and Sally. When I gave the invitation at the end of the simple message, Jack and Sally responded with raised hands. The church erupted in cheers and applause. So many had been praying for this moment!
Later, as I drove them home, both Jack and Sally remarked several times how “moved” they were by the service and how touched they were by the friendliness of the people.
There are 185 languages spoken within a 10 minute drive of our church. Jack is a member of an ethnic group that is not represented in our congregation. He is our very first person of this particular group. I have been specifically praying that God would give us some men of this ethnic background to disciple for Jesus. Jack is the answer to my prayers.
Now the real work of disciple making begins! Jack and I have very little in common. I am white. He is not. I am older than Jack by at least 20 years. We come from radically different worlds. I am the first white pastor that he has ever been around. How in the world can I disciple him?
I wish I had some mature disciple makers in our church that shared Jack’s ethnicity that I could partner Jack up with for the first critical months of his Christian life. But there are no one. I’m it. And I am honored. And Jesus is going to help me. Philippians 4:13!
I am not sure what I am going to do but it will involve meeting with Jack weekly and doing a lot of listening. I want to win his trust and friendship. He warmly greets me and expresses his appreciation of me and our church openly. But I want to get closer.
Jack is my spiritual son in the faith. Together, with the praying men of our church, we “birthed” him in the Spirit through prayer, love, involvement and intercession. Now, we are tasked by our Lord Jesus to help Jack become a follower of Jesus, a disciple of Jesus, a servant of Jesus and eventually a disciple maker for Jesus. I am committing myself to Jack for as long as he will allow me to be his friend. Frankly, my goal is to be the best friend that Jack ever had! I want to cover him in prayer daily and teach him how to pray. I want to help him become like Jesus in every way. I want to eventually win the right to talk to Jack about his live-in arrangement with Sally. He has asked me to do the pre-marital counseling and marry them someday.
This coming Sunday Julia is getting baptized. She is inviting her grandparents on both sides to be there. Jack and Sally will be beaming with pride and joy as we baptize their little girl who has a vibrant testimony of her love for Jesus. Who knows, now that mom and dad have prayed to receive Christ, maybe they will end up getting baptized this coming Sunday too!
I want to love and serve Jack like he has never been loved and served before. I want to model what it means to be a good “follow-up” friend. I want to model Christlike discipling for Jack and I dream of the day when Jack will lead one of his buddies to Jesus and I can coach Jack in discipling him just like I discipled Jack.
Ananias in Acts 9 and Barnabas had no idea that the Saul of Tarsus they were discipling would someday become the great Apostle Paul! Only God knows WHO Jack really is and WHO he is going to become! I am going to disciple him, by God’s help, as if I were working with and coaching the next Apostle Paul. What an incredible joy and honor this is for me. I can’t wait to call him tonight! time holding down a job. He has had various run-ins with the law and he has had a problem with gambling in the past. Sally has been the primary bread-winner most of the 11 years that they have been living together. They are a racially mixed couple and they have faced rejection from both ethnic communities and their families.
by Craig Wesley Rench