Ms. Ruth Anderson, AiM, Trinity, Galesburg
“I love this! I’ve always wanted to ring, and had no idea how much fun it would be.” These words from a new handbell ringer surprised me. A few weeks earlier I worked to fill an unexpected vacancy in our choir. After making a list of potential candidates, I proceeded to make phone calls. To my delight, this person agreed to attend a few training sessions and ultimately to join the ensemble. Experienced members readily assumed mentoring roles. All enjoyed moments of rejoicing at the new ringer’s progress. The ministry opportunity provided a meaningful outlet for one who readily responded to the invitation, received instruction, and experienced encouragement.
Our faith practice of invitation begins with a desire to share something of value. Philip did just that when he told Nathaniel about Jesus. We read in John 1:46 his simple words of invitation: “Come and see.” He wanted to share this joyful good news. God also calls us to invite others – not just to a particular ministry or worship service, but into a deeper relationship with our Creator and with one another.
All people in our daily path are potential candidates for invitation. When we listen, opportunities for invitation present themselves. Standing in a queue to pay for groceries, I overheard the customer ahead of me telling the clerk about some sad occurrence in her life. This led to my own conversation with the clerk about the many losses she was experiencing. I shared how God had blessed me in my own struggles, with the support and guidance I received in my own congregation. I invited her to “Come and see” a loving and merciful God.
We may be reluctant to share our faith and invite others into that joy for fear of rejection. I experience that fear on occasion, feeling as one who approaches another for a first date. This fear can stand in the way of taking the first step. Trusting God is key. The Holy Spirit will work through us to speak God’s word to receptive hearts and minds. Simply begin with the invitation, hoping for (but not expecting) a positive or immediate response. Make room for the Spirit to work. Give people permission to say ‘no’ or ‘not yet.’ Continue to gently invite. When I remained open to considering unlikely prospects, God surprised me. Invitations were accepted by someone whose spouse wrestles with cancer, and another who just gave birth to her third child. Their need for God, for the ministry, for community was not mine to see, but for God to reveal.
Intentionally knowing about those you invite is key. Who are they? What motivates them? What are their interests, attitudes, opinions and lifestyles? What do they value? Answering these questions guides us in our invitational approach and subsequent conversation.
Whether we invite someone to know God, attend worship, work on a committee, or join a choir, we extend the invitation that first came to us from God. It is one that says, “Come and see.”