As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Mark 1:16-18
Invitations are exciting. Everybody wants one.
An invitation to a dance, a party, a function, a behind stage pass, VIP access, exclusive content. In any format, to be offered an invitation to something is an honor. Not everyone gets invited, you have to be someone special.
That’s probably why I’ve never received an invitation to have dinner with the President. In the political world, I’m not someone special. I’m not someone that the President needs to clear his schedule for. His life goes on unaffected by what happens to me.
And I’ve been thinking a lot about invitations lately, specifically invitations to church.
We’re missing something. We’re falling short of what it was designed for. Failing those we are trying to reach.
Think about the invitations we extend to people when we want them to join us at church: cool band, excellent teaching, “Bible-based” preacher, friendly folks, great community, and the list goes on.
I’d much rather go to a dinner where I get to meet the President as opposed to a dinner where I get to talk about the President.
And the more I think about it, the more those things end up sounding like excuses:
Come to our church where the music doesn’t suck.
Come listen to our preacher who is so nice and has a beautiful smile.
Come join us on Sunday when we’ll have a special giveaway that some non-Christian like you could win!
I see them as excuses, because I never see that in the way Jesus treated people. We treat church like a shameful activity that people have to be tricked into coming to. We find a roundabout way to entice them to come and hope that the Gospel somehow becomes palatable.
Jesus, in contrast, always invited people to himself. The above scripture from the Gospel of Mark is one example, and every Gospel account has them.
Come. Follow me. I will make you fishers of men.
The invitation is always to Jesus. To come and see him. To come and be a part of what he is doing. To come and join the story that he is telling.
Never to a program, a function, an event, or a special giveaway.
Always to himself.
The invitation from Jesus is always an invitation to Jesus. Often the invitation from a church member is to a program, and we so often receive a negative response because people don’t want another program or event to attend. Their lives are busy enough.
But an invitation to experience Jesus is different. I’d much rather go to a dinner where I get to meet the President as opposed to a dinner where I get to talk about the President.
The same is true of Jesus: people will want to go to a place where they get to experience the real and resurrected power of Jesus, not to a place where Jesus is just talked about.
Our churches today need to be places where people are invited to experience Jesus, not the latest worship band or the preacher with the slick smile. Recapturing the art of the invitation will be a necessary process for churches that want to have a viable future and draw people into missional living and a life of holistic discipleship. Invitations are meant to be fun, the signal that something is “can’t miss” and yet too often church is not see that way. It’s time to learn again about the invitation to come and follow Jesus.
Today I’m starting a series of posts on creating an invitation style culture where people can experience and encounter Jesus, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on what your church is doing to make that happen. Post your thoughts or comments in the section below and share them. Also be sure to subscribe to the blog posts (enter at the right) to receive all the posts in this series.
See part two (Whole Life Discipleship)
See part three (Church Culture)