In high school my favorite class was always study hall, because there I could read what I wanted to read. I read books about ministry, pastoring, preaching, evangelism, discipleship, prayer, and the Christian family. I don’t ever remember reading textbooks. I had something else burning in my heart. I wanted to be used of God to influence people for Christ. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel that way. Today I want to share a story with you about how a woman was used to influence many for Christ in a very, very simple way. Maybe it will inspire your “people-influencing-efforts.”
Knox County is a pleasant county in central Ohio. Mt. Vernon is the county seat. Most of the county is covered with hills gentle enough to farm and beautiful enough to take your breath away on a spring morning or an autumn evening. The streets of Mt. Vernon were lined with Dogwoods when we moved there the day after Easter on April 20, 1987. It was a very, very happy day for me. I was eager to be a solo pastor. Outwardly I exuded confidence but secretly I was hopeful that I had what it would take to be a pastor.
Lois and I spent ten years of our lives living and working in Knox County. While we were there four of our eight children were born. Heidi, Hannah, Daniel and Wesley. Hannah, Daniel and Wesley were born at home during our Neo-Amish years, but that is another story.
God directed us to start a church in Knox County. I often think of that decade of our lives. We have many, many happy memories there. If I was starting that church again I would do some things differently. There is a lot we could have done better. I would have been a little more relaxed about some things. I would have been more intense about other things. It was not a perfect model of church-planting by any means at all, but in spite of all that, God worked–he worked in beautiful, lasting ways.
At the time I wasn’t sure my pastoral “career” was making much progress. I had to continually remind myself that pastoral work is a calling requiring faithfulness and holiness not an exercise in self-promotion and professional advancement. In spite of the many ways we could have improved there is no doubt that God allowed us to have a significant ministry there. To see it you would have to have spiritual discernment, but we planted some trees of ministry that still grow there on the gentle slopes of Knox County.
For some reason I think often of something that happened in early years of that church. One day a young woman showed up at our church. I think her little boy may have been with her that day. At the time I was working diligently to reach people. The church was small. I sent the bulletin on Thursday to everyone in the church. I often personally phoned anyone who missed the services. It was small. I could do that. The young woman who visited that Sunday was not someone I had ever met. No one in the church knew her. None of us had ever met her before.
After church we talked. She liked the church, which was remarkable because it was a small church meeting in an old converted Grange Hall on a country road. Our floors were wooden. We sat on metal folding chairs. It was a very, very simple affair. Nothing there to impress.
I asked her, “Dawn, how did you happen to find us?”
She said; “I work at a bank in Columbus. A co-worker invited me out for lunch. As we ate she said; ‘Dawn let me tell you why I invited you today. I’m a Christian and I am going to take all the girls in the office out to lunch one at a time so that I can explain to each of them how to be a follower of Jesus.’
At that point Dawn said, she began to cry. She said, “That is so sweet of you. I’m already a Christian. I was raised in a church, but I’ve had a lot of trouble and I’m far from God.”
“What church did you attend growing up?”
“I went to a little Baptist Church down in southern Ohio.”
“Well, why don’t you get up Sunday morning early, get dressed for church and drive around and look for a Baptist Church?”
That morning Dawn started driving out across the countryside and I am convinced that God’s Spirit guided her car to our little Grange Hall. She was not put off at all by the humble church–it reminded her of the church of her childhood.
Dawn returned to fellowship with Christ and his church. Eventually God would work powerfully in her family. She would enthusiastically invite many others. At one point I counted over fifty people that made our little church their home because of her invitation. I’ve often wondered how I could inspire other “Dawns” in churches I have served.
I don’t know the name of the young lady who invited Dawn out for lunch that day to give her the gospel. I’m sure I never knew her name, but I know that God knows her name. She couldn’t possibly know what happened as a result of her simple efforts. But God knows.
February 6, 2012