“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” Mark 1:17
I grew up in a church where an organ played to signal the service was almost over. I usually felt relief when I heard the first chords play, but around fourth grade, I began to feel anxious. You see, we expected people to walk down the aisle if they wanted to ask Jesus into their hearts. First came the altar call, then a scheduled baptism in front of everyone.
As a timid, shy kid, both of those things scared me to death.
It's not that I didn't believe in Jesus (although I couldn't remember a time I didn't believe since I'd been raised in church and bought in early). But, I'd experienced the "moment." It was the one adults often talked about, the point where I acknowledged I wasn't perfect (a.k.a. I had sins) and I put my faith in a savior. I chose Jesus.
I'd silently prayed the Sinner's Prayer with our pastor while sitting in a pew toward the back of the sanctuary during Vacation Bible School. But in our church, raising my hand while all of the other kids' "heads were bowed and eyes closed" wasn't enough. To become an official Christian (or so I was told), I needed to walk the scary aisle—in front of the adults—the following Sunday morning.
I didn't want to do it, but I eventually did.
The Ultimate Invitation
I won't go into my opinions on churches requiring people to walk a long aisle to accept Christ and get baptized, but I will say I've grown in my faith and learned this is one of many ways someone can choose to follow Jesus and make it public.
All throughout the New Testament, the writers are careful to show how Jesus acted and spoke. When it came to inviting new followers, Jesus was both challenging and compassionate. His invitations to, "Come, follow me," did require that people drop everything. But, people were often invited into a walk, meal or conversation. He didn't pressure people to make a decision. He didn't coerce them into spaces that stirred up anxiety or scare them with the idea of hell. He didn't make following Him a show or performance. Heck, sometimes it was hardly a process. It wasn't ever about anyone other than Jesus and the person being addressed. The call to follow Him was calm and kind.
I appreciate so many things about my Christian upbringing, especially the people who loved me and the rhythms of faith I learned early on in my life. But, I will admit that I felt scared to publicly follow Jesus because of the process presented before me. Jesus doesn't call us into fear, He calls us into faith. For some, that may look like walking an aisle during the altar call. But for others, Christ's invitation to follow Him may come in a much different, subtler way. The question isn't, "Are you ready to walk the aisle?" but instead, "Will you follow?"
Prayer: Jesus, I want to hear you saying, "Come, follow me" today. Help clear out anything in my way of following your call.
Practical: How is Jesus saying, "Come, follow me" to you today? It may look like praying to invite Him into your life for the first time. (Here's help for that.) For believers, He continues to invite us to follow even after that first prayer. It may look like making a hard phone call, pausing to pray, fasting, going to church, reading your Bible, serving someone else, or loving someone who is hard to love. What both challenges you yet also brings your heart peace? That's a good sign it's God.
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