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!?