Signal Communities…Invite People to Christ

3 10 2012

BY ROBIN KINCAID LINKHART,
Longmont, Colorado, USA

Shared celebrations build relationships

 

Invite People to Christ. Some read these words with passion and zeal. Some read them and feel a bit uneasy. Others read them, say “Amen,” and then continue on their way, content in believing invitation is the task of those few faithful disciples truly cut out for it—like Jimmy Munson in Chattanooga, or the seventy, or the apostles, or the congregational missionary coordinator, or…well anybody but them.

Of all the Mission Initiatives this is the one we struggle with most. But in truth the Mission Initiatives aren’t five separate check-offs. They are a continuous circle of being, which shines through every facet of our discipleship, proclaiming to the world, “I am a follower of the Christ. I am part of making God’s dream for the world a reality.”

Every fiber of who we are in Christ exudes a living presence of who it is we say that we follow. Our lives tell the truth about what we believe.

“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asked (Mark 8:29 NRSV).

I wonder what our lives are saying?

The ministry of Jesus, a ministry announced at the synagogue in Nazareth, reveals God’s dream for the world:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. —Luke 4:18–19 NRSV

It is Christ’s mission statement. As members of the body of Christ it is ours, as well. Not just the twelve, not just the seventy, but the whole of God’s people—anointed and Spirit-filled.

But how do we do that where we work and live? How do we do that against the press of a culture that has other ideas?

Jesus revealed the true nature of God in a culture that believed the new era of blessing would come through a dazzling display of divine power throwing the entire cosmos into disarray, rightfully seating the Messiah on Caesar’s throne. In that cultural mindset and understanding of God, Jesus courageously revealed that it is in common, everyday human acts of reconciling and healing that the “kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17:20–21 NRSV).

Everyday human relationships: That’s where the transformation of creation occurs. No cataclysmic cosmic signs. Just the simple, mundane matters of clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, aiding the sick, visiting the imprisoned.

Still, we wonder. What does it look like to Invite People to Christ? What does it look like to be present in the world as God is present in the world, creatively and redemptively, as witnesses, agents of change, agents of healing, agents of hope, ambassadors for Christ?

In Luke 10:25–37, a lawyer wants to know what he has to do to inherit eternal life. What does it take to be a faithful disciple? Jesus answers with a question: What does it say in the law? The lawyer answers: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Jesus tells him he is correct.

Then the lawyer asks, “Who is my neighbor?” and Jesus tells a story. The story of a man, lying robbed and wounded alongside a road. Two religious, well-educated, and highly respected men pass and do not help. Then a man of no account, one of the lowest of the low, walks down the road. He stops and helps the bleeding traveler, takes him to safety, provides for all his needs. He spends time with him, he returns to check on him.

He “came near” (Luke 10:33 NRSV).

When he finishes telling the story, Jesus turns to the lawyer and asks, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man” lying on the side of the road?

The lawyer replies, “The one who showed him mercy”…the one who came near and touched him.
And Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.”

Those who create sacred spaces of hospitality in the everyday moments of their lives come near and taste eternal life now. It is in those sacramental moments that God is in the world, feeding, healing, and restoring creation one faithful step at a time.
Signal communities understand and live that truth.

Brighton Community of Christ, a 30-member congregation in a humble building on the rural eastern edge of Denver, signals God’s boundless invitation and welcome in the common, everyday fabric of ordinary lives. Visitors find a homegrown comfort in a relaxed atmosphere low on formality, but overflowing in authenticity.

It is a community of people who bring all of who they are to the table of fellowship and the altar of worship. The rest of the days of the week they put flesh and blood on the words they sing and the scriptures they proclaim, because “that’s what we believe discipleship looks like,” shares Pastor Bob Walker. It also includes invitation.

Not many years ago, Amber Smith invited her friends, Arial and Hope, to Brighton’s annual Vacation Bible School. It just seemed natural to keep inviting them, which led to youth camps and church.

After a few months Arial and Hope’s mom, Tara, decided to come to church with them. Tara became a regular. Tara’s mom, Peggy, influenced by previous interactions with another movement, decided she needed to intervene to save her family from this “cult.” Instead of finding the “cult,” Peggy found a new home.

She invited her soon-to-be husband, Dave. Now the whole family celebrates Community of Christ membership, and Peggy is finishing classes in preparation for her ordination to the office of priest.

Every time Brighton member Betty Horn saw her friend, Linda, she invited her to come to church. Linda’s persistent “no” didn’t faze Betty. When Linda tells the story she says, “I finally said ‘yes’ just to shut Betty up.”

What Linda found got her talking so much that her avidly non-church husband, John, decided he couldn’t let Linda go by herself. He needed to bring an objective opinion to the conversation.

John and Linda felt a deep sense of belonging from the beginning. Accepted just the way they were, no changes required. After a few months, worship leaders invited them to do scripture readings or prayers.

Hesitant, John and Linda declined. But an Easter opportunity to be the lion and lamb voices behind the puppet curtain drew them into a new dimension and experience of worship. Soon, Linda agreed to read during Sunday worship. When she heard enthusiastic sharing about the Rocky Mountain USA Mission Center education program, Seminars in Theological Education (SITE), she knew she was supposed to take the next step.

Leaders accepted Linda’s application. Her first SITE class was “Preaching” with Apostle Dale Luffman. Eager to serve, new member Linda worked diligently to develop her discipleship. She shared her “homework” when she gave her first sermon in the Brighton Congregation.

Many other stories of invitation continue to bring new life to Brighton. But discipleship in Brighton isn’t just about Sunday morning.

Bob and Associate Pastor Amy Smith believe being involved in people’s lives all week is vital to connection and building community. Monthly Bible Study Potluck Night happens in several homes. Congregants eagerly celebrate birthdays, cheer for graduations, help on moving day, and walk shoulder-to-shoulder during a multitude of life challenges.

No matter your age, who you are, or where you come from, Brighton Community of Christ makes it safe to take off the mask and be your true self, vulnerable and open to all the ways God’s Spirit seeks to move in, among, and through beloved community. The congregation models a new way of living, Christ becomes flesh and walks among us, and life is not the same.

“My spouse is a changed person,” one new member recently commented. Someone, once lost, is now found.
Pastor Jammie Apodaca discovered the same thing in Ellensburg, Washington, where she and her mother, Donna Garner, worked to plant a new expression of the church in an aging congregation of six.

What began as a partnership with the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)—providing church space for DSHS-supervised family visits—now includes member-led parenting classes and café-style church on Thursday night, where new members and friends journey to wholeness.

For Jammie one simple question emerged as a guiding compass. “What is our next faithful step?” The house, once remodeled to serve as a church with a makeshift sanctuary, reclaimed its “home” identity when members removed pews and brought living room furniture, round tables, and chairs. When Jammie walks up the steps to the front porch and looks through the front window, she now sees the living results of invitation, welcome, and hospitality.

Tammy and Kayleen chat on the couch while others sit at the table, watching Amelia do her homework. Maggie and Haley do handstands on the carpet. Alex and Kelly sip coffee, while Ray reads that day’s scripture from his corner chair by the lamp. Dylan and Cameron build Legos with Bradley.

Chuck and Karen adjust the doorstops to keep the doors open as Rachel says that she and Travis are expecting another baby. Everyone smiles and claps. Tommy comes in carrying a pizza. He’s trailed by sister Taylor and mom Ivy, who announce they are starving.

Several come straight from work, and everyone shares their latest news. Someone reads a text message aloud. Tanisha and David won’t be coming. Things aren’t going well, and they’re thinking about splitting up. Everything stops. The group gathers in prayer, asking God’s blessing on the young couple.

“When I open the door of our little house-church and walk into that scene, I know I am walking right into the peaceable kingdom,” Jammie says. “Then I pray these words: ‘Thank you God for showing us who you are and who we can be. Thank you for walking with us, holding our hands, and teaching us to be faithful. We are looking forward to the future…as you continue to show us our next faithful step!’”

Signal communities that Invite People to Christ have a story to share. It is a story of how they first encountered Jesus and how they continue to encounter him every day in ways that shape, stretch, and grow them beyond their imaginations. They study, live, and share the sacred story of scripture and recognize its connection to their own story.

Signal communities that Invite People to Christ are vulnerable to divine grace. Actively invested in their relationship with God, they risk opening themselves to experience authentic relationship with others in and out of their congregation.

Signal communities that Invite People to Christ sense God’s presence in everyday moments and long to join God’s Spirit already at work in sacred spaces of feeding, healing, and restoring the world to wholeness.

Signal communities that Invite People to Christ live in the blessing of God’s boundless welcome and extend the warm embrace of hospitality to all they encounter as they journey with Christ.

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3 responses

8 10 2012
Can’t Wait! « Thoughts from the Porch

[…] Signal Communities…Invite People to Christ (heraldmagazine.wordpress.com) Rate this:Share this:SharePrintEmailTwitterStumbleUponFacebookRedditLinkedInDiggTumblrLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

8 10 2012
Representatives of the “Slave Class” or the Real “faithful and discreet slave” « Belgian Biblestudents – Belgische Bijbelstudenten

[…] Signal Communities…Invite People to Christ (heraldmagazine.wordpress.com) Every fiber of who we are in Christ exudes a living presence of who it is we say that we follow. Our lives tell the truth about what we believe. + It is Christ’s mission statement. As members of the body of Christ it is ours, as well. Not just the twelve, not just the seventy, but the whole of God’s people—anointed and Spirit-filled. {We would like to remind readers the Herald mentioned in this blog has nothing to do the Bible Students magazine The Herald or with the Christadelphian  magazine The Herald of the Kingdom of God.} […]

3 10 2012
terryflowersblog

Thank you for this article. May we always be aware of those around us and may we be ready to share the love and grace of God.




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