The first and most important means of evangelism in which every church engages is worship. When we want to reach out to others we most often invite them to worship as opposed to telling them they need to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Worship, rightfully so, becomes a means by which we express our relationship with Jesus Christ, and exhibit our devotion to God our Father.
God is always our worship leader. God is not contained within the sanctuary of the church building, however God is always there waiting for us to enter in to His presence. He never leaves us, but we often turn our attention from him. Worship provides a much needed reminder that we are prone to wander and God, like the faithful father watching for prodigal sons and daughter, will always be ready for us to remember, return, and be reunited. This cycle happens every week as we come into the place of worship. Therefore, worship must engage our hearts and minds and emotions as we come under the influence of the Spirit of God who is passionate for his people.
As God welcomes us, we must be prepared to be a welcome for everyone who might come to explore what church is all about. We live in a world where many people fall into a demographic group we call the “nones.” This is a group of people who, when asked to identify religious affiliation check the box marked “none.” None! This should be a rallying cry for believers in Jesus Christ. Right in our neighborhoods and our workplaces and our schools we have a mission field ripe unto the harvest!
But what happens when they come, if they are not dressed according to the custom of Bethany UMC? What happens is their skin tone is different from the majority of those who worship here? What happens if they have special needs that we are not prepared to handle? What then? Jesus did not shut the door on anyone – the leper – the lame – the broken – the beautiful – the sick – the confused – even the thief on the cross was assured that he would be welcome in the paradise of God. We must do all we can to make Bethany church into a place of radical hospitality; a place where all are truly welcome to come as they are; to ask, seek, and knock.
It is then our responsibility to receive those whom God will bring our way – and to provide a means by which they can grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. Perhaps the first question is – am I growing as a disciple of Jesus Christ? Scripture says Jesus grew in wisdom and knowledge and the favor and grace of God. With Jesus as my model I seek always to do the same. I can never be satisfied that I know “enough” about God, of I have “done my time” in study and service. As long as I am breathing the air of earth God will use me to touch the life of another person as I am available to him. We need an intentional process to help people grow. It doesn’t happen by chance.
One sows seed, another waters, but it is God who gives the growth. We have to sow seeds, and water, and provide safe and healthy conditions where all can grow in grace and knowledge. Pruning is also necessary for healthy life. God prunes those whom he loves. He doesn’t allow us to grow willy – nilly all over the place. He has a purposeful intention and a plan for our lives – both as individuals and as a body of believers.
Worship, Welcome, Grow, and Give. As we receive and begin to bear fruit God will send us out into the fields, as Jesus sent his own followers out to heal the sick and drive out demons. You see, these blessings of God are not for us to hoard. Building bigger barns to store our bounty is not the answer (Luke 12:18-20). Giving so that we can continue to have room to receive is the plan. If we feel secure and satisfied it’s time to move and to give and to press through the boundaries of our comfort zones to connect with the “nones” whether they have been turned off by “churchy people” or have never been exposed to churchy people.
We are the church. If we don’t do it, who will?
Blessings on your new year, Pastor LuAnn