Sometimes It Takes 20 Years

“It took twenty years for me to decide to be baptized,” the man said. “Twenty years. And all that time, people kept inviting me. In college, everyone knew from the late night sessions at the dorm that I was a convicted atheist. I was an engineer, and a rational person. But they kept inviting me. And over the years since, people would invite me to small groups, or to church. And sometimes I would go. But I still did not see myself as a believer.” So, on Palm Sunday, at Vine Church, the man was baptized with his infant daughter. Todd Schlechty shared the story with the congregation: the man and his wife came to the very first Vine worship service 8 years before, three weeks before Easter. Because they only had 20 people on the launch team, the couple was asked to help serve communion the following week. The man was distressed, and approached Todd, saying “I would be happy to help,” he said, “but I am not baptized. Is it right for me to serve communion?” Todd paused. “Theologically, probably not….but we’re desperate.” Eight years passed and the man and his wife had regularly attended Vine. But the man was still not ready. But after his child was born, he finally made the decision. The look of joy on his face when he received communion for the first time was something to behold.

After worship, I approached the man and asked if I could use his story. “Absolutely!” he said. “I am not sure that all those people who invited me over a twenty year period understand the impact they had on my faith development. Outwardly, I kept resisting. But inside, something was working on me.” There was no big “aha!” moment–no “road to Damascus” experience. But that Palm Sunday baptism came through a slow process of people who cared about this man, inviting him into a relationship with Jesus.

So many times when I visit churches, people tell me, “I’ve tried inviting my neighbors to church, but they do not come.” When I heard this man’s story, I thought, “They need to know it sometimes takes twenty years. And sometimes, you do not know how your invitation is giving the Holy Spirit the opening to work on someone.”

In this Easter season, I invite you to become witnesses to what God has done in your life, and extend the kind of gentle persistent invitation to faith that this man received. The reward is eternal.

Grace and Peace,