“Christians are made, not born.” – Tertullian, second century
What if no one ever told you about the gospel of Jesus Christ? What if your parents were Christians but decided not to ever discuss their faith with you because they didn’t want to “indoctrinate” you? What if your friend, or the random person who first talked to you about Christ, decided not to because it might be awkward?
You wouldn’t be a Christian.
Christianity is not a faith that passes through the blood. As missiologist Andrew Walls has observed, it must continuously be translated into a given culture, interact with it, and be passed on by others empowered by the Holy Spirit. Or else it withers and fades.
These truths have recently led me to be thankful for “the communion of saints”—all those Christians in the past and present—that we speak of in the Apostles’ Creed. I am particularly thankful for those saints who hold places closer than I to the trunk of my family tree. They proclaimed and embodied the faith to their children. And generations later, their actions helped lead to my baptism as an infant and acceptance of God’s wonderful gift of grace when I was older.
Looking at how God has worked long before we entered this world in order to draw us to himself reveals a beautiful picture of prevenient grace. Prevenient grace is an undeserved gift of God that goes before us, draws us to God, and ultimately prepares and enables us, a fallen humanity, to freely respond in faith to Christ.
The next few blog posts will contain excerpts of testimonies from family members of mine who God used to prepare the way for me. These people responded to God’s grace in their lives, shared the transforming power of God with others, and left a record for future generations to behold.
My hope is that these excerpts will lead you to thanksgiving for the generations of Christians before us and lead you to see how God has worked in the past and may be working in the present.
Of course, it all begins with a mother. My great, great, great, great grandmother.
Mrs. Elizabeth Talley Stuart (b. 1764) “was clear and strong and greatly imbued with the Holy Spirit, carrying the flame of God’s love in her own soul; family prayer she ever kept up and often in perfect ecstasy to shout God’s praise at the family altar and in private devotion, often in the garden in the dusk of evening where she delighted to go for meditation and prayer. She lived to see her children grown and in the church and five sons Ministers of the Gospel.”
Excerpted from “The Outline” by Methodist Minister Rev. Nicholas Talley (1791-1873)