By Pastor Mike Middaugh
“I have just passed on from believing in God to definitely believing in Christ – in Christianity. I will try to explain this another time. My long night talk with Dyson and Tolkien had much to do with it.”
C.S. Lewis in The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves; October 1 1931.
The “Dyson” and “Tolkien” C.S. Lewis refers to in the above quote are “Hugo” Dyson, a university English professor, and the more well-known J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings. If you know the story of C.S. Lewis’ life, you may be aware that it wasn’t until his 30’s that he became a Christian, converting from a position of atheism. This story of his conversion, and the great literary works that flowed out of his new-found faith, shows the importance and influence of Christian friends in a person’s life.
Thom Rainier, head of Lifeway Reseach reports in his book The Unchurched Next Door that “most people come to church because of a personal invitation”, and that the “vast majority of Christians became believers because of the influence of another person, or persons to whom they were close.”
Certainly coming to faith is God’s work in a person’s life. Through the work of the Holy Spirit He gives us the ability to believe and nourishes our relationship with Him. But it has always been true that God uses people as His means for sharing this message. We may think this means going door to door or preaching from a street corner, but the reality is that most serious faith conversations happen between close friends, such as was the case for C.S. Lewis. As we build trust with another person we are able to go deeper into life’s serious matters. Because of their respect and appreciation for us as a friend they are far more likely to take seriously a conversation about God, our church, or an offer to pray for something in their lives.
As we head towards the fall season and a busier time in the church year, I would like for us as a congregation to take this idea seriously. I believe there are people around us who God desperately wants to win over. He may be planning to use us to reach them in the everyday course of our lives. This does not always mean an awkward conversation, but simply starts with us looking for opportunities to build new relationships with people we don’t know, and deeper relationships with those we do. There also may be those around us who do believe but who have not found a place to worship where they feel comfortable.
For a Christian I don’t think there is anything more faithful than praying for those who are not yet here. This may be those who are not yet people of faith, and it may also be those who God intends to be a part of this church but who have yet to come. If we are praying this prayer seriously we must also offer ourselves up to be used by Him as part of the process. In doing so we trust Him to give us the words to speak, and to create the right opportunities, counting on Him for the rest. By praying this prayer we are calling on God to fulfill His promise of caring for His church and building up the Body of Christ.