After nearly three decades of pastoral ministry, I have never met a person who became an enthusiastic follower of Jesus because a Christian or group of Christians scolded them about their morality or their ethics.
Once we were having a small prayer gathering with some friends. Before we started to pray, in came a married couple who had been invited by someone in the group. The man, who I will call Matthew, was very drunk, and his wife had this I’VE BEEN THROUGH A WAR, CAN SOMEONE PLEASE HELP ME, I’M DYING INSIDE look written all over her.
As we prayed together, the intoxicated Matthew decided to chime in. His words were slobbering words, an incoherent prayer that continued for over ten minutes. He petitioned God Almighty for some of the strangest things:
God, protect us from the Klingons. God, I really want a Jolly Rancher right now, will you bring us some Jolly Ranchers? God, will you please move all the bananas into the doghouse? And bless the grass seed, Lord. And the fertilizer! Amen.
After the last person prayed and we all said “Amen,” everyone looked at me.
What will the pastor do?
Thankfully, I didn’t need to do anything because a woman from the group, full of grace and love and no-condemnation, offered Matthew a cookie. As the woman fed him sugar and engaged in conversation about Klingons and grass seed and such, others approached his wife, begging for insight on how they could help.
This little interaction, this way of responding with grace and love and no-condemnation AS THE FIRST ACT IN A SEQUENCE, became one of the most transformative experiences I have ever witnessed.
To make a long story short, the kindhearted offer of a cookie led to a tribe of people coming around the couple and their two young children, which led to a month of addiction rehab in Arizona — including flights and personal visits to and prayers and support offered at the rehab center by our little prayer group — which led to Matthew getting sober, which led to a restored home and marriage, which led to Matthew becoming a follower of Jesus, which led to him also becoming an elder in the church where I was pastor at the time.