When I was a teenager, I was a pretty ambitious recruiter for the church. I decided that since I worked with all kinds of messed up people, and God was looking for more messed up people to fix, then I could invite everyone I worked with. The amazing thing was that I was able to see 5 people that came to know the Lord in the two years at that job. Some of them even went on to become leaders in the church.
But nothing will deter a young ambitious teenager from inviting as many people as he can as the knowledge of being the one that invited the guy that later robs the church. He seemed nice when I met him. He played the guitar and had deep roots in the Blues scene in St. Louis, MO. He had played bass for the legendary B.B. King and was the nephew of Muddy Waters. He had fallen on hard times and was working where I worked while living in a hotel. I invited him, he came and the church loved him. They loved him so much they offered him a place to stay until he got back on his feet. That’s when I had to go to the police station and identify him on surveillance footage using the church credit card to buy a push mower and many other things at 3 a.m. Who buys a push mower at 3 a.m.?
I struggled with that for a while. I actually felt like people may blame me, so I stopped inviting people.
That guy went to prison. I never heard from him again. What was strange is that I remember many deep conversations with that man about God and the Bible. He knew his stuff. The truth is, his words and his heart were in two different places.
Now that I am pastoring, I have learned that people that talk the talk are not necessarily the people that are right with God. Also, I have grown to learn that a lot of churches are set up to only reach those people that can talk, look, and act like them. I even have some of that thinking imbedded into my brain. I can remember times that I stopped short of inviting someone to church because they would be the “type” that would rob us.
I find comfort in the thought that even Jesus recruited someone that was robbing Him the whole time. I guess that is kind of God’s mission field, isn’t it? God even wants the robbers to come to church.
So, who are you stopping short of inviting to church this week? God wants us to reach out to all of them. Remember…we are just a group of messed up people being led by two messed up pastors.