“Did that kid just do a backflip off the top of a ladder?” That was one of the first thoughts I remember having about Jon. It wasn’t exactly what a youth pastor wants to see on a Wednesday night but, at the same time, I’ll admit it was kind of awesome.
Jon had come to our youth ministry with some of his friends. He didn’t believe in Jesus and claimed to be an atheist. He came for the more social aspects of our youth services. We were a pretty fun group. There were people he knew and could relate to. Jon had a great sense of humor and we connected on a few things we had in common. I enjoyed spending time with him and the guys he hung out with. Week after week I’d see Jon come into our service, have a great time, stand for worship, hear a sermon, and when it was that altar call moment - nothing. Didn’t move an inch. Maybe I wasn’t a good enough preacher. Maybe that’s still true. Every week I prayed for Jon before the service and it seemed like every week was the same result.
Jump forward a little and it’s summertime now and we’re preparing to take a small group of young people to YouthQuest. I don’t remember all the details around it but just a few weeks out from the trip, someone dropped out leaving a fully funded spot out there for someone to use. I had to choose. I could have picked from handfuls of kids that were in our youth group that already knew Jesus but, to me, the choice was clear. Jon was going to YouthQuest and he didn’t even believe in Jesus - yet. I asked him if he wanted to go and have some fun. He said “Sure” because he liked the group of young people that we were taking on the trip. For weeks leading up to YouthQuest, I prayed for Jon and it was at that YouthQuest that Jon met Jesus, and his life was transformed.
Hard to believe that story happened almost 20 years ago. Every time I think about it I am reminded of this story from Luke 5.
“One day while Jesus was teaching, some Pharisees and teachers of religious law were sitting nearby. (It seemed that these men showed up from every village in all Galilee and Judea, as well as from Jerusalem.) And the Lord’s healing power was strong with Jesus. Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They tried to take him inside to Jesus, but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they went up to the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, “Young man, your sins are forgiven.” Luke 5:17-20 NLT
An important part of the discipleship journey is coming to the place where we understand the responsibility of carrying others to Jesus. It’s been said that “Disciples make disciples, who make disciples, who makes disciples…..” I think an important part of that is realizing that, just like the men who carried their friend to Jesus, we may have to pick a friend up to get them into Jesus’ presence. It’ll be inconvenient. It’ll be hard. You may have to tear the roof off someone’s house, but it’s worth it. Notice what Jesus’ response was. He saw THEIR faith - not the young man’s faith. The act of faith by getting into a discipleship relationship with someone who doesn’t know Jesus yet might seem backward. That’s why it’s an act of faith. There was a group of us all walking together through life. Some knew Jesus well, and some were just starting the journey, Jon wasn’t left out because he didn’t believe, he came to believe because he could belong. As a disciple, who is it that you need to carry to Jesus in faith?
Bishop Scott Hampton currently serves as the Conference Superintendent of the Great Plains Conference of the IPHC. He is also privileged to serve on the IPHC Council of Bishops, Discipleship Ministries Council ,and the Southwestern Christian University Board of Trustees. Scott, his wife Heather, and their children (Shanna, Karsyn, and Paxton along with granddaughter Kinsley) live in Amarillo, TX area.