Yesterday I met with my friend Brian for coffee. Brian is a senior at Temple University in the city. He had called me earlier in the week and said that he needed to get together with me and tell me some things that were going on in his life.
I remember the first time I met Brian. It was after a service in the middle of a series we were doing called They like Jesus but don't like the Church based off of Dan Kimball's book by that title. During my teaching that night I had told a story about my interaction with someone I knew who was intrigued by Jesus but was turned off by organized religion. He sought me out after the service and told me point-blank: "It sounds like the people you want to connect with are people like me." He told me that he is not a follower of Jesus. I truly felt the Spirit of God prompting me to call Brian, connect with him and hear more of his story. Since that conversation that night - and for the past 11 months - Brian and I have been meeting every other week to read the Bible together and discuss it.
Brian is the first person I have ever discipled before they have come to faith. We've memorized Scripture together and worked through the book of Mark. I gave him my Bible from college. We've prayed together. (I remember how astonished I was when Brian would pray that his friends at school would become Christians - and this was before Brian was even a Christian!) Each time we met, Brian would tell me that he was getting closer to understanding the role of God in his life, but he would honestly share his hesitations as to why he couldn't fully give himself over to the ways of Jesus. Brian has asked some wonderful questions about faith and God and the Scriptures during our meetings - the kind of questions that are so honest and inquisitive and street level that you wished every person would ask.
Last year on Good Friday we went through an experiential prayer station experience where I explained the importance of the cross and the empty tomb as we walked around and reflected on Christ's sacrifice. One station was about forgiveness where we were encouraged to take a rock in our hands and stand silently and prayerfully over a bucket of water and meditate on forgiveness and the sacrifice that Jesus had made for us. When we had understood the forgiveness extended to us we were to release the rock from our hands and watch it fall into the bucket. It was a powerful experience.
Brian and I partook in that together - but before Brian dropped the rock in the bucket I encouraged him to hold onto it. I told him that I thought it would be meaningful if he didn't drop the rock in the bucket (yet) but instead save the rock. Later, if/when he came to the point in his journey where he was ready to completely follow the life and teachings of Jesus, we could have our own private rock releasing ceremony into a bucket of water. He said that was a great idea and would be special for him if/when he was ready.
Well, yesterday Brian sat down and said, "There's something I need to tell you. Remember that rock exercise we did Easter weekend?"
"Yeah. I'm ready for my own rock dropping ceremony. On Saturday I took the leap of faith and decided it was time to become a Christian. So I did."
All I could do was sit there like a sappy wuss with tears rolling down my cheeks.
As Brian saw my tears he said, "I knew you would do that!"
I asked him what finally pushed him over the edge and he told me he felt that it was time to finally give the entirety of his life to Christ. It was just time.
And then he said, "Thanks for all you've done in my life. I would not have made this decision without you and our times together. Thanks for helping me make this decision."
Ironically, Brian is telling me all of this in the same coffee shop at the same table where I had a conversation with another Brian about faith just a week prior.
Brian wrote this on his Facebook page earlier this week:
"I had an amazing and powerful weekend. GO GOD! Go Phillies! And oh yeah, I guess go Birds [Eagles]!"
I'm so grateful, humbled and overwhelmed to be involved in people's lives long enough to see God's spirit at work like he has been working in Brian's life. The Spirit has slowly, gently and progressively been working in Brian's life to come to that decision on Saturday. And I'm pumped to continue to meet with Brian to witness more transformation and growth in his own life (the rest of yesterday's conversation: Brian asking questions about what it means to allow the Holy Spirit to guide and teach us).
This is the very reason we stepped out in faith to start the Renew Community - to see people's lives renewed by the power of the gospel message. I hope this is the first of many rock-dropping ceremonies at Renew.