It was October of 1999, Fall break was ending, and I had just gotten back to the campus of the University of Evansville. This was my freshman year of college and for whatever reason I was among the first ones back to campus. I was bored and looking for a reason to not do homework. I had a couple of friends who happened to be roommates, so I called their room to see if one of them was up for playing a particular board game. As it turned out, the roommate I was trying to get hold of was not back yet, but the other one was. He invited me to join him in what he was doing. I accepted his invitation, and turned out what I agreed to do was help him with a prank. He had plans to “TP” (cover everything in toilet paper) the dorm room of someone he knew. I was young and foolish, so I went along with it. We walked across campus to the girls-only dorm and we were let into the room by the roommate of our intended target. It was on that fateful day that I met Abigail. It was her roommate that was the target of the prank. A couple of months after that day we officially started dating, and two weeks after graduating college we got married.
What got us started was an invitation. My memory of how I met my wife is a powerful reminder to me of the importance of invitations. For me, that simple invitation to join in on a silly prank ended up having life-changing consequences. However, all invitations have the potential to be life-changing. When we invite someone, and when they accept, we do subtly change the course of their lives. They come along on something that they previously had not anticipated being part of. When we invite someone, we are welcoming them to be part of our lives. We create shared memories together, and even if it is mundane, we have the potential to share an adventure together. Invitations are truly marvelous things.
As Christians, we are not very good at inviting people though. This is unfortunate because we should be. Jesus told a parable of a wedding banquet, where the servants of the king were sent out to invite everyone in. Jesus also said the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. To be faithful disciples we have a responsibility to invite. We like to do it passively. We think if we put a passive ad in the newspaper, put up a sign, or make a post on social media, that is good enough. However, if we are being honest, we know it is not. A survey was done of people who do not regularly attend church. The vast majority, 63% of them, said that a personal invitation from a friend or neighbor would be very effective in getting them to attend a church one time. Another study was done on the effectiveness of Methodists at inviting people, and it was found that on average, a member of a United Methodist Church invites someone to church once every 38 years! We have to do better than that.
We believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ is life-changing, soul-saving, world-transforming good news. If we truly believe that is the case, then it is frankly irresponsible of us to keep it to ourselves. We should be inviting people into the community of faith, and we should be inviting people to explore and discover this divine love for themselves. We can invite people to join us for Sunday morning worship, we can invite people to join us at bible study, or we can invite people to join us in deeper conversations. May we all take seriously the important task of inviting people. May we invite someone to join us on this adventure of faith. You never know, it might just change their life.