We continued our series on growing spiritually and building community last week by talking about invitation and about being an inviting church. Followers of Jesus are called to invite everyone into the experience of God’s way for the world, what Jesus called the “kingdom” and which he embodied in his life and made available to everyone through his death and resurrection. Jesus’ followers are called to follow him in inviting everyone into the kingdom.
Jesus also reminds his followers, for example in the story he tells in Luke 14:12-24, that no matter how uninterested some of those whom God invites may be God is going to keep inviting people into his kingdom until it is filled. With God being so focused on inviting people into his kingdom the practice of inviting others to experience, or to at least explore what God’s kingdom is like, is one of our best opportunities for experiencing God at work.
If we make inviting people a habit we will of course find that lots of people aren’t interested in finding out more about the kingdom, but we’ll also be surprised by how many people are interested, and what we’ll find even more exciting will be the experience of seeing other people’s lives changed as they experience God and God’s ways for themselves.
One of the biggest challenges we face in inviting others to explore the Christian faith is knowing where to invite people and what exactly to invite them to. While some churches have gotten pretty good at providing “seeker sensitive” church gatherings on Sunday and at other times of worship there are almost always things we do or say as a group of lifelong churchgoers that will just be way too new or strange for someone who has never been part of church before or who has been away from church for a while. So, what do we invite people to when we want to invite them to come and learn more about the kingdom?
One of simplest and most popular things we can invite someone to is Alpha. The reason Alpha has been so popular for so long now is that churches and other ministries around the world have found that it is one of the easiest and most effective things to invite someone to where they can be free to explore questions about life and faith and God. It’s an opportunity for people to experience genuine Christian community without facing the hurtles of a gathering that has been designed primarily with lifelong church goers in mind.
For churches and for Christians who want to be inviting and who, in particular, want to invite people to explore and experience the kingdom, Alpha is one of the most powerful resources available today. But the power of Alpha isn’t the videos. It isn’t Nicky Gumbel or the high quality promotional materials. The power of Alpha is the space it makes for people to invite other people to explore and to experience who God is and what God is like together.
I really hope you can join us this Sunday as talk more about how Alpha works and how it fits into the spiritual growth and community building of St. Paul’s.