Two Sundays ago, at the suggestion of preaching professor David Lose, I challenged my congregation to ask people if they go to church and if not, to ask them why. I try never to ask my congregation to do something I’m not willing to do myself, and so, on the way home that day, I asked someone. Here’s what happened, as reported on Facebook:
Actual conversation on my way home from church today:
“Excuse me,” I asked the stranger walking his dog on my street, “Do you go to church?”
“No,” he said. “I believe in God, but I don’t go to church.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Honestly? Because a lot of churches are too judgmental.”
I told him I was a pastor and that I was trying to help my congregation be less judgmental. He asked where and I said First Baptist. He wanted to know where it was and what time we had services. And then he said this:
“I believe in God. In fact one night I was lying there in my bed and I said, ‘God, if you’re real, show me.’ And then my bedroom door opened, not once, not twice, but three times!” (tears came to his eyes, and he got choked up).
He asked again where my church was and then said, “I might not come to church, but if you want to talk to me on the street anytime, I’d be glad to.”
So, that was two weeks ago. Last Sunday I saw the same guy on the same corner as I was walking home from church. This is what happened:
He: Pastor Jim!
Me: Hey, aren’t you the guy I talked to a couple of weeks ago? What’s your name?
Me: Right! You told me the story about knowing God was real because of your bedroom door opening and closing three times one night.
Me: I shared that story on Facebook! A lot of people were really moved by it.
He: I almost came to church today, except I didn’t wake up until 10:45. I work late, you know. But I am reading the Book of Isaiah.
Me: You’re kidding! I talked about Isaiah in today’s sermon. I said I thought it was a book Jesus grew up listening to, and one that helped him understand who he was and what he was supposed to do.
He: Well, I’m on chapter 65, so…just one chapter to go.
Me: Good for you. That’s amazing! And listen, I hope you’ll come to church next week. We’re having one big worship service at 11:00 and then dinner on the grounds afterward. If you come I’ll buy your lunch!
I don’t know what will happen next, but #churchjusthappened both times I talked to Edward. Maybe you could try it yourself this week. Somebody might be hoping for just that kind of conversation.