I’ve heard it said so many times (and I’ve been one to say it from time to time as well): “If this entire event was for just that one person, then it was totally worth it.” Down deep though I have to admit that I haven’t always felt like that. When a great deal of energy, time, money, and emotion has been expended and a single person comes to know Christ or a very small group shows up it can be deflating. Pastors and leaders will often put a nice spin on it by saying, “Well, praise the Lord, it was worth it for that one soul!” but then walk away shaking their heads wondering why they gave so much for so little response.
This last weekend we had so much snow fall and ice covered the roads to such a degree that our church that averages 1300 in 3 services was a like that of a small group Bible Study. At the 9 am service, I was literally “preaching to the choir”. For one brief moment I wondered why I put so much time into my sermon and if we should just huddle up, sing Kumbaya and go home. But then it happened…
I remembered a youth meeting about 20 years ago
and a kid named Mitch.
I had been cranking for a couple days on a killer teaching, some silly games, worship and a powerful altar call. Then kids started calling into the church office saying they couldn’t make it that night for youth group (homework, sick, sports, no ride, etc. etc). I was bummed. When 7 pm hit only one kid walked into the youth room. His name was Mitch. I pasted a smile on my face, made some small talk and waited a bit to see who else would show. Nobody did. Just Mitch.
The Holy Spirit did something in me that night that shaped my ministry in those early years and continues to govern how I function. The Spirit spoke inaudibly yet so clearly: “If you don’t value this child of mine with the best of your energy I won’t give you any more.” I took a breath and started the most important youth meeting of my life. As I wrapped up a passionate message and prayer time with Mitch, I knew I had been obedient and that the heavens were smiling. As Mitch heading out the door to his parents car, he said to me: “Thanks Pastor John, this was a really great night. I’m glad I came.”
From that night I on something happened in that youth group. It grew. No actually, it grew a lot. The lessons learned on that night were amazing. I am so thankful for them.
So, as I stood this last weekend in a huge auditorium before a smattering of brave folks with 4-wheel drive, I thought of Mitch. At the altar call time, I fully expected no responses to my overt Christmas salvation message. On Saturday evening there was one. One Sunday at 9 am there was one. And at the 11 am there were three. Thank you Jesus. It WAS totally worth it.