Eastview Christian Church, Normal, Illinois, is a church marked by continual encounters with Jesus. I hope that doesn’t sound boastful or bombastic. We regularly witness genuine life transformation in people of all walks and stripes. That long and incomplete list includes police officers, public school teachers, insurance employees, strippers, bartenders, drug and alcohol abusers, self-righteous religious folk, gay and lesbian, black and white, rich and poor, male and female, coaches and athletes, children and elderly, and outsiders and insiders. Some are as intentional and seeking as the pearl merchant described in Matthew 13:45, 46. Others are as unintentional and nonseeking as the Forrest Gump-like man who stumbles upon a hidden treasure in Matthew 13:44.
Just this past Sunday, seven people who had been invited into one of our small groups—initially wounded and searching because of the sudden and tragic death of a young 20-something-friend—made their way into the ECC baptistery and were immersed into Christ. Every time I see real life change like that and then watch the persistent maturing and growth that only Jesus can bring about, I am compelled and encouraged to continue my own pilgrimage.
I was one of the self-righteous religious types, outwardly saying the right things and doing the right things, but I had never met Jesus personally. Then on a providentially laced early June morning, 1973, I met the living Christ after a long night of wrestling and restlessness. Every time I see someone respond to Jesus’ ongoing invitation to follow him, my mind and heart walk back into that season of my past darkness and discouragement, and I remember again that he came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). People just like you and me. Oh, praise his name!
J.K. Jones serves as pastor of spiritual formation with Eastview Christian Church, Normal, Illinois.