FROM THE 'DEEP' END: An invitation changes everything
You never know what hangs in the balance because of an invitation. If you look back at your life and how you got to where you are today, there is probably a major intersection that started with an invitation. New things are created by invitations. Even the laptop that I’m writing this on is testament to that. When Steve Jobs was 12 years old, he called Bill Hewlett, the co-founder of Hewlett Packard, at his home and asked him for some spare computer parts. Hewlett not only gave 12-year old Jobs the parts he wanted, but he invited him to work at HP learning to put together computers. Jobs of course grew up to start Apple and changed the way the world communicated. Having someone invest in his life and invite him into something new became a catalyst for his life.
Like a lot of Christ followers, my walk with God started out with an invitation. My wife and I had been married for about a year when she started going back to church. She would always invite me to come along and it took me three months to finally accept. That invitation changed my life forever and gave me a completely new purpose in life. Had you told me before then that I would become a pastor, I probably would have laughed, but God used that invitation to set my life in a different direction.
What’s amazing is that as Christ followers we all have to power to change the trajectory of someone’s entire life through a series of invitations, but it’s not always easy to do. We can feel scared that someone will reject our invitation or that they will think we are weird or a religious nut.
And believe me, I get it. When I first became a pastor I worked at a church in Central Florida. It was an awesome church, but I still felt weird about inviting my unchurched friends. That’s because our church was geared toward church people and not outsiders. If you were a church goer the place was on fire. If you’d never stepped foot in the church you would probably get spooked pretty easily. That tends to happen with church as a default because it’s easy to have a church that is insider focused.
In fact, it’s a dynamic the church has had to deal with from the very beginning. The book of Acts chronicles the church during its earliest formation and 20 years into Christianity its leaders were figuring out how to keep from being insider focused. Because many early Christ followers were Jewish, many leaders thought that Gentiles would have to become Jewish before they could become a Christian. James, who was a half brother to Jesus, disagreed and in Acts 15:19 he said:
“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”
It’s a simple statement, but it should inform the way we do church and the way we talk to those who are looking for answers about God. James basically said don’t complicate things. Don’t muck up your opportunity to invite people to know Jesus by becoming inward focused, or by complicating the simple Gospel message. That’s a reflection of how Jesus spent his Earthly ministry. That’s evident when Jesus invites the Disciples to know Him in Matthew 4:19:
“And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’”
Even the Disciples came to know Jesus from just a simple invitation. There weren’t hoops to jump through or rituals to follow. Jesus just invited them to follow Him.
We have a huge opportunity to impact the world through simple invitations. We have to remember that something as small as asking a friend to go to church with you or sharing a small part of your faith with a family member has the power to alter the course of their life. As the church, we also have to fight to keep from becoming insider focused. Ultimately, church is not for us, but for those that are still looking for answers about God. And we have to remember that one simple phrase that Jesus used ended up changing the world: “Come follow me.”
Pastor Eric Partin is the lead pastor of Shoreline Church in Destin and can be reached at email@example.com.