Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross
It was our largest crowd since before the Pandemic. It was a targeted effort to fill the building. The building was full! I asked several how many non-members were present and the most conservative answer was dozens, perhaps fifty. While we know that filling the pews is only one factor in encouraging people to follow Jesus (discipleship), it is a pretty fundamental and important one. Let me share a few exciting things I saw.
I saw the power of an invitation. The elders laid out a challenge to us to invite every non-member we could think of, coworkers, family members, friends, classmates, acquaintances, etc. That’s not revolutionary. Perhaps it was the sheer volume of invitations so many members issued. Such seeds were spread far and wide, and Sunday was an indication that some will come if asked. I am confident that many who were invited will come in the future, if we continue to ask. Philip invited Nathanael to “come and see” (John 1:46), and it changed Nathanael’s life! Andrew told his brother, Peter, “We have found the Christ” (John 1:41)! It changed not just Peter’s life, but the thousands of lives Peter eventually touched. Who knows the eternal impact made by all the invitations issued this weekend, but it shows that there’s still power in a simple invitation!
I saw the strength of teamwork. That was on display in so many ways. There was a huge team of people greeting those who entered our doors. Anticipating a lot of visitors, this was organized beyond the ordinary measure. It was exciting to see so many doing this, and it seemed to be infectious. Others joined in. It was evident in the efforts of multiple deacons and vision groups coordinating various works. It extended to members in the auditorium warmly welcoming unfamiliar faces and making our visitors feel at home. It continued on to the potluck after Bible class with the scores of people bringing an abundance of food, serving, assisting, and cleaning up. We were a finely-tuned machine of coordination. I could not help but think of Paul’s words, to Philippi (“make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose,” 2:2) and Colosse (“beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity,” 3:14). Sure, he had more in mind that one event on one day, but this is a key way such overall unity is built.
I saw the example of leadership. This began with the eldership. They not only challenged us to invite, they led the way. It’s not an exaggeration to suggest that the four of them invited hundreds of people by text, phone, and face-to-face. They invited friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers! True leadership shows the way! This included those who led in worship. There was forethought, effort, and coordination from the greeting to the announcements and every act of worship in between them. This involved the membership who enthusiastically engaged in the worship. It also takes in every one that helped people find bathrooms and classrooms. Leadership always breeds more leadership. The writer of Hebrews says, “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith” (13:7).
I saw the hope of tomorrow. The effects of the last 18-plus months have been deflating and demoralizing. We have lost members to Covid, physically and spiritually. It has derailed plans. It has distracted us. But Sunday showed that by faith in God and by following His plan, the best is yet to be! As we were reminded at the end of the day yesterday afternoon, we have worship every Sunday so let’s keep inviting. How many Bible studies will result from inviting others to church? How many future preachers, elders, deacons, soul-winners, and Bible class teachers are represented in those who walked through our doors yesterday, some for the first time ever? To some degree, we’ve got to be like Paul and say, “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13b-14).
There’s more to do! There’s more inviting to do. There’s more follow up to do. But I see more than a special event in what occurred on Sunday! I see a culture change and a purposed people. Think what God can do with that!