My Uncle Mike passed away a few months ago, but so much of him remains in my memory — big frame, impossible mustache; Santa each Christmas, grouchy a good bit of the remaining year; huge laugh, ridiculous nicknames, clowning for the kids, his eyes meeting mine and welling up with tears.
He cried every time I saw him pray.
Uncle Mike felt like a spiritual grandpa to me, and I recently found out why — he led both of my parents to the Lord.
In June I went to Chicago to be with my family for the memorial service. On the way back to the airport I asked my dad to tell me the story of how he became a Christian. Dad told me that my uncle had always been a wild man, but someone had invited him to church along the way and he had an encounter with God that changed his life.
Shortly after this, my aunt and uncle kept inviting my parents to church. When my parents finally went, my mom met Jesus. This development was kind of bothersome to my dad, who wasn’t really looking for God at the moment. He told my mom one Saturday night, “If you and your brother want to go to church, fine! It’s just not my thing, Can we talk about something else?” But my dad loves my mom, and as he watched her getting ready for church the next morning he decided to go with her.
He was patiently waiting out the sermon when he began to sense something happening within himself. The pastor offered a standard altar call and my dad said he was suddenly overwhelmed with a desire to respond. Before he knew what was happening, he says, he was on his feet and moving towards the stage. When he looked up, there was Uncle Mike, arms opened wide, eyes meeting my dad’s and welling up with tears. They hugged and they prayed together.
And I grew up with parents who knew God loved them and showed me that God loves me.
So for me, eternal life began before I was even born, with my Uncle Mike inviting my parents to church, eager to give away the love and acceptance that he felt from God. And for my Uncle Mike, eternal life began with whoever it was who invited him to church.
A small invitation can have a massive effect.
In September we’ll begin, as a church, our 25th Alpha Course. Alpha is an introduction to the Christian faith. In the 14 years we’ve hosted this 12-week course we have seen 350 people graduate and more than 150 decide to follow Jesus and be baptized.
And every one of them was somebody’s uncle, somebody’s aunt, someone’s mom or dad.
And each of them was invited by someone who saw them and realized that God saw them too.
And who knows how many lives have been changed. All from an invitation.
Alpha starts up on Tuesday, September 13th at 630pm and is open to anyone asking questions about Jesus. For more information go here.