Where's My Invitation?
The scripture says, All who have faith in him won’t be put to shame. There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord is Lord of all, who gives richly to all who call on him. All who call on the Lord’s name will be saved. So how can they call on someone they don’t have faith in? And how can they have faith in someone they haven’t heard of? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the good news. (Romans 10:11-15, CEB translation)
Last week my blog dealt with the ramifications of being a school shooting survivor. In particular, though, I talked about how I did not want to get up and go to church the morning after the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, in part because, after a year of worshipping at my church, no one would even know if I wasn’t there. It was a disheartening realization that my community of faith was not my community at all.
I posted that blog on various social media sites including my own Facebook page. One of my mother’s friends, after reading my blog, responded with this post:
I, too, did not know you were a survivor. Because of your blog post today I now know an additional community I should be lifting in prayer - and I will now. I wished you lived closer - I think you’d find that community you so need at my church. 2BC in downtown Little Rock is a different kind of Baptist Church and we’d love to have you join us.
This woman knows I live an hour from Little Rock. She also knows I am a United Methodist pastor. She knows that I have a position in the church right now that involves teaching for the whole Arkansas Conference, which is why I am not currently serving a single church. She knows I am fully invested in my denomination, and she knows I can’t live out my call in her denomination. And yet, despite all that, she invited me to her church anyway.
Methodists: sit up and take note.
Her invitation is very tempting. I know I cannot be Baptist. First, I have some serious theological issues with Calvinism. Second, though, I cannot serve as a pastor in most Baptist churches because I am a woman. And I am called, I have no question about that. But oh Lord, to be welcomed like that, even if just for a moment! And to encounter someone who is so excited about their church, and so willing to share the Gospel with me, and so concerned for my well-being as to defy very real obstacles to that invitation and make the invitation anyway… It makes me want to go.
Not a single one of my Methodist colleagues invited me to their churches. Not one. I did have one Methodist layperson suggest that I find another church. She didn’t specify a church, and certainly didn’t invite me to hers (though there geography is a challenge – it would be a 3.5 hour commute every Sunday).
Now, I know that it is tough to be excited to invite anyone into a Methodist church right now. Our denomination is a bit of a train wreck at this moment in time. However, that has not always been the case. And the last I heard, the average United Methodist invites someone to church once every 38 years! So I guess my desperate faith crisis happened in between everyone’s last invitation and the next one. Too bad.
I wonder how many other people we have left swinging in the wind, waiting to get excited about our church, or waiting to get up the nerve to invite someone, perhaps because we feel awkward about talking about Jesus with anyone?
And I think that is really the heart of the issue. We feel awkward talking about Jesus with people. I get it. We don’t want to be pushy about our faith. I admit, I ran from denominations that were pushy about Jesus with me. But let’s also be honest: pushy and excited are two different things.
If we were excited about Jesus, and excited about our church, then we would talk about it! Not in a “You better come to church or you are going to hell” way, but in a “You can’t believe how incredible church was this Sunday!” or “I heard the best story that reminded me of how Jesus is changing my life too!” way.
We have become curators of museums, carefully guarding this story, keeping it safe from what I don’t know. We should be people celebrating the story instead, sharing it abundantly and excitedly, and ridiculously.
The passage from Romans above reminds us that those who have faith will not be put to shame. It also reminds us that there are people who need to hear the story, and they can’t hear the story if no one shares it with them. And then it tells us those who carry the story are beautiful (I mean, technically it says we will have beautiful feet, but I figure if your feet are beautiful, that will make its way all the way up). I want to be beautiful. How about you?
We may be struggling to get excited about our church, but if our church was truly telling and sharing the Gospel, then we wouldn’t care about the politics. We would just care about the story, and its power to bring life into spaces of death. Because we aren’t really inviting people to the Methodist church. We are really inviting them to Jesus. Or at least, we should be.
Note: I have learned that 2BC in Little Rock does in fact ordain women. Some Baptists do, but not all, which is why it is still a dicey proposition to switch denominations. And it doesn’t overcome the Calvinist thing. Still, file it under things that make you go hmmmmm……