Friday, September 28, 2012

Sharing Life rather than Inviting to Church

One of my favorite things that has shifted in these past years as God has helped us live out our faith is how I interact with friends & new friends.  I have always been an invite-er.  So many of my life experiences have shaped me into being a person that is not afraid to reach out to others (even though I still often feel nervous those first awkward interactions that you have to push through).  I will often reach out to strangers, meet new friends & then connect people to each other.  For many years, this skill was used to help market whatever church I was involved in.  Everywhere I went, my eyes were on the look out for who I could contact & invite "into our community" (to attend the Sunday service).   When I came to the revelation that it was not my job to market God's Church, I was a bit lost as to what I was supposed to be offering people.  We didn't have a regular gathering I could invite them to at that point and when we did, I felt like I needed a 30 minute sermon to explain to people what the vision for community was that I was offering them to be apart of.  

I have gradually learned these past 2.5 years that God is very trustworthy & very capable of managing His Church.  I simply love people & interact with them.  My goal is not to contact & invite any new person I see (to use a personal selling term) but to do whatever the Spirit leads me to do (which is different all the time).  Many times, I will be at a place where the Spirit leads me to reach out a hand and meet a new friend or include them in whatever I am doing. Many times, when I am at a public place with friends, I am friendly to strangers around us - but I don't pursue talking to them because I don't feel lead.  Sometimes during those times, a friend is desiring to talk to me or I can sense a friend needs encouragement.

Now that I have a different perspective on relationships, I very often come across other "inviters" still plugged into church as business, and I'm amazed at how insincere (rude?) they come across.  Sometimes, their laser focus on a new person across the way is so evident that they are completely missing the friendship right in from of them.   Many times, when those inviters find out that a person is un-interested in joining their church, or they already have a church home, they will just move on to somebody else.   Even today, I was talking to an Inviter (who I did want to get to know better) & I got the sense she was 'somewhere else'... I excused myself and I wasn't 5 steps away before she bee-lined over to a new person that had just arrived where we were.  I saw myself in her & had to confess & ask for forgiveness for how I might have treated people a similar way in the past.  This idea of "playing the numbers"... quantity over quality is extremely evident in our American marketplace - including our American church businesses.

I am so thankful for the freedom God has given my family in the way we relate as a Church & to the Church.  I am finding that He is so extremely capable of bringing relationships into our lives at His pace.  When I don't have seats to fill, then I'm not in a rush to fill them.  When I'm not in a rush, I can be better in tune with where & how He is leading me.  The truth is, this skill God has given me is now free to be used how HE desires and not just how I think it should be used.  With that freedom, I am able to focus in on what I have to offer others and not what I need from them (although I never saw it that way when I was "inviting them to church").

We are spread out so beautifully in jobs, neighborhoods, recreational activities, life stages ---- there are enough Christ followers to touch all people --- by relationship/true love at His pace & timing --- which is way more powerful, genuine and longer lasting than mass marketing.  When I become a walking "Jesus Manifesto" (to quote Frank Viola) - I can bring love into wherever I am.   God still uses me to meet new people very often & my eyes are always open to who He would have me reach a hand out to, but it feels different now.   My goal is not growth through attendance.   And whatever "success" is, is not dependent on me - so there is a lot of peace in that!  And just for the record, very rarely (never?) do I have to cut a person off to go meet a new friend.   I don't think that I've ever heard God say to me, "quick".. "don't miss this chance".... "now or never".... I could be wrong - but I just don't think I've ever heard that.  

That being said, in *all* my years as an inviter, I have found many people who are *not* looking to attend a church or who already attend one.  I rarely come across a person who doesn't desire or need encouragement, connection, friendship, a friendly smile, a listening ear, somebody to notice them..... where are all the Jesus Manifestos to offer this to them!?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Faith vs. Fear in Parenting

I wrote this for all my Mommy friends - but the truth is - it's applicable in ALL areas, isn't it!? :) 

Parenting (discipling) is not about "control".  If control is the # 1 priority in parenting, then FEAR is probably the driving force.  FEAR of children's rebellion, FEAR that rebellsion/bad behavior will be passed down to younger children, FEAR that our children will be unloving, disrespectful people. FEAR they will always be unthankful, FEAR what others will think.  FEAR not being able to be used.  FEAR disobedience.  FEAR failing as a mom.  

Turn from your FEAR & confess it to the Lord!

Ask God to fill you with HOPE.  When you have HOPE, you can have faith.  FAITH operates out of the same grace God gives us as His children.  FAITH believes that God can take our consistent (pathetic) best efforts & make it all work for our good (Rom 8:28).  FAITH can see the long term & not dwell on today or yesterday's behavior.  FAITH does not expect perfection from our children (or ourselves).  FAITH driven parents can *shepherd* their children firmly consistently lovingly.  

GOD cares deeply for those who have young.  HE is our shepherd and HE will stay close to us.  HE is our help & He is our strength!  He GENTLY leads us!  

He tends his flock like a shepherd:  He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;  he gently leads those that have young - Isaiah 40:11-12

Keep on SOWING in faith.  Keep on believing & holding on to HOPE.   SOW through the weeping!   Our harvest will come!  

Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy,   carrying sheaves with them. - Psalm 126:6