|The dying ember|
Many times I listened to my dad give a sermon illustration that explained it better than anything I'd ever heard. Well, I recently ran across the same story Dad used to tell. I share it here with permission from the site where I found it.
A member of a certain church, who had been attending services regularly for quite some time, all of sudden stopped going. After a few weeks, the pastor decided to pay the man a visit. It was a very cold evening and when the pastor arrived at the man's home he found him sitting alone before a blazing fire. Guessing the reason for his pastor's visit, the man welcomed the pastor and led him to a comfortable chair near the fireplace. The man then sat down in his chair and waited for the pastor to speak. Settling himself in the chair, the pastor said nothing. In silence, he contemplated the flames dancing around the burning logs. Several minutes passed. Then, the pastor took a pair of fire tongs and carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it on one side of the hearth—all alone.
Again, the pastor settled silently in his chair. Without a word, the man watched. Before long, the one lone ember flickered and then with a final momentary glow, the flame went out. Soon the ember lay cold and dead on the hearth. Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting.
Glancing at his watch, the pastor realized it was time to leave. Slowly he stood up, taking hold of the fire tongs picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately, it began to glow with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.
At the door, the host clasped the pastor’s hand. With tears coursing down his cheeks, the host said, "Thank you, thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon! I will be back in church next Sunday."
The only difference is, when Dad told this story, he said the pastor left without a word. Next Sunday, he found the man seated in church.
If you would like to learn more about this topic, I recommend reading The Importance of Church Attendance.