It had been four years. Four years since I moved into our new neighborhood. I looked at my street and cul-de-sac where I lived as a great opportunity to love people and lead them to Jesus. I was excited for the opportunity in this new community and to start a home group soon. First, it was my next-door neighbor Tom who was quick to get connected to our church. After experiencing church hurt, he had quit going for years even though he loved Jesus. Our relationship grew quickly as I love food and he love’s to cook food on his Traeger. He and his wife are the definition of hospitality. A year later we were having home group in their house. The group grew and connected people from all over our town, but my neighbor directly across the street, Justin, kept me at arm’s length.
Every moment I had an opportunity to say hi and ask him how he was doing, I did it. Conversation was minimal, cordial, but nothing significant. I started asking more personal questions over the course of about 6 months before I finally asked him if he went to church. He shared a similar story to Tom’s, but unlike Tom, he didn’t grow up in church. He said he came to a moment where he started to consider “religion” and visited a church in his 20’s, only to be treated as an outsider and feeling judged. He said he never gave church a shot after that, and he was good. I apologized that he had a bad experience, he nodded and shrugged it off.
Every September our cul-de-sac does a community barbeque. This helps us build relationships with our neighbors and people love it. Nearly fifty people come every year. There is a longing for me to create the community that is like the fictitious town of Mayberry from the 1960’s Andy Griffith Show. Our neighborhood BBQ is an effort to bridge people. I made sure to extend an invite to Justin and his family. They came, and like Tom, are amazing cooks! I got to know Justin on a deeper level and continued to pray for him and tried to be a good neighbor. I was content with just doing that, believing that one day maybe Justin would reach out to me knowing that I’m a pastor.
October 2021 is when it happened. Justin reached out after our normal interactions from across the street when he asked me, “What time are your church services?” I told him and asked if he was thinking of coming. He responded “yep, I’ve been thinking about it.” I told him that we would love to have them and hoped it would be a better experience from years ago. I told him we have a lot of people that love Jesus, but aren’t perfect people and he seemed to appreciate that answer. He said, “I guess we will see you Sunday.” I was in complete shock. Four years and out of nowhere this conversation happens.
Sunday came and sure enough, Justin and Nancy along with their two daughters showed up. They also stayed after and hung around which is usually a good sign. He said he enjoyed it and felt like it was easy to understand and everyone was really relational. I told him I would love to hear more about what Jesus was doing in his life. They continued coming to church nearly every week. He came to Men’s Breakfast in January and there he shared his story. He shared about troubles he was experiencing in life and realized that he was wrong. Wrong about life, wrong about Jesus and he’d come to a point where he cried out to God and said, “God what do you want me to do?” Jesus told him, “Justin, your neighbor is the one who loved you and has been there for you and been a light to you. Go to his church.”
Since January, Justin and Nancy have been coming to our home group. They haven’t missed a group. During group, that first night, he admitted he had never opened a Bible in person before but had been reading the Bible on his phone for 6 months. I’m doing weekly reading plans with him on the Bible app. They sent their kids to Winter Camp. He made some of the best chicken wings I’ve ever had at our Home Group Super Bowl party. Now, he and Nancy are seriously considering getting baptized into Jesus soon.
If you are a pastor, minister, elder, deacon, leader, apprentice or you don’t have a “church title.” You are called to be a disciple maker. Jesus gave each of us as his followers to be a disciple and go make disciples. Disciple-makers, they never quit…because Jesus never quits on us.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9
This post originally appeared at: https://rdn1.com/never-quit/