Last night while sitting in the backyard with a few good friends, my daughters and their friends squealing loudly in the little blow up pool in our back yard trying to cool off in the 40 degree heat (slightly over a hundred for our US friends), I remembered that night twenty one years ago, when I decided to follow Jesus. I haven't stopped since.
I had met a girl at my moms church that I thought was pretty good looking. I asked her out and we went on a date. Everything went wrong, I even couldn't find the latch to unlock the petrol tank. But I was charming enough to secure a second date. She suggested we go to the New Years eve party at her brother in laws, and I figured that would be fine.
What happened there that night changed my life forever. Here were a people that seemed to genuinely love one another, in a natural way. There was an atmosphere created by this love that was profoundly different. What was really surprising to me is they showed this love to me as well. I was an outsider, dating one of their cherished young women, but they accepted me, and lavished this strange love on me. I found myself wanting to spend a lot more time with these people, and to be able to be part of this kind of community.
At midnight they got in a circle, there was about thirty-five of us. Starting about two seats to my right Terry, who was the host and the husband of my dates sister, said he would like to usher in the new year by giving testimony of Jesus work in his life the previous year. And he talked about how God had met him in his day to day life. Then he looked to his right and the next person began to talk. I was relieved I was going to be almost last. But as I sat listening to story after story of God's work among these people, I began to understand where this love came from.
When my turn came I told everyone that I had not experienced God the previous year, but that night was making a decision to experience Him from that day forward. There was no sinners prayer, no altar call, but that night, among those beautiful people, I found Jesus, and have been following him ever since.
Maybe this is why I love small group church, the stories of God's interaction with people, the irresistable nature of community outreach. These were the beginnings of my journey, and I am ofcourse colored and biased by them.
In the last 21 years a lot has changed, I have changed, I have two children and a loveley wife. I have had many faith experiences, many church expressions, many ministries. The two things I will forever hold on to from that night however are these:
God indwells His people
The way we love one another, shows the reality of Christ
I hope you have a wonderful new year