Just One Person Can Make a Difference in Your Church

A seed planted by one person can change everything for you and your church. | by Alton Garrison

What could one person do to accomplish God’s mission on the earth through your church?

I think we could say with confidence that Abraham Lincoln changed his world, from writing his Gettysburg Address, which inspired a nation, to seeing our country through a brutal civil war that helped abolish slavery.

Winston Churchill saw England and the Allies through dark days and some of the worst moments in World War II and inspired free nations to continue to fight against the tyranny of Hitler’s Germany. Certainly, the world would be different if Hitler had crossed the English Channel.

We could probably all agree that Nelson Mandela, who spent twenty years in jail for his opposition to apartheid, helped bring healing to an entire country with his magnanimous attitude toward former enemies when he emerged from prison a matured man and became an influential president in South Africa.

Mother Teresa’s life of poverty and outreach to others was so powerful that it didn’t just change the lives of the people in India but provided a platform for her compassion to change the lives of countless millions around the world.

One person can make a difference. The names I’ve listed are just a few heroes of humanity, but you don’t have to be one of these paragons to make a difference.

Is it possible that even the young daughter of a drug addict could do the same?

The Mason Jar

Can one person really adopt the Great Commission and the Great Commandment?

Years ago, I was receiving a missions offering, and a six-year old girl brought me a mason jar with $12.45 in it. She told me, “I’ve been saving money to buy my mommy a house, but I want to give it to you for these Bibles.” Her mother was a drug addict, strung out on meth and facing twenty-three felony counts and three years in prison. The little girl had no idea that what she could save in a jar would never buy a house. All she knew was that something was broken in her home, and she was trying to help fix it.

I didn’t want to take that money from the little girl, and I tried to give it back to her because I knew a bit about her situation. I knew her grandfather, who was a pastor. Her mother, the pastor’s daughter, had been raised in church, had attended Sunday school, and had been a regular at church camp. But she had lost her way and had become a dysfunctional individual. Her little daughter was present that night at her grandfather’s church where I was speaking because the court had taken her children from her care and placed them with the grandparents. That’s what I knew and why I couldn’t bear to take the contents of her mason jar.

She was so insistent and passionate, however, that I took that mason jar and gave the money to buy Bibles for China. Her unselfish act of generosity was an inspiration to others. Later, I took her and her grandparents to a missions banquet where we were raising funds to buy more Bibles—and by telling her story, those present were moved to pledge more than $2 million for Bibles.

The power of one little girl’s faith changed countless lives. She filled one mason jar with $12.45, but it was a seed, like the widow’s mite, in the hands of God. She was thinking of buying a house, but the Holy Spirit was thinking of restoring a home. She planted a seed, and it not only inspired millions of dollars for Bibles but produced fruit within her own family.

Miraculously, when her mother stood before the judge to face the consequences of her actions, she didn’t receive what she expected. “You deserve no mercy,” he told her. “Your parole officer says you’re the worst case he’s ever dealt with. You’ve lost your home, your husband, your job, your dignity, and your children—they’ve been taken away from you.” He paused, considering, before saying something unexpected: “I don’t know why I’m doing this . . . but I’m going to give you one more chance.”

She went to a halfway house instead of prison, and the real harvest of that little girl’s seed was that her mother was saved and delivered.

Ten years later, that mother is a worship leader in church and sings praises to the Lord nearly every week. They’ve had trouble, including relapses, but the power of one little girl’s faith meant a world of difference to her mother and continues to inspire others every time I share her story.

We have a mission as a corporate church, but we can’t fulfill it without individuals.

The Power of One

When we talk about the church, we think of a body of individuals who seek and serve the Lord together. We think of the power of “together” and what the Lord can do through a passionate leader and a group of Spirit-empowered believers.

While it’s important for us to understand the power of “together,” “together” can’t occur if one person doesn’t volunteer. “Together” begins with just one person.

Talking about “one” makes me think of a song that included the line, “One is the loneliest number.” While the songwriters had it right that one person can be lonely and ineffectual, they weren’t completely correct. You see, it only takes one person adopting the universal mission of the church to make an extraordinary difference. Throughout church history, God has used the vision, love, and courage of individuals to change the course of history. In many cases, these people appeared to be the most unlikely candidates for greatness, but they were humble enough to recognize two essential facts: their inadequacy and God’s supreme adequacy. Trusting Him, they changed the world.

The revitalization of any church begins when even one person catches the dream of the Holy Spirit’s empowerment to accomplish His mission on the earth. One person can’t save the world, but one person with hope can start something else: revitalization.

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