You never know what’s going to happen in your driveway.
When we pulled into our neighborhood, my wife was the first one in the car to notice the bicycles parked in the grass. When I saw them, I didn’t give them a second thought. Her reaction was quite different.
She started cheering.
“The Mormons are here! The Mormons are here!”
When we pulled into our driveway, we saw that my wife was right. The Mormons really were here. The two young men were leaving the house across the street. Nobody was home. Well, at least nobody answered the door. There may have been a few sets of eyes peeping though the blinds to see if the coast was clear.
When we parked, my wife went to check the mail. I emphasize that phrase because she didn’t care anything about checking the mail. She just wanted to make contact with the Mormons. I followed and we began our conversation with the two young men at the point where our driveway meets the street.
My wife and son went inside while I talked to the Mormons. We started out with small talk. As our conversation turned to weightier theological matters, I would soon experience one of my proudest moments as a pastor.
I told them to give me their pitch. My aim was to politely listen to their beliefs before sharing what the Bible says about Jesus being God. They had different plans.
“You first. Tell us your religious background.”
I told them that I was a Southern Baptist pastor. They weren’t shocked. Recent studies show that three out of four people in the state of Georgia are Southern Baptist pastors. The other guy works for The Waffle House.
They asked me for the name of the church that I pastor.
“Towaliga Baptist Church.”
Again, they weren’t shocked.
And that shocked me.
When I say Towaliga Baptist Church to people who have spent their whole lives in Georgia, they look at me like I just started talking backwards. And then they always ask the same question.
“Now how do you pronounce that?”
I tell them.
And then they practice. Right in front of me.
“Talladega? Talladega! Do you know Dale Jr.?”
It’s quite fun to watch. I feel sorry for the pastors of churches with simpler names like Grace Community Church of the Organic Spiritual Journey at the CrossPointe Campus. Those guys are really missing out.
But there was no awkward conversation or pronunciation classes with the Mormons from Utah. When I said Towaliga, it’s as if I said something about skiing or Napoleon Dynamite.
Their eyes got big and they laughed.
“Oh yeah. We know all about that church.”
I was confused. They must have us mistaken for Talladega. People from Utah do not know all about our church.
But these two did. I asked them why.
“We went to a house the other day and met a guy named Reggie from your church. He laid it on us pretty good.”
Reggie is a great friend and a leader in our church. He called me a few days before my meeting with these Mormons. Like most of our phone conversations, it was a quick one.
“Hey, I just got to talk to two Mormons in my driveway. They’ll probably be at church in a few Sundays. I think I laid it on them pretty good. Be praying.”
He gave me their contact info and I made plans to call them. I never got around to it. So God sent them to my driveway.
Our conversation ended with the usual disagreements about who Jesus really is and the authority of the Bible. I was sad when those two kids left my driveway. I’m still praying for God to show them the true gospel and lead them to faith in the true Jesus.
But I was happy too.
I was happy to be a part of a church with a reputation. Actually every church has a reputation. Some are known as entertainment complexes where crowds flock for a few kicks and some spiritual pep. Others are known as gigantic graveyards where the only sign of life is the firing of yet another pastor every few years.
But some are known for the gospel they proclaim and the people who lovingly live it out.
People will forget about our huge buildings and extravagant programs. Any organization can offer those things. But the gospel is different. When a church takes the gospel seriously and cares enough for others to engage them with that message of hope, a cross-shaped impression is left.
One day, those two young men will probably go back home to Utah. They’ll take with them stories about pollen, sweet tea and Southern Baptists. I just hope that’s not all. I hope that they’ll tell a story that begins in the pollen stained driveways of a few folks who go to a church with a funny name. I hope that they’ll tell a story that ends with their being rescued by God’s saving grace.
You never know what God will do with a few simple conversations in driveways.