Why is an invitation more important than a welcome?
From the very beginning of Scripture to the very end, we see God inviting mankind into deep community with Himself. In Genesis, God comes to Adam and Eve in the cool of the day – just to be with them. In Revelation, Jesus knocks on the door of the church asking to be invited in for dinner. God is a missional, inviting, welcoming, engaging God! He is so engaged in this inviting mission, that He sent His only Son to create access to community with Himself – this is the Missio Dei.
During these months, my front porch has become more than a “Virtual Office” and more of my “Actual Office.” Most of my emails, sermons, letters, and articles have been written sitting outside with a view of the front range. I have seen deer walk down the street, homeless men and women walking up from the park, hospital workers walking to their cars, the comings and goings of landscapers, and of course, my neighbors. I have had many conversations over the past six months about many different things with my neighbors. One thing happened during this time that reminds me about the significance of invitation.
Our neighbor has always been friendly and engaging in conversation. She has been in our home and to various rites of passage for our kids – generally in our backyard. Over the years, most of our conversations have happened across the street or sidewalk. Recently we were having a conversation with her from our porch to the sidewalk, when I said, “Would you like to come up here and sit down?” She sat down with us and chatted about life, church, and parenthood for about an hour.
I like to think she felt invited to come and sit for a while. I hope that she heard the Master knocking on the door of her heart from the cool of the porch.
What would it look like to create access to community with God? How is our church creating access to this intimate relationship with Jesus? Is it enough to build a beautiful porch? Is it enough to sit on the porch and wave at our neighbors?
Certainly, my porch allows for far more engagement with my neighbors. Prior to building our front porch, the only time I was in the front yard was when I was mowing the grass. But, if I just replace mowing with working on my computer, what is the difference? Especially if I don’t actually invite my neighbor up to sit and chat for a while? I might as well just yell at the kids and the homeless, “STAY OFF THE GRASS!”
You have probably heard by now, HarvestDowntown is building a new front porch for our Annex. But, this is going to be much more than a porch. This is going to be an Intergenerational Plaza with a beautiful and inviting entrance for those with strollers, bicycles, and wheelchairs. It is going to be a place where we can sit in the shade in the cool of the day and have a meaningful conversation. It is going to be a place where a skateboarder can practice their craft without damaging our property. It is going to be a place that welcomes our neighbors into the community of HarvestDowntown.
BUT, if we don’t invite people into community with God, what’s the point?
Creating a welcoming space may take a great deal of preparation and even more money. But, inviting others into community requires intentionality. I believe that to create access to the community we have in Christ, both are needed. I have been welcomed at places that I was not invited. I have also felt unwelcomed at places to which I was invited – most of this has to do with my role as a minister of the church. To build an Intergenerational Plaza without an intergenerational community would be pointless, (that is certainly not the case at HarvestDowntown!). But to also hang out on our porch without ever inviting our neighbor to come and sit down in the shade is certainly restful, but it is not missional.
I thank God every day that Jesus didn’t just hang out on the porch of heaven waving at us as we passed by. He came, created access by building a “ramp” through the cross, and then He proceeded to invite us into community with Him, the Father, and the Spirit. He then told us to do the same.
This month, we are asking the community of HarvestDowntown to prayerfully consider what God would have you give toward this Creating Access Initiative. Once you and your family know what that number is, please make a commitment by either clicking HERE or picking up a pledge card when you are @411.