Remember the old television show, The Invisible Man? When someone wanted to make the Invisible Man visible, they would pour paint on him. Then you could see his shape and track his movements.
That’s a picture of Jesus and the local church: we’re the paint that makes the invisible Christ visible to our community.
In our fellowship, our multi-cultural diversity, our selfless acts of love, our forgiveness and boldness, we reveal the contours of the eternal, heavenly Christ that dwells within us. When local churches equip their people to embody the gospel in the streets, they make the movements of an otherwise invisible Christ visible to the community.
This is one of the reasons that we engage in the messy work of local outreach. At the most fundamental level, we reach out to the hurting and vulnerable in our community because God loves them. But we also know that our acts of service make the good news of the gospel tangible and believable to those who feel far from God.
Last week at the Summit, we heard a story that illustrates this perfectly. One of our members had been getting to know a group of single mothers through one of our local ministries. Here is what she said about a woman she had recently met, named Lorraine:
Lorraine is new to Durham. She met a man at Social Services who was helping another pregnant couple. He told her about the Summit and invited her. Later on, she entered the Community Choices program, where one of the staff members told her about God.
Then another mom from the program gave her my info, about my small group. So eight days into her program, she calls me, telling me how amazed she is that God keeps “coming up” throughout her day. We chat about life and about God. She says that she has this huge Bible and wants to read it at night, but isn’t sure where to start. I told her to read Psalm 139, because of its message that God sees her, knows her, and loves her. She turned to it while we were still on the phone, and I heard her yell because those verses were underlined—the only markings in the whole Bible.
I invited her to the Summit. And there was more yelling there, because it turns out the man she met at Social Services attends my campus, too. Lorraine came to church, then came to our small group—and loved it. She told me she was convinced that God is real and moving in her life. But she wasn’t sure about Jesus.
The next week, she came to church with my husband and me. Every song, the sermon (which included Psalm 139!), and the prayer at the end clearly told the Gospel: Jesus in my place. At one point, Lorraine took my hand and cried. I whispered, “Jesus.”
Clearly God was pursuing Lorraine. Just about everyone in her life recognized it, even her. And then, just a few days ago, she went public with faith in Christ, in one of the most beautiful ways. This is just a snapshot of a blog post she wrote last week, entitled, “She Was Saved.
There were many times in the past I would look back at my life and reflect. It always took form in either a eulogy or an obituary. How people would speak about me when I was dead. I often thought of how others would sum up my existence and it was always sad. For example, “Lorraine was such a smart beautiful person BUT could never get out of her own way.” A tale of a girl who could never get it together. A tale of woe, of a child of abandonment, abuse, a lost soul, a beautiful disaster.
When I came to Durham, I was running from myself, I had no expectations. … I knew without a doubt I would tornado my way through this town leaving a destructive path of hurt and pain behind me like have done on more than one occasion.
The seemingly endless cycle of my addiction and its destruction was exhausting. I was a slave to a self-sabotage that went against my inner most being. I knew that I held some value to life I just needed to fix something inside myself in order to figure it out. Giving up and surrendering to anything, let alone God was not in my plan. But my plan, and God’s plan were not the same by any means, and his plan was better. Thank God!!
I don’t remember when the coincidences started. The treatment program I found has an amazing team, and I was able to trust them completely, and that was amazing. That trust allowed me to be open to change and the peace I was so desperately in need of. In the DSS office lobby, I come into contact with man who was helping a couple from his church. … When I looked at him, I saw heart, I saw selflessness, I saw an honest soul, I saw my soul. I saw the true soul and I wanted to connect with that soul again. I can look back at this now and say that it was GOD showing himself to me. I believe that those who truly walk with God, his presence shines through them. And I saw it.He invited me to church. I was like, “Sure, okay,” with no real intention of following up. How can I go into a church? I was hopeless, broken, and lost. God was for the righteous. I was far from that.
Then, one day in group, we spoke about God, and love. How could I find this God? I asked about him. The group leader started speaking about Jesus and his love for us and of her experience. For a split second, in a moment of deja vu, I felt it. I relieved that I had felt this before. I had felt the wholeness. I was not born empty, I became empty. Jesus’s love never left me, it was silenced with all the crap and garbage I had put on top of it.
I found my way into a wonderful Christian woman’s orbit and called her with many questions. I had one Bible and it seemed like the biggest book I’ve come across. I had this Bible for a while and it was marked in one spot, at Psalm 139. And lo and behold when I asked what I should read she told me, “Psalm 139.” She invited me to her Bible study and welcomed me into her church, which was the same church as that the man from the DSS office. I have not missed a Bible study or church since.
My outlook on life looks very different now. I was running, lost, and terrified. But once I stopped running, I heard my name and turned around, there was Jesus. I was tired. I could not run anymore, I fell at his feet, asked for help, and surrendered. He took me up and brought me home. I am truly grateful that God has put his soldiers on my path to motivate and guide me, to answer my many questions and to welcome me. This is my salvation story, and this is only the beginning.
Wow…what a God we serve.
For more of Lorraine’s story, read her entire post here.