Key priority #2. Develop a culture of invitation
Two weeks ago we started a new series here in Life News, exploring the seven key objectives that we believe, as a church, we need to go for in 2016. Last week we looked at the vital importance of Sundays. This week I would like us to explore what it means to be a community with a culture of invitation!
The Gospels are full of invitations
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are jam-packed with stories of invitation. Take, for example, the story of the Samaritan woman (see John 4). After a short interaction with Jesus whilst sat by an isolated well, we read this:
Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
This story is brilliant in that is pushes culturally unacceptable things right up to the reader’s face! We have a religious leader chatting with a ‘half bread’ (as many of the Jews would have called the Samaritans). We have a woman with a chequered past, who seems to have been ostracised by her community, suddenly becoming a central character in the invitation of a whole town to encounter Jesus! Put simply, this story forces us to accept that there is something very powerful about the invitational picture that the gospels present to us. These gospel invitations break free from traditional cultural comfort zones, and before you know it, Jesus (the religious man) is known as a friend of prostitutes, sinners and tax collectors. Why is this?
At the heart of the gospel is invitation
One of the main reasons why I believe that Matthew, Mark, Luke & John are filled with invitations is that the gospel message itself is a glorious invitation into the breath-taking reality of eternal relationship with God! Ephesians 2 could not be clearer on the transformative impact this gospel message has upon the lives of those who are being saved: dead to alive, outsider to belonging, hopeless to people of eternal hope! Right at the epicentre of the gospel message is the invitation from God to eternal life!
However, I suspect, like me, you are conscious of how difficult inviting people (not just on a Sunday morning) can be, especially when it crosses invisible but powerful boundaries (work, home, social club, family, and friends). Inviting people to experience something of the transformation that you have had can at times seem something impossible in our generation.
A culture of invitation
I want to encourage you that it is not! This gospel message has not lost its potency. And this gospel community is still a place where people can encounter life transforming moments. However, I believe we are going to have to learn afresh what it means to be a community that is saturated by an invitational culture! We’re also going to have to learn to be creative, adaptable, and at times make some mistakes! However, I convinced it is all worth it if hundreds and hundreds of people from across Peterborough and the surrounding towns and villages get invited into this glorious privilege which is ours. Don’t you?
But what should I do?
Maybe you’re sat there thinking: Adam just cut to the chase and tell us what needs to change! The reason I’m not doing that is because I’m not totally sure how or when or in what ways we need to adapt. This is going to be something we’re going to be exploring over the coming season. However, regardless of what we end up doing together, there is a first and most important step that needs to take place in each of our hearts: we personally, when all the doors and windows are shut, need to be convinced that we have been called to live invitational lives. When we are clear on this, we can all start working out how to do it more effectively!