It’s an intimidating notion, isn’t it, this whole idea that we should be “witnesses,” that we should share our faith with neighbors, friends, co-workers? But, really, when you stop and think about it, the entire evangelistic ministry of the church pretty much comes down to two words: Invite, Welcome. Not exactly rocket science, is it? Yet, when we give attention to these two simple tasks, the love of Christ is shared; salvation is offered and found; the church is strengthened; and people find home and purpose in the family of God.
Jesus went around inviting and welcoming every day. He invited people into a transformed and forgiven life, and he welcomed back into community countless souls. He invited people to find a new way of living and caring and called them to dive into his reconciling and compassionate ministry. “Follow me,” he said.
We sometimes turn evangelism into a task so intense and intimidating that we feel inadequate even to attempt it, but if you start to doubt your qualifications as an evangelist, just look to the Gospel of John, where the invitation to Christ comes down to one simple phrase, “Come and see.” Remember the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4)? Her invitation to her fellow villagers was hardly the stuff of altar calls: “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” And yet amazing things happened.
An invitation in words simple and sincere is all that is required. Then, once our neighbors come, our call again is straightforward: Welcome them into the life we share in Christ-that means worship, meals and fellowship, study, service, meals and fellowship-all the stuff that when blended joyously and rambunctiously together becomes the shared life we call Hamilton Mill UMC.
Still, as simple as it is, it won’t happen on its own. We must DECIDE to invite, and we have to make room for the next person who arrives. We have to look beyond ourselves and our own comfort and needs, and that, well, is NOT so simple.
Give it a try. As we move through summer toward fall, all kinds of opportunities to invite will come along. Know someone who might be blessed by the life found in Christ? In other words, know anyone? Imagine the grace they will find, the grace they can offer, the gifts upon gifts to be discovered by them, by us, by all. Mention to them what you have found in church and speak the greatest evangelistic sermon the world has ever known: “Come and see.”
Rev. Mark Westmoreland