Young Life and One Man’s Spiritual Heritage

“You were instrumental in leading my husband to Christ. You led my Young Life leader to Christ. My Young Life leader led a friend of mine to Christ. And this friend told me about Christ. You are my spiritual heritage.”

YoungLifeRelationships

If you are a Christian, how did you become one? I don’t mean theologically (saved by grace), but logistically. Did you come to Christ because of an advertisement on TV or in a newspaper? Did you come to Christ because somebody you didn’t know handed you a tract or knocked on your door? Or did you come to Christ because you were invited to a church or evangelistic event by someone you knew—either a friend, relative or somebody you worked with? I think I know your answer. Ken Gire writes of a man by the name of Scott Manley with Young Life, who reached out to high school students on the campus of Arlington Heights High School (Ft. Worth Texas) in the late ’60s.

“He showed up in a pair of Converse All Stars, gym shorts, T-shirt, a handshake and a smile. Several of us on the basketball team were playing a pickup game in the gym, and this young seminary student from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary worked his way into the game. Over the weeks ahead he kept showing up. At lunch. After school. In the parking lot. And before long, he worked his way into our lives.”

Scott was working through that ministry called Young Life that builds relationships with high school students, establishes clubs and sponsors Bible study groups, all for the purpose of reaching out with the saving message of Christ in places where churches often cannot go. Ken reflects that he doesn’t remember any of Scott’s talks, only the music of the message: I love you. I care about you. You matter. Your pain matters. Your struggles matter. Your life is sacred and dear to God. He has a future for you, plans and hopes and dreams for you, and blessings for you. And the music streamed into Ken’s heart, and Ken became a Christian, going on to Texas Christian University, where he turned around and led a Young Life club himself. Also on the leadership team was a young woman named Judy, who would one day become Ken’s wife. Judy had become a Christian through a classmate, who had become a Christian through her Young Life leader, who had become a Christian through… Scott Manley.

One day, Ken and Judy ran into Scott at a conference they were attending together, along with three of their four children. Judy, who had never met Scott, went up to him, and said, “You don’t know me, but I’m Judy Gire, Ken Gire’s wife.” They hugged, then she continued. “There’s something I’ve been wanting to tell you for a long time.” Years of emotion welled up inside her. “Scott, you were instrumental in leading my husband to Christ. You led my Young Life leader to Christ. My Young Life leader led a friend of mine to Christ. And this friend told me about Christ. You are my spiritual heritage. These are three of our four children. This is Kelly, and she knows Jesus. This is Rachel, and she knows Jesus. This is Stephen, and he knows Jesus. And Gretchen, our oldest, she isn’t here but she knows Jesus too. All of us know Jesus because of Scott Manley. Thank you so much. Thank you.”

Scott threw his arms around her, and for a long time they wept together.     

Don’t let evangelism scare you or put you off. It’s one of the most important and rewarding investments you can ever make—not only for your own spirituality, but for the spiritual lives of others in our world. Just ask Ken and Judy. Or ask me. Even better, just ask yourself.

Samuel Shoemaker once wrote a poem that captures the importance of this for us all:

I stand by the door.
I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out.
The door is the most important door in the world—
It is the door through which men walk when they
find God.
There’s no use my going way inside, and staying there,
When so many are still outside and they, as much as I,
Crave to know where the door is.
And all that so many ever find
Is only the wall where a door ought to be.
They creep along the wall like blind men,
With outstretched, groping hands,
Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door,
Yet they never find it…
So I stand by the door.
The most tremendous thing in the world
Is for men to find that door—the door to God.
The most important thing any man can do
Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands,
And to put it on the latch—the latch that only clicks
And opens to the man’s own touch.
Men die outside that door, as starving beggars die
On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter—
Die for want of what is within their grasp.
They live, on the other side of it—live because they have
found it.
Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it,
And open it, and walk in, and find Him.
So I stand by the door.

And so should we all.

 

Adapted from James Emery White, After “I Believe”: Everyday Practices for a Vibrant Faith (Baker), order from Amazon.

James Emery White
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.