Monday, September 30, 2013

All God's People are Welcome!

"When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, "What are you looking for?"  They said to him, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day.” (John 1:38-39, NRSV)

If you want your neighbor to know what Christ will do for him, let the neighbor see what Christ has done for you. - Henry Ward Beecher

  Evangelism is good news. The good news is not about introducing a new church program, gaining more members, or increasing budgets. Evangelism is the good news of God’s healing and saving love in Jesus Christ. Evangelism is a lifestyle in which a follower of Jesus Christ both shares faith and serves others in need. Evangelism is about bringing this good news into our communities, evangelism has been poorly accepted in many congregations because many images exist which presents evangelism in ways, it was never intended.

  Jesus tells us we are to “go and make disciples.” Jesus did not say “go and make Presbyterian's,” though if we prove faithful in our responsibility to to make disciples, God will take care of the Presbyterian part. If we are faithful and work to bring in the harvest that God is preparing for us to participate, God will make sure we have the people needed to get the job done and bless our congregation.

  As I said in my message on Sunday, September 29, 2013, evangelism in it's basic form is about extending an invitation to family, friends, and neighbors. Inviting them to “come and see” for themselves. Then once they accept the invitation. We must make sure they are welcomed with hospitality and grace into the family of God and come to recognize this is a place where they can belong. People want a place where they can belong, a place where they can be themselves, a place that will help them to become better people, and a place where they can learn how Christ will help them become this better person by becoming Christ's disciple.

  People are afraid of the church. They are afraid they will not be accepted, they are afraid they are not perfect enough to belong, and they are afraid they can not be healed of their broken lives. Our task as the church is to be the better people these individuals need in their lives to reassure them that God loves them deeply and nothing is so bad that God can not forgive and help them become a new creation. They need a place where they can trust that their life can be different within a loving, compassionate and caring community of faith.

  The following video is called, All God's People are Welcome!” and was used by a Presbyterian Church in Wisconsin. The video deals with people's objections about going to church and how all should be welcome to come.

  Yesterday, I completed a three part sermon series on Evangelism, though you will hear more later. Over the next few weeks, I will continue to build on the ideas and scriptures I covered in my messages and show you how we are called to share the good news of Jesus Christ. I also hope you will discover a renewal of your spirit and faith and find new energy and hope in Christ when we reach out to our community and share this good news.

  I recently hear a story of a 10 year old who became involved in a church because of attending VBS and attending weekly worship at the church with his neighbors after VBS. Then this 10 year old child extended an invitation to his grandmother to come to worship with him. This simple invitation by this child, resulted in a significant transformation in this woman's life. If a 10 year old can do it, we must be able.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Extending an Invitation

It’s like a middle school dance. Everybody wants to dance, but nobody wants to ask.
Nathanael said to him, 'Can anything good come out of Nazareth?' Philip said to him, 'Come and see.'” (John 1:46) 

  Tomorrow, I will be concluding my three part sermon series on evangelism. This Sunday is Evangelism Sunday in the Presbyterian Church, (U.S.A.) Though this will not end my efforts to engage the congregation more into outreach and evangelism, I hope I will spark your interest in learning more. Evangelism is a vital part of the life of the church and not just something we think about a once a year and say we have covered it. Evangelism is very important to the daily mission of the church. I will be posting on my blog in the next few weeks more thoughts and ideas about how the church can improve its work in evangelism.
 Tomorrow, I will be using a scripture reading from the Gospel of John in the first chapter where Jesus calls his disciples. He asks them to follow him and the simple phrase, “Come and See” is used. One of the simplest forms of outreach and evangelism in the church is the simple act of extending an invitation to our family, friends and neighbors to worship, to bible study, a picnic, or special event or other activities within the life of the church. Though a simple invitation is one of the simplest approaches to an overall church effort in evangelism. It is also one least used approaches by church members.
  The following video is called “I Invited” and it simply illustrates the power of extending an invitation to others and how far reaching a simple invitation can lead to others.

  It sounds obvious, but few people are doing it. In his book The Unchurched Next Door, Thom Rainer says that only 2% of church people ever invite someone to church. The answer most often given for why not, is we are afraid. And it’s not clear what we’re afraid of: 82% of the unchurched individuals are somewhat likely to attend worship if someone would just ask them.   So if you’re a person in the pew not inviting anyone to church, it’s time to ask why not. Maybe you’re scared they’ll say no, maybe you’re embarrassed of your church, maybe you just don’t think about it. Or maybe like a lot of us in Christian circles, you don’t think you have many unchurched friends you can invite.   If you’re just scared, find ways to make it less scary. First, select a few people you think you could invite and prayer for them and ask God to give you the opportunity to invite them without fear. Invite a friend to a special event instead of Sunday morning or find a mutual friend and tag team the invitation. In the scripture above, when Nathanael expresses his doubts about anything good coming out of Nazareth, namely Jesus, Philip does not engage Nathanael in a debate or discussion on the merits of people coming from Nazareth. Philip simply extends the invitation to Nathanael to “come and see” for himself about who Jesus is.