Sunday, June 24, 2001

As many as I can

Religion Columnist

When I was a little boy I was a happy-go-lucky kid cheerful and smiling most of the time.

I liked my life and things just seemed OK for me for the most part. I had a great and loving mom and dad, I liked school, and I loved playing anything sports, games, whatever. My life was fun. My life was happy.

BUT I remember that in spite of my happiness, I worried a lot about one thing. I just couldn't get it off my mind. Whenever I stopped to think about important things, this one thought seemed constantly to come into my mind. I couldn't shake it. It just never went away. It was always there.

What was that thought that bothered my otherwise cheery childhood?

It was this What's going to happen to the people who don't know Jesus?

You need to know right here and now that even though my dad was a pastor, I did not always behave like a miniature saint! I could get in trouble with the best of them. I didn't usually set out to get in trouble, but there were many times when I did things that I thought were just slightly outside the rules and therefore not bad, OR I did things that I thought for sure I would not get caught doing.

Well, I discovered that my definition of "just slightly outside the rules" was a bit different from my parents' and teachers' understanding of the same. And as sneaky as I sometimes thought I was, I got caught my fair share and ended up paying the consequences enforced on me by my disappointed and irritated superiors.

The point here is this: I was not a pious junior pastor at age 6 or 8 or 10 or 16 with a halo shining above my head, and I sure did NOT go around with ONLY theological questions and ONLY evangelism concerns.

But this one thing ... this one question ... this one burning spot in my soul ... kept surfacing over and over again in my boyhood: What's going to happen to the people who don't know Jesus?

I had found such comfort and security in knowing Jesus. I knew I was never alone. I knew I was never unloved no matter how bad I was. I knew I was never without help and guidance and direction. I knew I was never in a hopeless mess. BECAUSE I knew Jesus!

And from an early age I figured out that it was even better and more important that Jesus knew me! And he loved me! WOW! That mattered! That made a difference! I couldn't make it without Him!

And if all my other more sophisticated understandings failed, I always knew ...

Jesus loves me, this I know; For the Bible tells me so.

Little ones to Him belong; They are weak, but he is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me; Yes, Jesus loves me;

Yes, Jesus loves me, The Bible tells me so!

I KNEW THAT! But my experiences in my growing little world and in my blossoming understanding of a universe much bigger than my backyard made me realize the disturbing truth that not everyone knew Jesus. And not eveyone knew that Jesus loved them! And not everyone knew that they needed Jesus to save them from their sin. And not everyone knew the good thing Jesus is in this world and the great thing he is for the next.

Not everyone knew.

So I wrestled what's going to happen to people who don't know Jesus? They must be so sad. They must be so lost. They must be so miserable. I just can't stand to think that some people don't know Jesus.

Then, one day, Jesus answered my question. I'm serious. As direct as from me to you. He said this to my spirit, "Justin, you let me worry about what's going to happen to the people who don't know Me. You just make sure you tell as many people as you can about me. Every one you tell will be one less that doesn't know me. And one more you don't have to worry about."

WOW again! I remember the time I thought to myself that if I could tell even just one person about Jesus and have that be the start of that person's faith relationship with him, that would be great! This would probably fulfill my life's purpose! But then the phrase "as many people as you can" kept ringing and ringing in my head and heart.

And so I come to the present. ..."as many people as you can" ... and I'm not done yet ... or more exactly "Jesus isn't done with me yet." There are so many more to tell. Who will it be still today? Who will it be tomorrow? How

many more next week? How many more next year? How many more in my earthly lifetime?

Why do I tell you all this? Just to let you know why I'm a little nuts about God's work. Just to let you know why I'm a little nuts about our congregation's ministry. Just to let you know why I'm a little nuts about growing and expanding our mission to tell others together.

Just to let you know why I'm a little nuts about getting more people to come to worship by calling houses every Saturday with a recorded invitation. Just to let you know why I'm a little nuts about a new parking lot for twice as many cars and people. Just to let you know why I'm a little nuts about a new buliding to reach more people and tell more people about Jesus.

It matters, you know. It matters a lot!

My prayer is that you, my fellow Christians, also have a burning spot for people who don't know Jesus. And you, too, want to tell as many people as YOU can about Jesus. And you, too, are a little nuts about God's work in your church.

I know I'll be doing this 'til the day I die. Let's do it together! Won't that be great?

[Kollmeyer is senior pastor of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church on Ga. Highway 314 in Fayetteville, between Lowe's and The Pavilion. Contact him at 770-461-3403 or at]


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