On the run up to a short 7 week course we had planned called Life Explored we used the following image from the material for our invitations:
Here, on the doorstep of space stands an astronaut ready for a spacewalk. They have practiced many times and know all the engineering work that will make the walk a success – the people who designed the suit, the cable that attaches them, the airlock that will later protect them, their crew and the folk at ground control. All this astronaut can now do is step out. Success can only be achieved by stepping out, but the vast majority of the outcome will always be out of the hands of the astronaut.
They needed to know about what they will be doing, but in reality they can only start the process.
Its the same when it comes to church folk inviting someone to an event their church puts on. At St Jude’s we use a framework to try and explain how we connect our church community with our surrounding community that we call ‘Gardens, Dining Rooms and Kitchens’. (You can read more about it here if you want to)
We invite and welcome all as guests and offer signposts to other things they can choose to come to where we hope friendship can develop – out of which there are going to be opportunities where they can explore becoming part of the family of God. However, we are very aware that we don’t influence anyone, instead it is the Holy Spirit working alongside them and their decisions that may mean they will choose to step out and explore a bit more. At the heart of this is hospitality. The freely given invitation and welcome that is offered to all. Its at the heart of the church because it is at the heart of God and the good news Jesus brought. We have all we have because its been freely given to us, therefore its our duty to do the same for others – give freely.
And this is where I have come to realise that in a church setting an acceptance of an invitation isn’t to be measured as success, rather its the act of inviting that is. It is all we’re called to do, and when we follow though in obedience and ask, then our Father in heaven will acknowledge we have played our part. Just as the astronaut has to trust his engineers for the outcome, having done a bit of practice and pre-thinking, so it is with us. Of course, we need to think about any invitations we want to give to any event, and over time we may get less nervous the more times we do it, but the outcome of the invitations will not be dependent on us. We need to trust those we know to choose how to respond to our invitation with any prompting they also receive from the Holy Spirit.
Who knew – stepping out for a space walk has similarities to inviting someone to church – well, except for the danger. We just need to ask – and step out.