I’m kind of bummed at the decline of real paper-feel-in-your-hands-discover-in-your-mailbox invitations. They just seem special – like someone thought, “Oh I can’t wait to see this person!” as they hand-wrote your name on the envelope.
I love getting invitations. I love being included. I love the feeling that someone wants me around.
You do too. Don’t deny it, even if you’re shy or an introvert.
But it’s one thing to receive an invitation; it’s another thing to reach out with one.
Our new church mission statement is, “To boldly extend the invitation Jesus makes to us, to everyone.”
These Jesus invitations rarely fit in embossed envelopes though.
They are personal, face-to-face invitations extended to neighbors, family, and friends, which can be scary because, well, what if they reject me? (That’s what it feels like, right? Rejecting ME, not Jesus, not the church, not just my invitation) What if they slam a door, literal or figurative, in my face?
Love invites, because Jesus invites:
- “Come, follow me,” Mt. 4:19 (and a bazillionty other times)
- “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Mt. 11:28
- “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” John 1:39
- “…go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.” Mt. 22:9
“Eighty-two percent of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited.” –Dr. Thom Rainer, The Unchurched Next Door.
But Jesus invites us into relationship, not religion. He invites us to come to Him. We want to invite people into spaces that become sacred as God reassures all of us that we’re loved, that we belong, that we are precious to Him no matter what. Church may be a place to start.
This week I’ve been delivering homemade bread to neighbors around the church, introducing myself and thanking them for being good neighbors. An invitation to our Christmas Eve services is included on the tag attached to the bread.
Yes, I was a little afraid door-answerers might think me a little cray cray, but most have been effusive in their thanks. (Note: I have learned that many people are still in their jammies at 10 a.m. on a Saturday morning).
A little old man with a walker shuffled to the door and insisted I come in, meet his wife, and chat. His bed was set up in the living room, and he kept exclaiming to his wife, “Look what she brought us! Look what she brought us!”
The closest I came to a door slam was a guy who said “That’s really nice, but no thanks” to my bread, not me.
I’m always amazed when people say “yes” to my invitations.
Last week I invited someone who doesn’t seem very acquainted with the loving Jesus I know, to a Christmas brunch where I was speaking. I was astounded she came and seemed to lean in, but it became clear quickly that it was the Holy Spirit who was at work, not me.
How often do I forget the Holy Spirit who woos and whispers and gently tills the soil of our hearts? We do the inviting and then say, “Ok Lord, your turn.”
As my friend showed up at the brunch I prayed she would hear those whispers of love from God, not just from me.
I don’t want others to feel like a project. I want them to hear the invitation of unconditional love and forgiveness.
Yesterday a friend came up to me bursting with excitement. Her widow neighbor who they had invited many times, had finally agreed to come with them to church. “And you know what she said at the end of worship?!!” my friend asked. “She said, ‘Would it be ok if I came with you again?’!”
I’ve invited two friends to come sit with us on Christmas Eve who may not be inclined to do that sort of thing. Who knows if they’ll show up, but that’s ok. I just want them to know they’re wanted, they’re invited.
We invite because Love invited us – beloved yahoos one and all.