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FAITH PRACTICE - INVITE
The experience of God's loving touch in one's life is a gift the maturing disciple feels compelled to share with others. One way our faith becomes active is when we put into words what God has done for us. Words of witness and acts of genuine hospitality directed toward our friends, relatives and neighbors create the opportunity through which the Holy Spirit brings others into a relationship with Christ and his church. The biblical model for evangelism is relational: friends bring friends to Jesus. "Come and see" are the operative words and find frequent expression in the Gospels, the story of the early church, and in the tradition of the church over the centuries. The disciple plants seeds and invites; the Holy Spirit works the miracle of faith and conversion. Part of a disciple's job description is to invite others often. [From the ELCA website]
As you think and pray about how you might grow as in "inviter" to faith in Christ, we have some suggestions for you to consider. First, on the following page, we offer a few basics for your own personal evangelism. There is also a Hospitality Checklist, gleaned from the ELCA website that could be very useful for your congregation.
A Few Basics for Personal Evangelism
We have this calling from God to invite others into a relationship with Christ and his church. We may wonder how we might put into practice an "Inviting" approach. Here is a suggestion that has four items to consider.
1. Pray - It is so important to realize that it is God who is the evangelist! Therefore, as we consider how we might invite someone into a faith with Jesus, we should always start with prayer. We should pray for God's guidance. To whom may God be leading us? As some possible candidates for witness come to mind, then we begin to pray specifically for them. Part of how we might be led to these people can come from item 2. But remember, we do not just start with prayer. We are in prayer all along the way!
2. Listen - As we spend time with our neighbors, our co-workers and even members of our family, we listen. It is their lives and needs that matter to God and therefore to us. Our calling to invite or witness is not about OUR agenda from God. While it is certainly about God's agenda for the world, it turns out that God's agenda is about meeting people's needs. So, it is absolutely essential that we learn to be listeners - caring listeners. It is absolutely essential that we learn to have time for others. We give them our lives when we give them our time. By listening we begin to learn about them and their lives and their needs. Then and only then are we truly able to respond to them with the love of Christ.
3. Love - "We love because he first loved us." [1 John 4:19] "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." [John 3:16] "Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him." [1 John 4:8,9] Love really gets a lot of emphasis by Jesus and by those who have followed him. This love can be very practical. Remember the line from Jesus' parable in Matthew 25:31-46 - "for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me."
So, we have this calling as disciples (followers) of Jesus to love those we encounter every day. People all around us are in need. God is looking for ways to touch their lives, share his love and meet their needs. We are God's body in the world. We are God's feet and God's hands. As God has loved us, we share that love with our neighbors in need. We feed them. We quench their thirst. We clothe them. We care for them when they are sick. We visit them in times of trouble.
It is just part of following Jesus and it takes us into the lives of our neighbors in caring and helpful ways.
4. Share - All that has gone before leads to this point in the "Inviting" or "Witnessing" process. By praying, listening and loving we can best come to a point in our relationship when we can discern how this person might be invited to get to know Christ better. It may come through an event at your church to which you invite them. It may come through a deeper conversation that takes place because they know you are a Christian. It may come because you see an obvious need for Jesus and the Holy Spirit leads you into that conversation with them in a loving and caring way.
Actually, we may find that they "jump the gun" on us and actually begin asking us - especially if our faith is a visible and loving part of who we are.
It is easier to be a little more visible with your faith than you think.
If someone asks, "What did you do over the weekend?" do you include worship as one of the items that you did? If you were involved in a church activity, do you mention it? Or, do you say "Oh, nothing much!"
If someone shares a difficulty or worry going on in their lives, it is important to listen and care. But, do you also let them know that you will pray for them - and then, of course, you pray for them!
Taking these kinds of opportunities in your daily life provides the Holy Spirit with seeds that can be sown with helpful results at a later time when someone wants the opportunity to talk with a Christian or have someone pray for them when they are in need.
An effective Christian poster from a number of years ago asked the question: If it were illegal to be a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? It seems that part of what might provide some of that evidence is that people you work with and people in your neighborhood would actually know that you are an active follower of Jesus!
Praying, listening, loving and sharing are faithful resources in becoming a better "Inviter" to a deeper relationship with our Lord.