We’ve got a bad taste in our mouths when it comes to invitation to church. And, to be fair, we as Christians have acted in ways at times to merit this bad taste, using Bible thumping or guilting as tactics. I’m a church planter and I sometimes find myself adding an apology to an invitation, or simply avoiding it all together. But about six months ago a dear friend taught me a meaningful lesson that has reshaped my idea of invitation, and she has graciously given me permission to share it with you.
Mary Grace is my beautiful neighbor, who has recently walked a rough life journey with courage and love. Last summer we were hosting an Alpha course, which is a space where people can explore questions of faith. She couldn’t attend the first few weeks, but told me to continue to invite her so that she could come when she was able. When it came to week 6 I pulled out my phone thinking, she’s got to be so annoyed with these weekly invitations. I sent the text anyway. Later that day Mary Grace replied saying she was touched by my text, and, in fact, it had been so meaningful to her that she shared it with her Dad. I was taken aback, and even reviewed my previous text to see what I had written that was so meaningful. My text was literally just sharing the basic information about Alpha and saying I’d love her to be there. It was the last line in Mary Grace’s text that explained it. At that time Mary Grace was coming from a time of isolation in her journey, and she wrote, “It feels so good to be wanted.”
It’s time we reimagine invitation to church, and when I say “church,” I don’t mean simply a worship gathering on Sundays, but a spiritual journey with Jesus and his people. Here’s some thoughts to help us begin reimagining:
God is the ultimate seeker, not us, and He seeks us all alike. This means we don’t enter spaces of invitation as those who have the answers, inviting others to be enlightened by us. Rather, we are two people on different faith journeys who, by sharing in one another’s stories, can learn about the God who seeks us both. We can (and should) invite people into spaces to encounter Jesus, but we can’t assume that we won’t learn about God from their stories as they will from ours.
Our invitation comes because we love and want people, and because God loves and wants them. If you’re inviting people for different reasons, maybe you should hold off on invitation for a while (oh, and in case it wasn’t clear above, God wants everyone, the only restriction comes from our imperfect hearts). We get to daily experience the thrilling journey of a walk with God, and we can share that journey with those we love. That’s something to find joy and freedom in, not shame and restriction.
Don’t answer for someone. So often we miss an opportunity to invite someone into a faith journey because we assume they will say “no.” Or because we think they’ll be offended, or that they’ll think less of us, or… But if your invitation truly comes from a place of wanting them, I guarantee it’ll be rare that those will be the responses. If they say no, that’s totally fine. But don’t say no for someone who has been hoping you’d give them the opportunity to share in the journey they’ve seen you taking. Don’t miss out on a chance to learn what your invitation really means, as I did from Mary Grace.
So what are we asking you to participate in this month? We want you to identify your 5 people. The five people in your life who you want to invite to go on journey of faith with you at Missio Church. Often times when we put numbers to things like invitation it starts to feel a bit impersonal. But we are not asking you to randomly find five people you don’t already know. We want you to think about the five people in your life who matter a great deal to you. And from a place of relationship and presence in their lives we want you to do 3 things.
Pray: Pray over them and for them everyday this month. Pray that they will encounter Jesus in a tangible way this month. Pray for confidence to invite them into mission with you.
Tell/Listen: Begin to share why you are a part of a faith community. What does being a part of Missio mean to you? Then listen to the moments where they share pieces of their faith journey with you.
Invite: Invite them to Missio’s Easter and Launch Gatherings. These will be two of the easiest moments to invite people to Missio as they are Sundays when lots of people are already thinking about church. We will also have Invite Cards ready in March that you can give to people so they remember the times.
We are often people’s first encounter with Jesus. Jesus prayed over the people he encounter long before they ever met him. And as he would interact with them he would tell them his story and listen to theirs. And ultimately he would then invite them into relationship with himself and begin an amazing journey. Let’s follow Jesus’ pattern this month. Who are your 5 people?