By Jan White
Recently, a friend commented to me that she had a “come to Jesus meeting” and then she shared what had happened in her life. Hearing the words “come to Jesus meeting” made me wonder about the origin and meaning of the familiar phrase.
Several sources state that the phrase has its origin in America, particularly in the South. The term refers to a serious meeting with an individual or group of people that involves an ultimatum, usually related to much-needed improvement and changes that must be made. It may even include a reprimand.
Other definitions for a “come to Jesus meeting” include confession time, coming clean, tell it like it is, or a time to sit down and reassess priorities. Drug and alcohol interventions are sometimes referred to as “come to Jesus meetings.”
Random House’s online dictionary sums up the definition this way, “There seem to be two meanings: a meeting in which one faces an unpleasant truth or (a moment rather than meeting) an epiphany in which one realizes the truth of a matter.” The latter is sometimes called an “Aha moment.”
As you might expect the phrase has a religious connotation. The Random House online dictionary traces the origin to the camp meetings of the 1920s when evangelists exhorted people to “come to Jesus.” Sinners would walk down the aisle and come to the altar to repent of their sins, and ask Jesus to come into their heart.
Jesus still invites us to come to Him for whatever we need – forgiveness of sin or relief from the burdens of life. He promises in His Word, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
On the last day of Passover near the end of His life, Jesus cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink” (John 7:37). Though Jesus could have provided a drink of water, I believe He was speaking of satisfying the spiritual thirst in every person. In the Beatitudes, Jesus teaches us that anyone who thirsts for righteousness shall be filled.
Let me tell about my friend and her come to Jesus meeting. She is a cancer survivor. She has been cancer free for over five years. But some symptoms in recent weeks caused her to go to the doctor, and he immediately scheduled her for a particular test.
The morning that I talked to her, she was waiting on a phone call from the doctor’s office with the results of her test. She told me how every check up since her cancer surgery and treatment had showed she was cancer free. My friend said she had a “come to Jesus meeting” because she once again realized how every day is a gift from God. And, how there were people she knew who she needed to tell about the love of Jesus.
About that time, a nurse called from the doctor’s office to say my friend is still cancer free. After listening to her experience, I felt like I’d had a “come to Jesus meeting” too.