Engaging, Inviting and Including
Posted in Evangelism
Scripture: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” – Acts 2:42-47
Have you ever appreciated someone giving you a recommendation for a new TV show, fitness club, exercise class, a handyman, or a social club? Similarly, have you ever had someone reach out and invite you to join them in trying any of these?
On another note, when was the last time you reached out and invited someone to join you for Sunday School, a Wednesday night class, a Small Group, or a mission trip?
Isn’t it odd that we’re quick to share, even to reach out to others regarding positive or meaningful experiences — except when it comes to inviting people to experience a glimpse of life with God? Why is that?
I would say that inviting others is our greatest growing edge as a church. I look out and I see encouraging growth in the areas of worship, study, service, giving and prayer — and I give thanks to God for all of you who are growing in Christ in these ways. Having said that, however, and knowing that there are people who are hungry for meaning and community, people with God-sized holes in their hearts in each and every one of our relationship circles, I wonder how I can encourage you to reach to them, not with arrogance or judgment, but with authenticity and grace.
In today’s reading from Acts, we see Peter and the other early followers of Jesus responding to the presence and power of God in their lives by living with such grace and generosity that people were added to their number daily. The first few chapters of Acts give us such an extraordinary window into the early church that they warrant a deeper look. The earliest converts to the way of Jesus were not wealthy, but these verses make clear that they knew they were blessed because they were chosen and loved by God. In response, these men and women did not try to hoard God’s blessings; they opened their hands and hearts to others. They spent time together, shared meals and fellowship together, lived with glad and generous hearts, and shared their resources as any had need. These first followers of Jesus knew they did not deserve God’s love, so they freely passed it on. They responded to God’s blessing in their lives by seeking to bless others, and it worked. Others were drawn in, and the Holy Spirit worked in their lives.
Switching from there and then to here and now, how is it God is nudging you and me to reach out with authenticity and grace to engage and invite and include others? The absolutely essential ingredient to change in this area is us — you and me. Who does God have for you to reach out to?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we know the way you reach to us is through people. We know that’s why you became flesh and dwelt among us in Jesus. That’s the way you reached out to the early church, and it’s the way you’ve worked in my life and in the lives of many others. Help us remember that engaging, inviting and including is also the way you have for each of us to reach out to others now. Amen.
Submitted by: Rev. Dr. Brad Smith