"Hey Clay, you really ought to meet my friend Gina. She goes to the same seminary you do," Marcus Dodson told me about his friend, and I thought, "Why not?" So, I call her, we meet for breakfast, and 32 years of marriage later she is still the most interesting person I've ever met. The power of an invitation.
"Hey Clay, you should really go to Pre-school retreat, it's great." I'm a freshman starting college. Rich Lloyd tells me I should go to this Pre-school thing. Sounds like something involving 4-year-olds. I go anyway. It is amazing. I hear preaching like I've never heard before, I worship like I have never worshiped before, I meet friends that will change my life, and my relationship with God goes to a whole new level. I even climb a mountain for the first time - at night, holding a girl's hand. The power of an invitation.
"Hey Clay, let's borrow your Dad's boat and go skiing this afternoon." My cousin Ronnie couldn't water-ski. Neither could I. We took the boat to the lake in Avon Park that afternoon and burned a tank of gas learning to ski. By the time the sun was going down, we were skiing well enough to invite girls to go with us the next Sunday afternoon, which was the whole point of learning to ski. The power of an invitation.
"Hey Clay, would you preach for First Baptist Sebring Sunday?" I'm 22 years old. The pastor at First Baptist Sebring has just resigned. They were desperate, obviously. I accept the invitation. On that Sunday, the large crowd, the great choir and the beautiful glass sanctuary made me sound better than I was. The pulpit committee of Southside Baptist Church was in the congregation that day. They felt led to take a chance on a young, single man from their hometown. I was called as their pastor three weeks later. The power of an invitation.
"Hey Peter, Andrew, James and John, follow me!" Jesus invites four men to leave their fishing nets and go on the adventure of a lifetime. They spend three years with the Son of God (impressive internship), see him crucified and resurrected, do miracles themselves and travel all around the Roman world, a long way from being fishermen in Galilee. The power of an invitation.
"Hey everybody, come and meet the man who told me everything I've ever done. I think this man could be the leader we've all looked for our entire lives." A Samaritan woman, a five-time loser at marriage, shacked up with a man in town who won't marry her, invites her town to come out to the well to meet a Jewish rabbi. They are so impressed they beg him to stay. He does. They believe because of what they hear themselves. A whole town changed. The power of an invitation.
"Hey, Matthew, stop wasting your life getting rich on a government contract. Follow me." Matthew leaves his tax collection station to follow Jesus, throws a big party for all his friends and starts memorizing all the things Jesus says and does. Later he writes his account, the Gospel of Matthew. The power of an invitation.
"Hey Paul, stop fighting me and join me." Paul is blinded by the light of Jesus on the Damascus road. He accepts the invitation, flips sides, starts to preach the Good News and pushes the Jesus movement out beyond its Jewish comfort zone. The power of an invitation.
Somehow Jesus followers have lost this. We've become "Field of Dreams" people: "Build it, and they will come." Not anymore. People don't come just because church doors are open at 11 o'clock Sunday. But there is power in an invitation. A simple ask: "Hey, how about coming to church with me this Sunday. I'll take you to lunch afterward." What's the worst that could happen? Someone tells you "no." Big deal. Banks, potential first dates, your boss and your 2-year-old tell you "no" all the time.
They might say "yes." They might meet Jesus. Their lives might change. The simple power of an invitation.
Who do you need to invite?
Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church.
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