Thursday, July 28, 2005

investment opportunities

Way back before my paid ministry days I was involved in a life changing event. It actually wasn't my life that had been changed. The life I'm talking about was a man named Bill. Our church was looking for a new way to jump start our outreach to the community and honestly to find a new channel of visitors who would then become part of us and eventually contribute financially to our cause in the community. In other words, to help us balance the budget. It might sound cynical to you...I've been accused of that before, but it's ultimately true. I'm not really sure that our motivation would have been pure if it weren't for the fact that we were behind in our budget. For whatever reason, we became involved in a program called "Phones For You". Basically what happened was that we set up a num ber of phone lines, six I believe, and got volunteers to work for 3 weeks calling literally thousands of people. The idea was that we call them and invite them to a special Sunday event at our church. According to the laws of statistics, a certain percentage of them would eventually come on that day. Well it worked out that we could expect 150 additional people on our special day. What we ultimately got was 86.
Few eventually stayed. The comment was made that the program was hardly worth the effort and the investment that we had to make. After all, what some were ultimately looking for was a boost to our offerings. It never happened. Something amazing did happen however. An older gentleman named Bill showed up. He was retired, lived in a trailer out in the country, and came to church each week in a car which had long since lived out it's days. He came every week. After a time he would bring a grandaughter and include her in our children's church. Nearly every week he was in the row in front of us. He never said much. He didn't need to. What he did tell us was that he had found a home. We rejoiced in his baptism. His extended family discouraged his newfound faith, so much so that they really wanted little to do with him after that. Our church became his family. After a time my family and I moved away to pursue ministry. For the next few years, each time we returned home, Bill would greet us on a Sunday morning with a smile on his face and a sincere "welcome back". Often he would slip me a 10 dollar bill to "help with the schooling". One Summer we received a message that Bill had died, alone in his trailer, from the heat. Almost immediately I heard the echo from years before, "the phones program was hardly worth the investment". To Bill it was everything. What kind of price can you put on one life saved for all eternity? From that day on my resolve was formed to keep financial cost out of the equation when it came to reaching people. How much is one life worth? Churches tread on dangerous ground when, in our evaluation of Jesus' call to go into all the world, we stop and ask "How much will it cost?". It cost Him everything. We're asking the wrong question. We ought to be asking "What will it take?" For Bill it took a phone call. For someone else it might take a community with common likes, common needs, common questions. For others it might take a real person showing a real concern about a problem that is all too real in their life. When we answer the question "What will it take?", God will answer the question "How will we pay for it?". And he'll do it through people who realize that you can't measure the worth of one life saved for all eternity. Sometimes He works with us. Sometimes He works in spite of us. The next time that you see Bill, ask him if it was worth it.