A young German woman, Hanna, invited all her neighbours in her apartment complex to church by an invitation and a small gift in their mailboxes. She had to explain to Carsten, her neighbour, what the intention was with this gesture so that he did not misinterpret it. The young German woman attended an evangelical church in her city of Cologne, and she often boldly invited people to visit there with her.
INTRIGUED AND INTERESTED
The invitation to church intrigued him. He hadn’t been inside a church in years! He took his neighbour up on the invite and accompanied her the following Sunday. There, she introduced him to her pastor Manni and GEM worker Jim Budlong.
Carsten had grown up attending and even playing the organ in his local state-run Lutheran church. But that experience had been more about ritual and had lacked any kind of emphasis on knowing Christ personally. It didn’t take him long to notice that Hanna’s church was different. It felt so alive, and the people in the congregation took their faith seriously in a way he had never seen before.
It was all so new and interesting that Carsten kept coming back every Sunday.
“He is still seeking and hasn’t found Jesus yet,” says Jim, “but he’s experiencing Christianity in a whole new way.”
Jim has been studying the book of 1 John with Carsten, showing him how to search the text and analyse it to pull out the true meaning. This seeking unbeliever shows an incredible hunger to understand God’s Word.
Both Jim and Manni have talked to him about taking a step of faith. “This is a big decision, and I am not going to just jump into it,” Carsten says.
PATIENCE IN RELATIONSHIP
So, Jim faithfully and patiently persists in the relationship. Carsten had a stroke a few years back and is trying to retrain the left side of his body. During worship practice at the church, he often comes in and plays the piano in an adjacent room, trying to regain mobility and strength in his left hand. One of Jim’s goals is to eventually play a duet with him.
He is constantly seeking ways to be involved in the church, even helping to organise men’s group meetings. He regularly looks for opportunities to help others.
“I see a joy in Carsten that was not there when he first began coming to church,” says Jim. “I think there is a new awakening in him, and he is realising that faith is about more than just going through the motions.”
Motivated by 1 John 1:3, which says, Like John we can share what we’ve experienced in Christ so that they can also have fellowship with Jesus, Jim plans to continue to be there for Carsten until he is ready to take that leap of faith.
WORTH WAITING FOR
Between Hanna’s willingness to step out in boldness and risk an awkward misunderstanding and Jim and Manni’s hopeful, steadfast presence in Carsten’s life, a man who might otherwise never have set foot back inside a church is now regularly attending one and learning how to study the Bible.