Yesterday afternoon I met up with Luke Lea, the pastor at Matthew’s Memorial UMC, and we set up a booth at the Madison Night Out Against Crime event at Madison Park. It was hot as blazes but we met all sorts of folks — business and community leaders, neighbors, folks driving by to see what was happening. Luke was handing out school supplies and popsicles while I gave away travel mugs and “Where to Turn for Help” guides. It was a great event and I hope that we became a little more visible to our neighbors.
As I looked around the booths, I was struck that all of the vendors (like us) wanted the same thing: to have people come to their church, business, or organization. We were all reaching out to invite our neighbors to come join us in the work we are doing. And, looking at the smiles on the faces there, I think folks were glad to be asked.
Now we give a lot of lip service about wanting new people to come be a part of our church. We believe that we are a warm and welcoming place. We long to see more folks join us on Sunday mornings.
However, are we REALLY invested in helping others experience the radical love of Jesus? Are we REALLY willing to do the work to invite and encourage folks outside our doors to come join us? Most importantly, are we REALLY willing to change and embrace new ideas of what it means to be a church to welcome others who don’t come with the same background and experiences at us?
Sometimes I think that folks think the job of inviting, welcoming, and creating new experiences is solely the work of the pastor or staff. “Sure we want people to join us,” folks will say, “as long as it doesn’t demand too much of us.” Church becomes a spectator sport where we come consume our songs and sermons, and then go home in the hope that simply being present is enough.
It isn’t enough.
Our ability to grow and thrive is dependent on ALL of us working together to welcome and invite new folks into our midst. It requires new ideas, and the willingness to represent our faith community to our neighbors.
Friends, we must come to the realization that the future success or failure of City Road Chapel is dependent on each one of us. Some of us are called to be teachers and others evangelists, but ALL of us are called to supporting the ministry of our church through our prayers, presence, gifts, service, AND witness. We need every person to bring their ideas and then come to the table to turn those ideas into reality.
I received notice today of another community event coming soon, the Good Neighbor Festival, on Saturday, September 24, 2022 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Cedar Hill Park. This event, sponsored by the Neighbor 2 Neighbor organization, is encouraging local organizations like ours to setup a booth to meet our neighbors.
Who among us can have a vision for what we might offer to this festival? Who would be willing to dedicate some time to represent our church? How can we ensure that others know we have something to offer their lives?
It will be interesting to see how we answer these questions.