by Pastor Steve Severance.
It was one of those moments when time seems to speed up and go whizzing past you so fast that the world around you is a blur. I had planned a 45 minute program for my portion of our community kid's program but my time had been cut to just 30 minutes. And while my watch seemed to speed along like an 8 year old on Mountain Dew I struggled to get through all the material I had carefully planned: before the bell rang. As I was telling my story I mentioned something like, "this is what a Christian would do in this situation". Austin raised his hand.
"Yes Austin?" I said, hoping his question wouldn't be too long.
"What's a Christian?"
"Someone who trusts Jesus for salvation" was my totally meaningless, yet accurate answer. I hurried on with my story, but before I could get too much farther Austin's hand was waving in the air again. I waited as long as I thought I could before recognizing him. Finally I had no good excuse not to, so I asked what his question was.
"Am I a Christian?" He wanted to know.
I looked at my watch; I had no time for all this. "You are if you've confessed your sins and asked Jesus to come into your life." was my quick reply; demonstrating my vast knowledge of Christian cliché. As I continued on with my well-thought-out program, Austin's hand once again slipped skyward.
"How do you become a Christian?" he asked sincerely. While I remained calm on the outside, inwardly I was so frazzled that my vision literally seemed to blur. I had planned out a wonderful program for these kids. I had an important Biblical message I was trying to communicate, and now, not only had my time had been cut short, I kept getting interruptions! I grabbed for the first cliché that came to mind, "You have to confess your sins and ask Jesus to come into your life," I said, not even thinking about what or who I was talking about or to. My mind was on my schedule; and I was nearly out of time. Soon the bell interrupted me; I hastily closed in prayer then prepared for the next group of kids.
That evening when all the activity subsided I thought of Austin. His questions had been sincere. He wasn't from a Christian family, his mom was in jail and his dad was a drunken deadbeat whom he hadn't seen in years. He lived with his grandparents who attended a church that taught salvation by works and ceremony instead of grace. Yet through all of that, the Holy Spirit had impressed his heart. He wanted to become a real honest to goodness Christian, but when he asked me how to do it I had been so worried about my schedule that I hadn't taken time to lead this precious little boy to Jesus! It was then that I realized that I had made my schedule more important than this kid's salvation. When he asked that question I should have stopped the whole program and taken however much time was needed to explain salvation and lead Austin, and any others, in a prayer of salvation.
I confessed my sin to God and He forgave me. Then I made up a new rule for myself. "Have a schedule and don't stick to it." It sounds strange, I know, but then again sometimes a strange rule will stick better then a normal one. What my rule means is that it is important to have a schedule. I do need to plan out what I'm going to do and say or else I won't get much accomplished. But it's equally important not to chisel my plan in stone or stamp it with the seal of the Meads and Persians that cannot be altered or revoked. Keep in mind the most important things and if something more important comes up, lay aside the schedule and take the time necessary to follow up on it. The schedule can wait; the moment of conviction will not.
The next time I saw Austin I tried to talk to him about salvation but his interest had waned. The moment of conviction had passed. It was too late.
For sure, this was one of the hardest lessons I've learned as a children's minister. That's why I share it with you. I hope that you will incorporate this rule into your own life so that the next time your little "Austin" seems to disrupt your program with an important question, you can guide him right to the loving arms of his Savior who always has time for his questions. Remember, "Have A Schedule And Don't Stick To It!"