What is your legacy?
Many evangelists have asked the jarring question, “Will anyone be in heaven because of you?” Scratch your head and think long and hard before answering.
Sadly, for many followers of Jesus Christ the answer is, “I don’t think so.”
But some leave an incredible legacy.
I am an example of one such legacy.
In the summer of 1950 my parents were in Portland, Oregon, visiting my 12 year old brother in Shriner’s Hospital after another surgery for an injury during birth.During that fateful trip my mother and father went to the Billy Graham crusade and accepted Jesus Christ, beginning a lifelong walk with the Lord. Thanks to that moment of decision, I was raised in a Christian home.
Fast forward to 53 years later. My wife and I are at Graham’s San Diego crusade with my niece, our daughter, future son-in-law, and 8 year old grandson. That night I had the indescribable joy of walking with my grandson to the stadium floor to receive Christ in his heart.
Two years later I was invited to become a pastor at Saddleback Church, a world reaching church with global impact.
It is an understatement to say that Billy Graham’s life had a profound impact on my life. His faithfulness to God’s call on his life changed the arc of my existence from temporal to eternal.
It was not my choice to go to the Billy Graham crusade that night. It was at the invitation of my niece. What stops me is the sudden realization that my grandson Roman is going to be in heaven because of her.
It was a simple act. An invitation. “Let’s go!”
Yes, it was a disruption of our busy schedule, as we were living well in the bubble of Orange County California. Despite my upbringing, I had only come to Christ 18 years earlier because of a young pastor that had made the bold decision to move hundreds of miles from home to start a church for the unchurched. He was influenced by another evangelist, Robert H. Schuller.
There are few Billy Graham’s and Robert Schuller’s in the world today, but there are millions of believers in Christ. Why the vast divide between impact and self-absorbed existence?
Musician Dan Tyminski sings in Southern Gothic, “We’ve got a church on every corner, so why does heaven feel so far away?”
It is because we simply hit “like” to posts, instead of doing what we say we believe.
So, where do you sit in all of this?
Are you sitting on the sidelines, watching the players on the field of eternity, cheering them on while you text and post and answer emails?
Or are you suited up, jumping up and down on the sidelines, begging the coach to “send me in?”
The contrast between these two is the difference between a life and a legacy.
As one who came to Christ in his mid-30s after flailing around at life, my gratitude at being saved knew no bounds. I was “all in.” I didn’t know how to tell others about Christ, but I tried. At every opportunity I shared what God had done in my life. When I started serving the homeless and working poor in motels I still was not very effective at sharing the gospel, preferring to wait until the perfect time and mouthing words I had heard others use.
The first couple of times in the motels I felt awkward and unprepared, just smiling, shaking hands, serving food and trying to connect in conversation. Over time, the Holy Spirit gave me words to simply share my story about what God was doing and had done in my life. Most of the time I had no prepared thoughts, no “Roman road” to take people down, no evangelical formula. But people started making decisions for Christ and I got the privilege of being there when our Savior met them.
It took no effort on my part, except for showing up and being available and willing. God gave me the words and He touched the hearts. The role I played did not require me. It could have been played by any believer. But it changed my life.
My good friend Horace Willard went home to heaven two years ago at age 95. He had personally led close to 15,000 people to Christ. I spent every Thursday morning with him for close to ten years as he patiently mentored me. He loved MotelChurch, and spoke to our leadership team several times.
Horace would often tell me the story through tears of a dream he once had. He was standing with Jesus on a road side as a line of thousands of people walked past. As they passed him and Jesus some were branching off of the road to the sounds of singing and laughter. Many more were going a different direction and in the distance he could hear screaming and crying. For some of the latter, they said these words to Horace as they passed him, “Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you help me find what you had found?” Horace would start crying softly as the story of his dream ended. He would look at me through soft, tear-streaked eyes and say softly, “I never want to have that dream come true. I will do everything I can to tell everyone I meet that Jesus Christ is the Savior.”
And so, how do you leave a legacy.
You make one.
One life at a time.
You can start by volunteering at MotelChurch.
Just serve some food, smile at a guest, give them a hug, ask for their story, and let God lead you the rest of the way.