Two people who became some of my closest friends in high school were invited to a youth camp one summer and decided to come. They thought it would be fun but weren’t into the religious stuff––so they made a deal before coming: “We’re not going to ‘get saved.'” Well, on the last night, they “got saved.” Sometimes those last-night camp commitments don’t travel back home well. These did. Those friends went from ordinary teenagers to extraordinary models of virtue and grace. God’s work in them was clear. 17 years later, it still is.
One of the most important mentors in my life––the one who was bold enough to tell me when I was 16 that I was doing the wrong thing if I didn’t go into pastoral ministry––recently chronicled his “conversion chain.” It lists 23 people/groups. None of them are pastors. They’re mostly friends, colleagues, and others he respected. I wonder where I would be if it weren’t for those 23.
I had a college roommate who became a Christian after a friend sent him one of those Christian chain emails (yes, you read that right) and asked him to consider it. God changed his life, and he was a model of devout faith to me through college.
Another dear friend was invited to a Young Life camp and came to faith during that week. He is one of the most thoughtful, sincere, and talented people I know, and God is using him in some pretty spectacular ways (as in––he writes a pastoral column with a readership of a quarter million on a slow week).
Several other friends––too many to count––have less exact and profound stories. For many, they already called themselves Christians, but it didn’t mean much. Then someone invited them into a setting that helped them experience the depth and richness of the Christian faith. They stopped being Christians in name only and became real, full-fledged, transformed followers of Christ.
These are just a few that stand out in the moment. God’s grace has transformed them. And what a celebration to know they’ll be there at that great heavenly banquet!
I hear an occasional story about someone who hit rock bottom, or just sensed that something was missing, and began to consider Christianity on their own. But the much more common story begins with someone who wasn’t really looking––they were just invited and accepted the invitation. Sometimes it was the first invitation, sometimes it was the 23rd.
Is there someone you could call, or email, or text message this week and give a simple invitation? That person doesn’t have to be a staunch atheist, or the most immoral person you know. Most of my friends above wouldn’t have fit that.
What if you invited that person to come to a church service with you on Sunday?
What if that simple invitation marked a turning point in someone’s life? What if it changed eternity?
One person. One invitation. When I think about the people above, I wonder why I so rarely extend an invitation.