By George Ross
There’s a couple in our church named Brian and Amy. Since the spring of 2000 I’ve used their experience to help explain the joy of coming to faith in the Lord. Their story is moving to me and sometimes to others if I do it justice by telling it properly.
But just two weeks ago their journey with Christ became even more special to me.
Anxious to Dive In
Brian and Amy’s baptism a decade ago wasn’t during a service; most everyone had already left the building, but the angels were celebrating. After our last service of the weekend, Brian walked up carrying a gym bag, introduced himself, and said he and his wife wanted to come to Christ. He said they’d listened to everything I’d said in my sermons the past few weeks and realized they needed to surrender their lives to Jesus. That’s why they brought the clothes and towels, so they could be baptized then and there. They didn’t want to wait.
I asked if they had talked with someone in our decision room, but they said it was empty by the time they got there.
We went over the basics, and they seemed to know what was at stake in making this decision to follow Christ. When I had made sure they had no further questions, we went to change clothes and get ready for their baptisms.
OK, Maybe Just One Little Question
We got in the baptistery while their three young children sat still for as long as any little ones could. We prayed, and I gave both Brian and Amy a chance to verbalize their faith in Christ. Usually I baptize the guy first (as I did in Brian’s case), and then he can help baptize his wife, which I think is a pretty neat thing for them to remember through the years.
But after Amy was baptized and we all hugged, she didn’t want to leave the baptistery. Instead she said, “OK, I was wrong. I do have some more questions.” I reassured her that we all will have plenty more questions along the way, but she insisted I address this one before leaving the water.
Amy had a simple question that needed a simple answer. “All right,” she said. “Does this now mean that everything we’ve ever done, and I mean everything, will be forgiven?”
I loved that question! And even though I’d already preached four messages that weekend, I had one more in me. I realized how important it was for them to know the assurance of Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Brian and Amy didn’t offer any big, deep, dark, secretive confession. They just wanted to know if God’s forgiveness really takes our sins “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). It seemed especially reassuring to Amy that God was willing and able to cleanse us that thoroughly and that he went out of his way to remind us of that certainty.
After that, we all went up the steps to dry off, change, and find their kids who, by this time, had wandered off to various parts of the building. I followed up with them later, and they got involved in a small group and an area of ministry shortly after that.
But to be honest, after a couple of years, I lost track of them. The church grew a lot in a short amount of time, and unfortunately on my part, I didn’t check up on them like I’d hoped to, especially after such a memorable encounter.
God’s Gracious Prompting
Two weeks before I wrote this I was preaching and encouraging people to take the next step of surrender to Christ. And at one, and only one, of the four services, I mentioned Brian and Amy’s example of being willing to follow Christ, even when you still had a couple of unanswered questions. This short anecdote about Brian and Amy wasn’t in my notes, and I felt bad mentioning them since I wasn’t even sure they were still coming to church. I just felt led to.
After the service that day, I took an unusual way around the side of the building, and of all things, ran into Brian and Amy. I hadn’t seen them up close in a few years and was just glad to see they were still coming.
But Amy had another surprise for me that, once again, caught me off guard. She told me she and Brian had been having a difficult time in their marriage that past year and they hadn’t been to church for quite a long time.
And then she began to tear up and said they came to church that weekend to ask God for a sign about whether they should stay together or separate. She said when I mentioned them in the sermon, they felt it was a sign from God to renew their belief in his power to keep them together. Amy said, with God’s help, they were recommitting to their marriage.
Always Blown Away
God never ceases to amaze me. That was the only service that weekend I mentioned Brian and Amy, and for the life of me, I wasn’t really even conscious of doing it. But God knew their names needed to be mentioned.
I am a firm believer God wants those of us who preach to work hard at the message before, during, and even after our first delivery. But I also believe that sometimes he just brings things to mind for us to mention, whether from the stage or in the parking lot. Things that he wants to have said for someone else’s benefit.
I’m following up this time with Brian and Amy. For one reason, I don’t want to lose track of them again. And for another, most people in our churches need significant doses of affirmation, community, challenge, and also multiple friendships. Come to think of it, so do I.
I’m not looking for the next couple God will miraculously place upon my heart to mention. But I am hoping to be more sensitive to the leading of his Spirit in how I listen to him and how I speak for him.
George Ross serves as senior pastor with Northside Christian Church in New Albany, Indiana. The church has grown from 1,200 to nearly 6,000 during his 10 years of ministry there. A graduate of Lincoln (Illinois) Christian College and Cincinnati (Ohio) Bible Seminary, he has ministered with churches in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and Nevada. George and his wife, Sue Linn, have two grown children. George’s daughter, Rachel, leads Forget Me Not Ministries in Oradea, Romania, where she lives with her adopted daughter, Izabela. His son, Nathan, serves as membership pastor at Northside.