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MARY'S FRIENDS


Unsaved people in our society who accept Jesus as Savior have an average of 12 unsaved relatives and friends, all of whom are potential disciples. Let me tell you a story I heard in 1980, when I was in Fuller Seminary studying church growth. It happened in the First Baptist Church of Albuquerque, New Mexico.


In a Sunday evening service Mary, a divorcee in her early thirties, a cocktail waitress, came forward during the singing of "Just As I Am," announcing her desire to become a follower of Christ. First Baptist church members discovered that Mary needed to be baptized, so a service of baptism for her was scheduled for a Sunday evening several weeks later.


The friend who had originally brought Mary to the church did an interesting thing. She sent out engraved invitations, like those usually sent for a graduation or a wedding, to all the people in Mary's Albuquerque social network.


That Sunday evening several rows were filled with her friends from the bowling alley, friends from the beauty shop, fellow workers and friends from the cocktail lounge, neighbors, a parent, cousins, her former husband, her current boyfriend! That group must have represented most of her entire social network!


The pastor held a reception afterward. It was a celebration with much singing. He briefly shared with Mary's friends what had been happening in her life. He simply offered to them the resources and ministries of that congregation, including the friendship of Christ.


For the next six Sunday evenings, Mary walked down the aisle during the singing of the invitational hymn, on those occasions bringing into the faith one or more persons out of her social web. Thus it is rumored (although I cannot document the last point) that the people of that Baptist church in Albuquerque, New Mexico were chanting, "Hail, Mary, full of grace!"


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