Dear Church Family
We recently received an invitation to a wedding. It's great to receive an invitation, isn't it? It might be to a wedding, or perhaps a birthday party, or anniversary celebration or special event. Whatever it is, we like to be invited and included and share in the joy. At the heart of the good news of Jesus is an invitation: God sent Jesus to die and rise again so we might be invited into a relationship with him that lasts for eternity.
The invitation requires a response (an RSVP if you like!) - which is to start following Jesus. But people can only RSVP if they are actually given an invitation. That's why we need to invite. Invite people to start following Jesus. Or invite them to church. Or invite them to pray. It starts with an invitation.
I think the church in the UK, and particularly in the North is beginning to wake up to the importance of invitation. It's possibly our most important tool for mission.
This week I've been at all sorts of gatherings of people. People from The Belfrey, and church leaders in our Diocese and across the North. And most were talking about mission, saying they wanted to be more effective in mission but weren't sure how. One response that stood out for me was that of a clergy-person from the Diocese of Durham who said this at a training session I was leading yesterday on missional discipleship (on how disciples make disciples). 'The invitation to start following Jesus. That's the thing I think I'm really going to take away from this. To simply ask people more regularly if they want to start following Jesus.'
That's something we're learning to do more at The Belfrey when we gather in our congregations. Either in a sermon, or at some point in the service (or even afterwards as we chat to people) we're putting out the invitation. And we're finding that often people respond. Last Sunday we know, on top of three adults who were baptised, that at least three others decided to start following Jesus (two who we baptised there and then!) and it was good to then hook them up with others who are meeting with them to get them rooted into small groups.
It's the power of invitation. So often neglected. But actually so simple.
When the gospel-writer Mark writes about Jesus gathering his first disciples he gives us the exact words Jesus used: 'Come, follow me' (Mark 1:17). So simple. It's the invitation to start following. So who are you going to invite?
Have a lovely weekend, as we give thanks on Sunday for those who have given their lives in human conflicts, and as we welcome Krish Kandiah as our guest speaker at our New Wine Celebration at The6.
PS. Don't forget that you can contribute to Greg Downes' leaving gift either by using the plate at the back of church (which will be available this Sunday and also on 19th Nov) or by dropping an envelope into the Parish Centre. The gift will go to help renovate the house in Oxford in which the family will live.