I had lunch with Aaron today. It was great! We talked about faith and church and next steps in learning. We talked about getting involved in a small group study and connecting in worship. We talked about baptism and the fact that his baptism from so many years ago is still God’s promise and a sign of God’s continuing activity in his life. It was a wonderful conversation.

As I reflect on our conversation I’m blown away by how life-changing the past 3 months have been for Aaron. I met Aaron on a Sunday night in September. It was the first night of our Alpha course, and Aaron came with a friend who was helping run the course. Alpha teaches some basics of the Christian faith in a way that connects with big spiritual questions many people outside of the church ask at some point in their lives. Aaron and Ryan had discussed some spiritual topics, and Aaron had a lot of questions so Ryan invited his friend to Alpha.

Aaron arrived as a self-described skeptic. In the first few weeks of the course I learned that he left the Church about 10 years ago because he didn’t think Christianity could stand up to scientific scrutiny. The impression he got at a previous church was that he shouldn’t be asking certain questions. He appreciated the intellectual side of Alpha which includes a lot of references to archeology and historical sources in discussion of the person of Jesus and the formation of the canon. Even more, Aaron loved the discussion times at Alpha. About half way through the 12-week course he commented that the time for the videos (just under 30 minutes each week) was “just about right,” but the discussion segment (about 45 minutes) could go for twice as long and it might not be enough for him!

Every night at Alpha includes a meal, a presentation and discussion in small groups. The teaching time is when a Christian perspective is presented. During the discussion time, guests are free to respond in any way they want. They can completely disagree with what was presented. They might see some things from a very different light. We remind ourselves as hosts that “I would rather win a friend than win an argument.” The guests got to hear what I believe in the presentation. Now, it’s my turn to listen. If our guests are comfortable in the setting and appreciate the respect they’re shown, they often want to come back the next week. I know if they do that, they will hear the gospel presented week after week after week, and I trust that the Holy Spirit is at work in that.

That’s what happened with Aaron. He came back week after week, and he enjoyed what was happening week after week. Not only did his relationship with God come back to life; throughout the time together in our small group Aaron discovered friendships with God’s people. He’s got a joy and an excitement about his faith that he can’t remember experiencing before, and I’m thrilled for him! He’s anticipating some job and life changes in the coming year, but his comment to me over lunch was, “I really want to make sure this [his faith life] is strong before I make any other changes.”

This is the work of our God! He’s a Good Shepherd who goes looking for the one lost sheep no matter the cost. I’m so grateful this Good Shepherd is willing to use us in his work of seeking, finding and bringing home those lost sheep! I’m humbled that He would allow me to be part of what he’s doing in Aaron’s life.

In January [we launched] our next Alpha course, and this time Aaron [is helping to] run it. I’m thrilled to see the next chapter in his story, and I wonder how God might use him in the shaping of someone else’s story over the coming months. I’m excited for what’s ahead in 2017 because I’ve been able to see the Holy Spirit at work at the close of 2016. What are you excited about in 2017? How are you praying you’ll see God at work in the new year? Who are you praying for, and what might God do in their life?

By Rev. Matt Behrens