Soma leaders on the gospel, community and mission in the everyday…
People Like Us - Matt Lewis
For some time, I have been reflecting on some insights God had revealed to me about the Gospel and about giving it to others through an experience I had giving food away in Hood River earlier in the summer. Fast forward a few weeks from my time spent in Hood River, and I am sitting at Starbucks early on Wednesday morning with my good friend Scott and the other friends we are privileged to meet with regularly for DNA. On this particular morning, we were talking about moving into our missional identity and what that means for us regarding sharing our hope with others. Scott encouraged all of us to not just share the good news of Jesus, but to actually be bold enough to offer an invitation to someone- an invite to not just hear about Jesus, but to meet Him and accept the hope he wants to give. I contemplated this, because I love to talk ABOUT Jesus, to talk about my hope and to share my experiences of how good He is with others. But I like to leave people with the Holy Spirit and with their thoughts after I share- I do not usually ask people to meet Jesus on the spot or ask people to make a decision about anything on the spot. Then the beautiful truth that God planted in my heart through my time giving away food in Hood River sprouted into passion for action - The Gospel, Jesus Himself is good, and I do not need to worry about what someone does with Jesus or with the message of the Gospel. I do not need to worry about how people respond to Jesus or to me- I simply have the opportunity to confidently offer Jesus’s Gospel to people and let them decide what to do with it. This means I can actually give them an opportunity to take Jesus, and if they don’t, they don’t. I can keep loving them and showing them that they are worth loving if they stick around, and I can be at peace if they don’t want to stick around, because Jesus sticks around with me.
The next morning, on Thursday, as I am getting close to finishing up a workout at the gym, I see “the shoulder guy.” Now, I realize in this moment that I see this man every morning I am in the gym and I do not know his name- in my mind, he is simply the man who is always rolling out or stretching out his shoulder- “the shoulder guy.” I decide I want to meet this man and know his name. We end up talking for half an hour: about purpose and meaning in work, about hope, about what we leave behind when we die, about the Kingdom of heaven, about our ledger of rights and wrongs and about why I have come to believe that Jesus is so good. I have this uncanny feeling that I am literally plowing in someone else’s field as we talk more and more. As I see him engaging and listening, and as I feel the powerful and gracious encouragement of the Holy Spirit, I remember God’s words spoken through my brother Scott: “Give an invitation on the spot for someone to receive the hope you have in Jesus.” Filled with excitement, I ask Tony (the man’s name is Tony ☺), “Tony, do you want to accept Jesus as both your Lord and Savior and enter the Kingdom of Heaven right now? He says, “Yes, I do. I have been putting this off for a long time.” We close eyes, clasp hands, and pray together right there in the gym, beneath the pull-up bars. Tony proclaims Jesus as Lord and Savior with his lips, he holds his hands out to accept Jesus, declares that he wants to trade his righteousness for Jesus’s righteousness and enters the Kingdom of Heaven right in front of my very eyes. The older man, who I deemed the shoulder guy, is now clearly shown to really be my little brother, Tony, the redeemed son of the King. We share in joy with each other, I ask him if he wants to attend service with me on Sunday and he says yes. I pray for an opportunity to meet with him the next day on Friday and discuss baptism with him. I end up running into him the next morning in the gym and we talk for a while about baptism. He cries and tells me about why being baptized would be a huge act of redemption in his story and in his life. And then if you were at service Sunday, August 6th, you saw what happened! We celebrated new life, and welcomed Tony into the Family of God. And I was able to celebrate the amazing work and love of our Father, of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit with many of you.
Since then, I have seen another brother from the streets born again, and have watched as God has drawn a young man out of self despair and toward hope in Him and His family. Aslan is on the move.