think about the birth of a child, we get a sense of pure amazing love that
fills us up as we look into the precious face of our little one. We find it
pure joy to watch them as they grow and learn. They begin to coo and smile,
then comes laughter and interactions. We watch in anticipation as they begin to
crawl and then walk and start to talk. Each milestone is exciting and we
document it with pictures and videos. We can’t help ourselves in sharing it all
with the people in our lives. As they become more independent they begin to
make their own choices, be they good or bad. We set boundaries and teach them
right from wrong in hopes that they will make “good choices” as they continue
to grow and learn. We discipline them to cause them to think about the choices
they make. Sometimes they learn and other times they do what they want to do
regardless of the consequences. We try to spare them the same mistakes we have
made with our own lives. But ultimately, it is a choice that each of us has to
make for ourselves.
Such is the love of our Father in heaven. He looks upon his children in our infancy with a love which is steadfast and enduring. He finds it pure joy to watch us as we grow in faith and in his spirit. He smiles as we begin to interact with him. He watches with anticipation as we take steps toward him and learn from his word. In each milestone, he takes us to another level of faith. He allows us to make our own choices, be they good or bad. He also lets us suffer the consequences to teach us right from wrong. He wants us to let him lead us through his holy spirit so we will hold on to the hope he has promised. We each have a choice to let him lead us. When we accept him into our lives, we become his precious children. We as children then feel a need to share his love with everyone, just as he commands it.
The LORD says, “Then I will heal you of your faithlessness; my love will know
no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever.”
In reflecting on this amazing truth, I recall how I was rebellious in my youth and I made a lot of bad choices. In The same way, parents sometimes must endure the choices of their children, God let me make those wrong choices and learn from them. And even though it hurt God to watch me make them, when I asked for his forgiveness, God embraced me with His eternal love and has forgiven me. I have to admit that I don’t always surrender to His will but through his Holy Spirit, He is teaching me how to surrender more and more. I know he will never leave me and nothing can separate me from his love. He has given me peace and hope for the future. I want others to know what I know. God loves us and wants to have a relationship with us. He is waiting at the door. Will you let your Father come in and embrace you? It’s really very simple, “just open the door”! He will do the rest!
8:14-17 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did
not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but have received the
Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “ Abba! Father!”
Karen Ingram is a member of Westside Christian Church who serves on our first touch team and as a leader in our Celebrate Recovery at Westside.
Hey Westside, Pastor Nathan here writing to you today about our vision for 2019. Last Sunday, at the State of the Church meeting, I shared an idea that God has been working on my heart for several months now. It’s “The Power of A Personal Invitation.” It all started over a year ago when my then 12-year-old son was getting plugged into the Student Ministry program here at WCC. For a young 6th grader, youth group can be a little intimidating…especially when there aren’t very many Junior High students like him in the program.
So one day, he invites a buddy from his public school to join him and we start taking him down the hill from our house on Wednesday nights to youth group. My son’s buddy really likes his experience there and begins to ask his mother to take him to church service on Sundays. Pretty soon, his mom is liking what she’s experiencing and decides to invite her parents to attend. A few months go by and the parents are liking what they are experiencing and so they invite a couple of their best friends to a weekend service.
You guessed it, they liked what they were experiencing and so they in turn, after a few months, invite some of their friends to attend. So about 18 months later, 8 people show up on a Sunday morning for worship all because a 12-year-old invited his buddy to go to youth group. Now, I’ll admit this is not the norm…but what if it could be? What if that’s how it’s supposed to be? What if that is how God designed His church to grow? By the personal invitation of another. With all our amazing marketing and social media and print advertising that we can produce, nothing is more powerful or effective than the personal invitation. There is power there…not to manipulate or cajole people. But to invite them into something bigger than themselves. To invite them into an experience with God, unlike anything they’ve experienced before. I think most Christians today don’t really know the power they have in their ability to personally invite others to a worship service. I think we have been so distracted by life and have bought into the lie that we don’t know enough scripture or we fear being rejected or we are simply too busy to invite someone else to go with us. And in doing so, we have made it about us instead of others. But the truth is, we are a lot more effective when we personally invite someone to church than we know. Consider this, in a survey, 50,000 people were asked why they went to church. 2% said because of advertising. 6% said because of pastoral invitation and another 6% because of an evangelistic campaign. But 86% said they went to church simply because a friend or family member asked them to go. Armed with this reality, the Church should be inspired to reach out and push past our fears. And yet only 2% of church people say they invite non-church people to go to church with them. There is a disconnect somewhere. Of those same church people who were asked if they invited their unchurched friends to go with them, 37% linked their acceptance of Christ to being invited to church themselves and 40% of those who joined a church claimed they first came because a friend invited them. Church, it’s time to stop making excuses and start inviting with confidence. The Power Of A Personal Invitation has nothing to do with your ability to know what to say or make the church look good. It is all about being a conduit of God’s Holy Spirit to be used as an instrument of His grace. This is not about you, but about the people that God is trying to reach through you. And that is why I’m challenging you in 2019 to discover the Power Of A Personal Invitation in your life. There are 3 aspects to a personal invitation that I would like you to prayerfully consider. First, decide there is something worth inviting too. So often I hear the excuse, “Well, I just don’t know if my friends will like it.” or “I’m just afraid something will happen and I’ll be embarrassed.” While those are some realistic concerns, might I suggest that we stop using them as an excuse? After all, if you attend a church, there must be something of value that it has to offer. But more than that, this is not about what you can get out of the church but about you being The Church. If there are some legitimate concerns you have that are keeping you from inviting your friends and family, neighbors and co-workers, speak to a member of your pastoral team to discuss it. But at the end of the day, the Church, God’s Church, is about Christ and so while we work very hard to be professional and do our very best for God, it is always about Him first and foremost. There is a place for you at Church and there is a place for the people in your sphere of influence as well. The second aspect of personal invitation is the friendship factor. Cold calling is one of the hardest things to do. But when you have a relationship with someone, you bring instant credibility to whatever you are inviting them into. I’m not asking you to go door to door of perfect strangers or stand on a soapbox at the local grocery store. I’m simply asking you to invite those people you already have a relationship with. And you know what will happen? 9 times out of 10 they will say yes. Why? Because they are your friend, they like you and respect you and so when you invite them, they will most likely take you up on that offer. Don’t discredit or ignore the friendship factor. After all, we invite people to the movies or to the park or over for dinner all the time. Why would inviting them to church be any different? Finally, the third aspect of personal invitation is to “be the ambassador”…and make the effort! Secretly wishing and hoping they will miraculously show up on a Sunday won’t work. You must open your mouth and simply say, “would you like to go to church with me on Sunday.” Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” The context of this verse happens to be centered around Paul’s ministry to the Corinthian church, but it applies to us as well. If you take the mindset that you are God’s ambassador, that is, God’s representative to the people in your sphere of influence, then that takes away the pressure to make it happen. Remember, God is at work not only in your life but also the lives of those around you so it’s not up to you to “convert” someone to Christ. Your responsibility is simply to invite and represent God well. To be His example. Not perfect…but redeemed. So there you have it Church. God is challenging us to prayerfully consider the Power Of A Personal Invitation in 2019. Remember, their showing up is between them and God. Your asking them to join you is between you and God. Will you be faithful to follow God’s call to reach out to your friends and family? Will you take the step of faith, pushing aside any fear and doubt, and invite them to go to church with you next Sunday? Take your cue from a 12-year-old boy and make a difference in someone’s life today!
Pastor Nathan Cherry is the Senior pastor of Westside Christian Church. to learn more about Westside and our staff click here!
Check back with us each week for a new post from one of our Westside writing team.
For our first post I wanted to share with you the purpose of the Westside Weekly blog. As the online social environment continues to increase globally it is our goal to further the mission of Westside Christian Church of reaching people with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ and to lead, teach and equip them to become life-long followers of Him. We do this in 3 simple ways: to Connect with God… Connect with Others… and Serve All. Westside Weekly is one way that we can extend that calling beyond the walls of Westside. The purpose of Westside Weekly is to provide content to encourage, teach, and equip fellow believers. Whether you are a member or regular attender of Westside, a fellow believer in the community, or in someplace far off in another part of the world, we want to encourage you to live for Christ and in turn be and make life long disciples.
In 1 Corinthians 9:19 Paul says: “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law, I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law, I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I might share in its blessings.”
This verse has been a huge part of the vision for Westside Weekly. Through the online realm we have an opportunity to reach far beyond the walls of Westside Christian Church and into the homes of families all over the world regardless of political beliefs, skin color, economic status, or any other means that might otherwise divide us. At Westside we want to be obedient to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by using “all possible means” that we might by the power of the Holy Spirit “save some”. It is therefore the intention of Westside weekly to provide spiritually uplifting content that points us to Christ.
Each week one of our featured writers will post a devotional thought to encourage you in your faith walk. Make sure to check back each week here on our website and interact with the content on our social media pages on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Commenting and sharing will help this content expand beyond our own community. We look forward to seeing how God wants to encourage you and those in your social circles through Westside Weekly this year!
In Christ Thomas Hartung Pastor of media and worship arts