It was the late 1980s. Our church was buzzing and growing. God was moving powerfully. We had just moved into a new Worship Center, and all of a sudden, transition was inevitable. While our numbers gained greatly, we also saw a few individuals and families depart. As any pastor would be, I was troubled.
This Was an Important Moment for Me
God had raised up a man to walk with me through those days of transition. His name was Ron Lewis. He joined me on the journey to help the church as we advanced toward reaching our region with the Gospel, and he listened to me share about a few individuals and families who had departed our church. As a pastor, you know what it is like: We do not want to lose anyone, and while God is bestowing our church with countless blessings, Satan sidetracks us with one little issue.
I will never forget what Ron Lewis told me that day.
Ronnie, Never Let Anyone Outside of Your Circle of Love
Sitting in a Bonanza restaurant, we were working through how we could sustain momentum in our church. Ron looked at me and said, “Ronnie, never let anyone outside of your circle of love.” I will never forget those words.
Ron expounded on his remarks. He shared that if my heart was big enough to forgive continually and love unconditionally, the very same people who may leave today may come back around in the future. Even today I hear those words resounding continually: “Ronnie, never let anyone outside of your circle of love.”
How Our God Has Used Those Words in My Life and Ministry
I took Ron’s counsel to heart immediately. Additionally, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the words of the great scholar and teacher of evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Oscar Thompson. He taught us continually, “The moment you experienced the love of Jesus Christ at salvation, you chose to forfeit the right to whom you would love.” Boom! At that moment, God did a major work in my life personally and as a pastor.
Starting that day, I have never let anyone outside of my circle of love! I do not have the right to love this person and not love that person. Jesus sets the bar: Love all people! Yes, unconditional love for all people. Even for a pastor and his family, there are times we are pressed on this issue. However, love and forgiveness always win!
Pastor, Learn to Forgive People
Pastor, let me share three simple actions you can take to never let anyone outside your circle of love. Every pastor needs to be a forgiver!