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Investing and Inviting to Achieve Maximum Impact

Investing and Inviting to Achieve Maximum Impact

The core dynamic of evangelism is investing and inviting. Let’s start off with the invest part. Investing in someone is simply about building a relationship: getting to know them, spending time with them, entering into community with them.

Only within the confines of a relationship will there be the trust to be authentic and to have conversations about what matters most in life. You already have these relationships built into your life. You have friends, family members, neighbors, coworkers. You’ve got people you interact with through your kids at school or with sports teams.

But if you’re going to make an impact on them for the cause of Christ, you’ve got to be intentional about those relationships. You’ve got to serve those relationships. You’ve got to invest in them as someone who is on mission for them and their life.

You’re going to pray like mad for them. You’re going to pray for your time with them. You’re going to pray for openings to talk about spiritual things, opportunities to let them get to know you and how Christ has intersected the deepest needs of your life.

And those openings will come.

The fact that you’re a Christ follower will come out. You’ll have chances to peel back the layers and tell your story: what you were like before Christ and what life has been like after. The ways you ran from God and chased after anything and everything else, and then what it was like when you finally came home.

You can tell them the difference your relationship with Christ has made in your marriage. The difference it’s made in the lives of your kids and your parenting.

Then comes the invite part.

Along the way, they’ll have good, fair, honest, and reasonable questions. They may want to explore, and they may be intrigued by your life. They may see something in your life (and I hope that they do) that they don’t have themselves. That’s where the invite part comes in.

Invite them to come and see, come and hear, come and explore.

This tandem of investing and inviting is at the heart of the mission. It always has been.

Do you know how Jesus not only gathered his first followers, but how the whole Christian movement burst onto the world scene? This is from John’s biography of Jesus in the Bible:

The next day John [the Baptist] was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”

They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

“Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”

So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”

Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

“Come and see,” said Philip. (John 1:35–46)

John pointed Andrew to Jesus, then Andrew invited Simon Peter, then Philip invited Nathanael, and on and on it went. This was all happening like people talking to someone about a great restaurant, or a new movie, or a great blog or website. Or the way people post about something on Facebook or Instagram. It was such an organic thing. People were sharing about Jesus like gossip over the backyard fence. Natural, real, authentic, conversational.

I remember being in a conversation with a guy I was just starting to get to know. This was several years ago, but it was so typical of countless conversations I’ve had with people. We met because our sons were on the same basketball team down at the YMCA. We would just talk here and there, nothing big, but we were hitting it off and obviously liked each other. I had no idea where this guy was spiritually.

Then, just a few weeks into our relationship, he asked me what I did for a living. Part of me thought, I really wish I could delay that one a few days, because when people find out I’m a pastor some of them start treating me like I’m a third sex. Other people start going back over in their minds all of the things that they’ve said that they probably shouldn’t have. Some are just shocked.

This guy fell into the shocked category, and he said: “Really? No way! You seem so normal!”

And I said, “Thank you… I think.”

Then he just started talking about his church background, and he said, “I used to go to church when I was a kid and I hated it. My mom just shoved religion down my throat, and I haven’t been in years.” He just went on like that, talking about it. There we were having this conversation on the sidelines of our kids’ basketball game, it got into spiritual stuff, and you know what?

It was just so normal and so natural. It wasn’t that big of a deal at the end of the conversation for me to say: “I don’t want to put words in your mouth but tell me if this is kind of what you’re saying. It sounds like you’ve given up on church, and church people, but not on God. Is that fair?”

And he said, “Yes, that’s exactly what it is.”

Then I said: “Well… now this is going to sound really weird… but the church I pastor? It’s kind of a church for the unchurched. It’s full of people just like you who’ve given up on church but not on God. And everyone there will pretty much be in your camp, coming from an unchurched background, and with the same kinds of questions you have. I’d love for you to give it a shot sometime. If you’re game, I’ll meet you out front and walk you around to make sure you’re acclimated. And then maybe we can get some lunch afterward. And that’s a standing invitation. I’m going to come back and ask you again if I don’t see you soon, because I think you’re going to love it.”

It’s so easy to do this. Nothing forced, nothing big, just an invitation.

But a powerful one.

James Emery White

Sources

Adapted from After “I Believe” by James Emery White, order from Amazon.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Hybrid Church: Rethinking the Church for a Post-Christian Digital Age, is now available on Amazon or from your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.

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The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of CrosswalkHeadlines.

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Hybrid Church: Rethinking the Church for a Post-Christian Digital Age, is now available on Amazon or from your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast. Follow Dr. White on X, Facebook and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.