I had no idea when I received the phone call what a major impact Sally (name changed) would make on my life. She was intrigued by God but also very angry at God after surviving years of abuse, addictions and frustrations with a God who didn’t seem to care about her. Thus began the weekly phone exchanges between Sally and me.
It began to appear fairly quickly that Sally had never encountered a believer who would carefully listen, wouldn’t get offended by her language, and would not give up on her as a lost cause. I would let her lead with the topic of the conversation of the night and would then gently probe for more information, such as why she was interested in those specific questions, what made her come up with her conclusions, and how did her thinking line up with what the Scriptures actually said. I think I would drive her nuts when I said, “I’m not going to argue with you; you have to take that up with God.”
I would usually end our discussions not only by praying for her but I would suggest some further readings. It was up to her what she did with those verses. Sally didn’t know this, but I knew that the Holy Spirit was going to dig away at her heart and open her eyes to the wonderful God that would blow away all the false gods she had served. Week after week after week we went. And then we transitioned to conversations about God’s grace and forgiveness. Sally had only known about the God of fire and brimstone. The Holy Spirit worked and I prayed, waited, talked and loved her. Sally came to know Jesus.
We still talk regularly. Recently she felt discouraged and regretted all the things she doesn’t know about God. She discussed a church she had begun attending and I asked her if she had decided to invite any of her “peeps”. She mentioned Barb, a New Age devotee who had lost a son to drug addiction. Sally regularly talks with Barb. And slowly the shift has begun. Whereas Barb before was vehemently anti-Bible, Barb now is regularly reading a Bible Sally gave her. Barb has lots of questions for Sally. Regardless of Sally’s discouragement, God is not wasting a moment in Sally’s life. She is replicating her faith in Jesus to Barb just as I replicated my faith in Jesus to Sally.
That is what Matthew 28:19 is all about. The author Richard Niell Donovan makes this observation: “It is interesting to see what Jesus includes and does not include in this commissioning. He doesn’t command the disciples to preach—to evangelize—to win the world. He charges them with the responsibility of replicating their own kind by creating new disciples—new people of faith.” That’s what the conversations with the Sallys and Barbs of this world are all about. It is having the love and the patience to engage in relationships; deciding to be generous, not only in time but in love. It takes a huge amount of reliance on the Holy Spirt to do this. Without any of that, I would not have known the joy of seeing Sally enter the Kingdom of God. Without any of this, Sally will not know the joy of seeing Barb enter the Kingdom of God.
Are you ready to enter into the dance of relationships and conversations; of investing the time to win those who God brings across your path to Christ? I pray for the Sallys and Barbs you know. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations [help the people to learn of Me, believe in Me, and obey My words]….lo, I am with you always [remaining with you perpetually—regardless of circumstance, and on every occasion], even to the end of the age.”(Matthew 28:19) We are not in this challenge alone; Jesus guarantees His presence with every step. He just says, “Go”.