“You mean to tell me you’ve never been kicked out of the house by your wife?” All eight guys around the table were staring at me like I had just grown a second head. I was weird. DIfferent. Out of place. For two years I had been playing pickup basketball and summer league softball with the same group of men. All in their twenties and thirties. All pretty good guys. None of them Christians. And I loved hanging with them. This particular comment was made one evening after we won our softball game and had settled into the Gold Nugget Bar and Grill for some drinks and grub.
The bar was packed as usual. Beer was served in a five gallon pail. Literally. The food was greasy but good. Music was loud. Folks were playing cards, pool, and catching the end of the Brewers game. Our team commandeered a table and we began catching up on the week. Chris, our team leader, was telling us about the new law offices he was having remodeled. He was young. Successful. In his early thirties and just recently had gotten married again. His first marriage was pretty volatile and this second gal was known to have a temper as well. She was a former stripper he had an affair with while with his first wife. As he described his plans for his new law offices, he talked about putting in a bed, a refrigerator, and a big-screen for when his wife kicked him out of the house. All of the guys around the table were laughing and nodding and punching him in the arm. Typical guy stuff. A lot of them could relate. They had all had issues with their wives at different points in time. I remember one guy had even labeled his wife – “Der Fuhrer” – on his caller ID and played “Flight of the Valkyries” every time she called! I listened to the banter for a while but eventually jumped in with this question, “Can you imagine having such a good relationship with your wife that she would never want to kick you out?”
Conversation stopper. “What are you talking about?” Chris asked. I shared with them that I had been married for over fifteen years at that point and had never been kicked out of my house. They were stunned. “It must be because you’re a pastor and your wife knows God would be mad at her if she ever did” one guy joked. We all laughed. “Seriously, can you guys imagine what that might look like?” I pressed. And we ended up having an incredible two hour conversation about life and marriage and what it means to serve our wives as husbands. “Where did you learn all this?” They asked. “Preacher training?” “No. I learned it from a guy named Jesus.” I replied.
Once upon a time, God tapped a guy on the shoulder by the name of Abraham. Told him He would be His God and that Abraham and his descendents would become His family. “In you – in your family – all the nations of the earth will be blessed.” Centuries passed. At times, Abraham’s family fulfilled their calling. The nations around them were blessed. At other times, Abraham’s family failed and went to war with the nations or even with each other. Then a baby was born named Jesus. The true seed of Abraham. The true child of promise. And he renewed God’s promise to Abraham. He told his followers – the men and women who had become His family – to go into all the nations and make disciples. Baptize. Teach. In essence, grow God’s family.
What does it mean to “go into all the nations?” I think it means immersing ourselves in our communities. Going to places like the Gold Nugget or Fika Coffee or the Tailgate. Finding places where the people of our town or city gather to have fun. I think it means building relationships on softball fields or playing basketball. Intentionally joining our co-workers at lunch or break time. Hanging out at block parties. Grabbing a beer or a cup of coffee at the favorite local joint. So much of sharing our faith begins by just getting in close, physical proximity with those God wants to reach. As we do that and as we build relationships then opportunities come naturally. Organically. It won’t feel forced or artificial because the person we’re talking to will know we want what’s best for them.
I am grateful I got the chance to share Jesus with the guys that night. But looking back, I recognize that what God had planned for that evening was literally almost two years in the making. Hours and hours of basketball and softball and many nights hanging out at the Gold Nugget. Immersing myself in their world made the difference because they knew I didn’t have an agenda. I just loved them. Loved them for who they were, warts and all. I didn’t pretend to be anything I’m not. They knew I was a pastor. They knew I was planting a church. I didn’t try to hide anything just be myself. Many of them started coming to me for counseling after that evening. Conversations went deeper from that point forward. I wish I could tell you that I led them all to Christ but that’s not what happened and that’s not even really the point. The point is that I was faithful to the opportunities God gave me to proclaim “good news” for their marriages. For their families. For their lives. And I trust God will keep working on them in the years ahead.