He was the husband and father of a very attractive, young family who were visiting our services. He had questions about our assembly, why we did not use instruments with our singing in worship, why we took the Lord's Supper every week, and the like. He was very polite, but impossible to "read." He had spoken with one of our elders, and he asked to speak to me since I was a preacher. In two metal chairs at the back of the auditorium, people passing by, we sat together and I fielded his questions. He wanted to know if our congregation would accept a man who had been guilty of adultery, had divorced, and then had been remarried before becoming a Christian. I replied by doing something I learned from two great preachers, David Sain and Wendell Winkler. Brother Sain is famous for saying, "It's not a matter of who's right, but what's right." I have made that my own mantra. Brother Winkler taught us to take personality out and show what the Bible says about the situation. I took him to Matthew 19 and showed the earnest young man what Jesus said, pointing out the "in the beginning" and "whosoever" of the text. I told him he could find a person, sadly even a preacher, to tell him whatever he might want to hear, but that this is what the Bible said. I still had no "read" on him. Yet, he did not stop asking questions. He asked me if this church taught the five steps of salvation. He had been at another church that did that. I tried to explain to him the reasoning behind the catch-phrase, that the Bible taught the need of hearing, believing, repenting, confessing Jesus, and being baptized. He stopped me halfway through, apologizing for interrupting. This was the moment of truth. I tried to be kind, but uncompromising. I braced myself for the unpleasant. He smiled. He expressed relief. They had been looking for a church who taught the Bible, even the difficult and challenging things. He said that everywhere he went and asked those questions, the respondents told him whatever they thought he wanted to hear. He has been a Christian since he was fourteen. They had found a favorable employment opportunity that had landed them in our area, but their primary concern was finding a New Testament church who was not afraid to stand behind the things plainly taught in scripture.
It would have been a huge disappointment to see such a family leave us never to return. No doubt we have lost Christian families who visited us in the midst of relocation and found us "too strict" or "old-school." The church here is growing and thriving, but we will always have to do so within boundaries that are unpleasant and increasingly unpopular even in the kingdom. I believe I can say with utmost confidence that our eldership and membership really love people. We are friendly and welcoming to visitors. We are thrilled by new families, just as we are by new converts. We have open doors, but we still respect divinely built walls. We cannot tear those down without peril to ourselves. Our task is to bring people up to God's standards. Woe unto us if we lower God's standards to where people want to live.
This young man is refreshing. I prayerfully look forward to getting to labor with him and his family. I thank God for allowing this interchange to occur, if only to remind me of how preeminent and changeless His Word is. Honest hearts still crave it. God uses honest hearts to change the world. What a moment of truth!