By Mickey Mallory

“The strongest argument in favor of the gospel is a loving and lovable Christian.” —Ellen G. White, Ministry of Healing, p. 470

On any given Sabbath, a former Seventh-day Adventist member could show up at your church. Just curious, but what will they find if they come to your church? Will someone greet them? Will someone engage them in friendly conversation? Will they feel loved and accepted enough to want to come back?

Consider the story of Debbie. She was raised in the church and attended the church elementary school and academy for several years. Unfortunately, when she turned eighteen she decided to drop out of church. For the next forty years, she lived a very worldly lifestyle. Yet, throughout her self-imposed exile, she still believed in God.

After a number of very traumatic events, she began thinking about going back to church. At first, it was difficult because of her work schedule, but eventually she was able to find a few Sabbaths off so she could visit a church near her home. Six months later, Debbie visited my church.

When Debbie arrived at church, a number of people greeted her. She eventually made her way to the new member Sabbath School class where she introduced herself and mentioned that she used to attend a Seventh-day Adventist Church but had stopped attending many years ago. The strong smell of cigarette smoke on her clothing and hair was an example of some of the baggage she had picked up while out of the church. Fortunately, the class members looked beyond that and treated her with love and acceptance.

Debbie stayed for the worship service where she was greeted by even more members. As I was preaching about the love of Jesus on that Sabbath, I wondered to myself, what could I say that would lead Debbie to experience the love of Jesus? How could I help her see that Jesus accepted her just the way she was?

As Debbie left the church that Sabbath, I must admit that I wondered to myself whether she would come back again. Had we provided an atmosphere that was safe and loving and that would make her want to come back again? Only time would tell.

The good news is that Debbie did come back the very next Sabbath and she hasn’t stopped since. Wow! The story gets even better. Soon after she started coming back to church, she made the decision to follow Jesus with all of her heart and eventually, because of God’s marvelous grace, I had the privilege of baptizing her. Isn’t God good?

So what made the difference in swaying Debbie’s decision to come back to the Lord and His church? Was it my sermon on the love of Jesus? After talking to Debbie about her journey, she shared with me the thing that impacted her the most. It wasn’t the sermon on the love of Jesus but the love of Jesus she saw in the members of the church that made the difference. She was just so impressed by how the people in the church loved and accepted her.

Just think—there may be another Debbie out there who is being convicted by the Holy Spirit to come back to church. Who knows? They may show up this Sabbath at your church. I pray that you and your church family will love and accept them. If you do, they might come back again, like Debbie did, and never stop.  

–Mickey Mallory is RMC ministerial director. Email him at: [email protected]