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Redefining Success in Sharing God’s Story

by Dean Wood
nyc15 Participant, Creekside Church of Spring, Texas

As an avid baseball fan, I understand that one should never assume a trend from a small sample size. That two-game winning streak from my favorite team 30 games out of first place? It probably doesn’t mean a trend. I have only been to nyc with Spread Truth twice, which is far too small of a sample size to predict a trend. But that hasn’t stopped me from calling Union Square Park in New York City my “Home of Existential Crisis.” I have left in tears both times I have been there, with the second time worse than the first.

Is this a trend? Time will tell. The crisis is rooted in my profession as a pastor and my role as an nyc cord group leader. I’m supposed to be an example of steady faith and evangelistic success—right? I’m not supposed to feel like an evangelistic failure. But that feeling is not uncommon for me.

This year the crisis came after my last conversation at Union Square Park. It was an exhilarating, hour-long conversation with a brilliant Jewish man in his 70s. Our time was full of philosophy, great books, hard questions, and laughter. He was the kind of man who, like many, needs a loving, Christ-following friend to regularly talk with over lunch about life and his place in God’s Story. I would love to be that friend.

I left that conversation without helping this man grasp rescue in Christ. I left wondering why I’m not more of an evangelist, more urgent and pointed with the Gospel, pressing people to decision. I left wondering why I never have lots of decisions for Christ to report to my nyc group. I left feeling defeated.

My ministry partner that day, not knowing just how broken I was feeling, later told our cord group about my hour-long conversation. She remarked, “Of all the people we talked to that day, he probably felt more loved than anyone.” I was reminded of the apostle Mark’s words describing how Jesus spoke to the rich young man: “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” That rich young man did not decide to follow Christ that day.

I doubt Jesus felt like a huge failure. I often forget that success is being content with how God made me in the place where He has called me. Success is loving people and sharing truth with them right where they are in life. Success is being obedient in the moment and leaving the results to God.

I hope to be back in NYC next summer with Spread Truth for nyc16, leading a cord and bringing another big group of people with me. I may have another existential crisis, proving that it really is a trend. My prayer, however, is not that I will avoid a crisis of faith, because that’s how faith grows. My prayer, for both myself and those who will go with me, is for courageous and loving obedience. And my prayer is for God to send some Story-telling friends to those we leave behind in New York City.

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