{Power of an Invitation… sort of}

Happy Tuesday, friends.

I’ve got something on my heart to share today, so I hope you’ll grab some coffee, pull up a chair, and join me in the conversation.

It seems like this is the time of year, with Easter right around the corner, that we begin to hear from many leaders about the power of the invitation.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard many sermons and leadership seminars over years about this idea.  Often, the focus is to do with inviting people to church for Easter Sunday, but some messages that I’ve heard are also to do with hospitality, the idea of inviting people to share in our day to day lives, and to be involved in community together.

I love this.  I really do.  Jesus was a prime example of someone who invited people into his life.  He invited them to follow Him, to eat with Him, to simply *be* with Him.  Jesus’ example of hospitality and invitation is one of the most amazing and inspiring examples of true community.

Invitations call people into our lives, into our activities, and into each other.  

Invitations give us the sense that we are wanted, that we can choose to belong to something, even if only for a Saturday morning cup of coffee.  Invitations are a reaching out to others, they are us saying, “Come, join me.  I want to share my life with you.”  But what happens when invitations are rejected?

I was recently reading the story of the rich, young ruler in Mark 10:17-22 (ESV): 

 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Jesus gives the rich, young ruler an invitation.  “Come, follow me.”  But the rich, young ruler went away discouraged, because he couldn’t find the strength to let go of his possessions to answer the invitation.

My heart breaks for him.

The blessing of life with Jesus, of being a part of the community that surrounded His ministry, and the inheritance of eternal life, missed out on because he couldn’t accept the invitation.

I wonder, what blessings are we missing out on when we reject the invitations of those around us?  The joy of life lived in community?  The silly, crazy times with friends that create memories for life?  The knowledge that others have our back in hard times?   What do we miss out on when we reject Jesus’ invitation to spend time in prayer, to commune with Him, to serve Him? 

Over the years as church planters, we have lived life in community with others through seasons of plenty and seasons of drought.  We have had friends in our home and lived life together with them through hard times and laughter.  We have also had times when community has seemed almost non-existent.  Times when life has been extraordinarily busy, and rightly or wrongly, we didn’t have the energy to extend those invitations as frequently.  And sadly, there have been times when we have had strained relationships due to a perception that we weren’t being inviting “enough.”

What gives an invitation power?  

In the story of the rich, young ruler, was Jesus’ invitation any less powerful than when he called Simon Peter, or James and John?  My heart beats stronger with the realization that the true power to build community and relationship comes from the action of participation. Invitations are good.  They are a necessary first step, an open door.  But an invitation requires a response.  Either we can decline, or accept.  Yet even acceptance of an invitation does not create community.

What I have realized over the years is this:  True community, including our personal relationship with Jesus, only happens when we choose to participate.  If our desire is to build true community and friendship with those around us, we must participate in each other’s lives. 

Participation means saying yes to invitations… and then actually following through.

It means, at times, a sacrifice of time and energy.  It means doing things together and being together.  When we participate in each other’s lives, it builds community, relationship, and ownership.  It creates more opportunity for enjoyment and further invitation. 

Am I saying that we should accept every single invitation that comes our way?  Of course not.  There is a place for margins in our lives, and some seasons will be busier than others.  But if our response to invitation is hindered by the idols in our lives (yep, I said it.  Idols.), then our sense of community will be limited by the extent to which we participate.  For the rich, young ruler, his idols were his wealth and possessions.  For me, I struggle with pride…it takes the form of fear of being rejected by others.  During busy seasons of life, “down time” can become another idol for me if I’m not careful.  I encourage you to think about what things limit you from accepting invitations from others, and determine if they are idols in your life.  (Disclaimer:  I do not consider things like mental health, chronic pain, or making family a priority to be idols.)

Over the years, I’ve learned that I can only create community so far as others are willing to participate in what I am trying to create.  An invitation is a great and necessary first step, but it is the step forward to take part, to actively involve myself, to participate, that gives me the sense of belonging and community that I am looking for.  The community Jesus had with his disciples only happened because people actually followed Him.  The same is true for us.  If we desire greater relationship with Him, we must participate in relationship with Him.  If our desire is community and friendship with those around us, then we participate in life together.  

If you are looking for community and relationships with others, then say yes to people who are inviting you.  Go to that church community group instead of watching Netflix.  If you are reading this and feeling like you never get any invitations, then reach out!  Invite someone new to have coffee on Saturday.  Find an event that’s happening in town, like a pottery class, or a poetry reading.  Invite someone to go with you, or go by yourself and meet new people!  Participate in the community that is happening around you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  What is it that keeps us from participating with those around us?  What steps might you take this week to join in and participate with the different aspects of community that happen around us daily?


  
 

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