What Would You Give to Help Someone Find a Way Back to God?
“Is your church a giver or a taker?” When Rick Thiemke asked this question at Aspen’s Pastors Lunch in 2008, he challenged local pastors to be intentionally missional wherever their church was at that time.
While reading Dave Ferguson and Jon Ferguson’s new book, Finding your Way Back to God, Thiemke’s question of giving and taking took on new meaning. The Fergusons recount numerous stories about how connections with people in their community gave them specific opportunities to help people get back on the path toward God.
Dave and Jon Ferguson sum up the ideas of their book on the first page: “Not only is the longing to find God a universal experience, but there is also a universal pattern for what a journey in his direction looks like.” The journey, they say, can be split into five awakenings: the awakening to longing, the awakening to regret, the awakening to help, the awakening to love, and the awakening to life.
Christ-following churches need to set their sights on finding and being living examples of Christ’s love in people’s lives—to being attentive to these awakenings and ready to give what it takes to meet people at each step of this journey back to God.
Here are two key practices that any church can benefit from adopting if they want to be givers rather than takers.
Dave Ferguson tells a story early on in the book about a girl he knew named Kelly, a waitress at a breakfast restaurant. She only knew Dave as a guy who regularly sat in her section on Wednesdays. Dave recalls watching her spiral down into alcoholism, depression, and eventually a coma induced by alcohol. Later, Kelly called Dave to set up a meeting at a local Starbucks to talk about God and spiritual matters. Kelly eventually found her way back to God, and Dave was instrumental in this journey simply by being a familiar face and being willing to have a conversation with her about God.
Throughout all of Dave’s interactions with Kelly he was intentional with everything he did. From sitting in her section on Wednesdays, caring enough to stop by the hospital when she was in a coma, and intentionally meeting with her on a weekly basis to help her walk the path back to God. The book is chock full of other examples of intentionally seeking those who are hurting and helping them find a way back to peace and joy.
2. Reach Out in Different Ways
The authors discuss dozens of different situations where they were able to reach out to different people in their communities in various ways. Sometimes, like Kelly, the person reached out to the pastor. Other times, encouraging phrases written on the sidewalk cause people to seek who put it there, which leads back to a church. Sometimes it’s people who belong to a church that feel most lost.
Human lives are filled with pain, suffering, sadness, broken opportunities, and difficult situations. However, the love of Christ can help fill the gaps that these struggles leave in our lives. However, people rarely turn to the church as a first choice during difficult times. Instead they often choose to self-prescribe with temporary fixes to their problems, which potentially leads to more problems.
The people mentioned in the book who found their way back to the path leading to Christ were drawn back by numerous tactics. None of these tactics, however, would have been effective apart from the personal involvement Jon and Dave had in each person’s life.
Life is messy, situations can be extremely messy, and it takes time and affection to help people back. So reach out, be present in whatever you do, but also be willing to take the steps you can to give people what they need once you have an open door.