Back in the dim, misty recesses of time—2007 to be exact—I was a guest at a Walk to Emmaus Candlelight Service held at Wesleyan UMC located in Hampstead, NC. It was during this gathering where I found myself standing in a packed sanctuary singing the song, “He Touched Me” with the others in attendance. Oddly enough while I was singing, a Voice (not audible) entered my consciousness, saying: “I can’t touch you. You won’t let me!” I had never had this kind of experience before, and when I finished singing, I just kind of sat there in my pew in a stupor. I stayed there until a warm and loving bear-of-a-man named Red Lutterloh shared with us some of his experiences as a follower of Jesus. He described a Jesus who welcomed him and loved him “warts and all.” Then he issued an invitation to the gathered: “Are you willing to give as much of yourself to as much of God as you understand? If so, then I want to invite you to come forward tonight and give yourself to Jesus Christ.”
In all my years of living, I had never heard an invitation to follow Jesus like that. I was still trying (occasionally) to see if I could do the kinds of things that would make God love me. I had never considered that God might have a real interest in me. Almost to my own surprise, I rose from my pew in the back of the sanctuary, moved to the front, and knelt in prayer at the church altar rail, praying something like: “Lord Jesus, here I am. If you can use me – I’m yours.” I stayed a bit longer to own up to my self-serving and selfishness and asked God to forgive me and help me to live life in a new way. Tears streamed down my face as I prayed, and when I walked back to my pew, I knew those tears were much more than expressions of heartfelt sorrow. They were also mixed with gratitude and with love. For the first time in my life, I seemed to know and believe that my worth could no longer be measured by what others thought of me, by what I thought of myself, or by what I could accomplish. I had received an injection of grace-esteem. Looking back, I know now that all my years prior had been preparing me for that very moment.
What if every pastor shared their call story from the pulpit – at least once yearly, “preached the claims of ministry” and regularly issued some form(s) of a genuine invitation to join them in following Jesus? What if each of us – pastor and baptized members in the pew – would begin to pray for God to use us in issuing Christ’s call to come and follow? What if we truly accepted our role in helping to “develop the abilities” of those who would say “Yes” to Jesus (including ourselves) and actually began (disciplining, apprenticing, and encouraging) each other and joined the grand adventure of becoming servants of God? I’m fairly certain God would pick up all of our slack, infuse what we cannot bring to fruit ourselves, and we would be transformed… along with the rest of God’s world.
Are you willing to give as much of yourself to as much of God as you understand? If so, then I want to invite you to come and give yourself to Jesus Christ.”
Blessings & Peace,