The Four Invitations of Front Yard Mission
Do you ever get nervous at just the thought of talking about Jesus with your neighbors? Ever get that tongue-tied, sweaty-palm feeling when you try to invite a neighbor to something Jesus-related? Yeah, us too. You’re not alone. And you don’t need to be stuck there. Even those of us who are naturally extraverted and love inviting people to a party can get a little weird when it comes to a spiritual invitation.
So let’s (if we can coin a word here) “de-weirdify” the practice of invitation. Taking the step to invite people closer to Jesus can run against the grain of cultural norms and takes us outside our comfort zones. Let’s normalize the spiritual discipline of invitation, and in a way that embeds it in the natural flow of our everyday lives.
The ministry of invitation is the result of thoroughly loving our neighbors. At some point, all the praying for and loving our neighbors should move to the next step: inviting our neighbors. None of this needs to be heavy-handed, awkward, or scary. It’s simply saying, “This is important to me, and I want you to know about it.” We are just the messengers. As Bill Bright said, “The definition of ‘successful witnessing’ is to simply share Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results to God.”
Think of it this way. When you are friends with someone, you’ll make plans to do things together. You get to know them, they get to know you, and your lives intertwine to a degree. Now imagine if someone told you repeatedly how much they valued you as a friend, but they never invited you over. They never involved you in things that mattered most to them. How would you feel about this “friend?” You wouldn’t like that. You’d conclude that they talked a good game, but didn’t really mean it. And by the same token, you wouldn’t leave a friend on the doorstep of your house either. You would invite them in. It’s the same way with the Kingdom of God. What’s the point of loving people to the front door and then leaving them there?
I’ve said that the primary way God has designed for us to interact with the world around us is as neighbors, based on the first and second greatest commandments. But Paul gives us another helpful metaphor, saying that we are also ambassadors.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Cor. 5:18–20)
Most of us probably don’t have much experience with ambassadors. I had a little taste of this years ago when I was in a choir that billed itself as “Ambassadors of Song.” I got to see some amazing parts of the world like Israel, Jordan, and the then Soviet Union. Singing in concerts and festivals, we felt like rock stars with people throwing bouquet after bouquet on stage and shouting for encores. At one point we performed at the US Ambassador’s residence in Amman, Jordan where we really were representing our country. After a terrorist incident along our bus route, we were even detained at the ambassador’s residence for 5 additional hours before taking an alternate route back to our hotel, where we were quarantined for several days for our safety before leaving the country. Being an ambassador can have its highs and lows, but you never stop representing the one who sent you.
Paul describes Christians as people who represent Christ and the life-changing power of the Gospel. We are ambassadors of another Kingdom and serve another King. We don’t belong to ourselves or to this world, but to Christ. We are in this world, but we represent another one, a coming one, a greater one. Our legitimacy doesn’t come from ourselves; it comes from the degree to which we imitate Jesus. An ambassador doesn’t have any authority on her own; she only has authority to the extent that the country she represents has given it to her. As ambassadors of Christ, we do not view or treat other people the way the world does. We are known by our love and by whom we represent. In all things, at all times, we seek to represent Christ and proclaim his gospel of reconciliation, in our words and actions.
When we say “Invite Often,” we have four types of Invitation in mind:
- Inviting People Into Our Space
Showing hospitality by sharing your yard, your home, and your social gatherings with others is a simple but powerful gesture. Inviting the people around you to join you around the fire pit, the kitchen table, or a family party can have far-reaching impact. Hospitality is a biblical virtue and one that is commanded to believers repeatedly.
2. Inviting People Into Our Lives
Once people become part of our spaces, we can invite them to get to know us better. By leading with vulnerability, and letting people see more of the real you and hearing your story, you can open doors for others to become known as well. Even Jesus led with vulnerability, when he asked the woman at the well for some water (in John 4). If you’re feeling stuck in reaching out to your neighbors, start with your need and reach out from there.
3. Inviting People Into the Life of the Church
As you share more of your life with others, more of what you share should touch on your faith. It can start by including church-related activity when you answer “What did you do this weekend?” or “What’s new?” Inviting people into the life of the church can include inviting them to formal events, such as worship gatherings, small groups, and the like. But it also includes informal events, like a meal with some other believers. The church is *people*, not a building, so bringing people into relationship with other believers brings them into the life of the church. Don’t forget that you can not only think about your neighbors as recipients of outreach, but as participants in “with-reach” to introduce them to the Church.
4. Inviting People to Know Jesus Christ
People can’t believe in a gospel that they haven’t heard.
13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
— Romans 10:13–15 NIV
In future posts, we’ll describe more of what goes into this verbal, gospel invitation. But suffice it to say, the best kind of gospel invitation emerges naturally and organically from all the other invitations that have come before it. Each invitation takes intentionality, but none are overly difficult and can have great impact.