Jesus wants you to invite others into his kingdom, says Efrem Buckle. But the invitation might look different to what you imagined
It’s wedding season! The parties are well and truly back in full swing, and I’m sure I’m not alone to be very excited about this after two very quiet summers.
One of my favourite things about this season is receiving a wedding invite. That’s when the anticipation starts – from there I can enjoy choosing my meal, buying gifts, wondering if my suit is still going to fit, getting dressed up, then going and celebrating the great occasion. When a wedding invitation arrives, I feel honoured and loved: it’s flattering that the happy couple would want me to be with them on their special day.
For those of us that are Christians, is that not a similar sensation to what it feels like to be invited into God’s family? Except 100 times more! I remember the day I received that invitation more than any wedding invite I’ve received in my life.
We now have a huge opportunity to extend that invitation to many people who are willing to receive it in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. According to a survey of over 900 churches, almost 60 per cent of UK churches reported a notable increase in people interested in finding out more about the Christian faith. After such a turbulent two years, with the social challenges we’ve faced, the uncertainty and loss, it seems that the times in which we live has elicited a real openness and interest in knowing more about Jesus.
This year a large-scale report released by a collaboration of organisations including the Evangelical Alliance and Alpha. The report, entitled Talking Jesus, tracked the perceptions of Jesus, Christians and evangelism in the UK, and assessed how Christians are confident in sharing the gospel.
The survey found that 80 per cent of practising Christians think that their church holds events, services, and courses that are suitable for non-Christians to attend. But despite this, nearly half (46 per cent) of Christians feel they don’t know someone well enough to invite them to church. There is obviously a disconnect between confidence and actual connection with people to talk to or invite.
So how can we make sure this invitation gets to the people who are ready to accept it?
The parable of the great banquet, which appears in both gospels of Matthew and Luke, should be such an encouragement to Christians to know that when they are stepping out to invite someone to church, they are in fact doing God’s will and precisely following what Jesus modelled in his ministry. In Matthew 22:8-9, the master of the feast says to his servants that the wedding feast or banquet is ready, and they are to go out into the streets, and invite anyone they find. The beauty of the gospel and the paradox of grace is that God’s invitation is unlimited and unrestricted. But then, how come in our churches and communities, this encouragement and the knowledge of grace isn’t enough?
Maybe the ask seems too big. I know I have felt that extending an invitation to church to my friends or people in my community feels like a massive responsibility and a vulnerable place to put myself in. So why not start small?
I believe what we can do in our everyday is invite people into our lives. Maybe it’s inviting them over for dinner, for coffee or for a walk on your lunch break at work. You could welcome them to a neighbourhood BBQ or to attend a local community event together. It is in these moments that I have felt encouraged and at ease to open up conversations about what God has done in my life and to hear more about my friends and neighbours, enter their world and find out more about where they’re at.
While we have overcome a lot as a nation since the coronavirus pandemic, we are still currently in the middle of financial turmoil, political uncertainty and a lot of our communities are feeling forgotten and lost. Take Forestdale Community Church in Croydon, for example. Maria, one of the members has described how the involvement with LCM and training and support they’ve received has given her confidence throughout the rest of the week. “I had often noticed a lady accompanying her granddaughter to school. She struggled up the steep hill with a walking stick. One day, I felt God prompt me to talk to her. We struck up a conversation. We exchanged numbers and we’ve been meeting up every fortnight. It’s gone from talking about the weather, to praying together, to eventually talking about Jesus.” Those micro invitations can lead to stories being shared, and lives being walked together.
It may be that while reading this you’re thinking, “I’ve read thousands of articles encouraging me to invite people and help our communities, why now?” But I believe Jesus is rallying us to come together. His harvest is full, and his workers are few.
I cannot emphasise strongly enough that Jesus has called every one of us to invite others into his kingdom and love them, just as he has invited us to his great wedding feast of eternal joy. The challenge to be invitational is not just a trend, or a hype that church leaders seem to be on. This is a mandate that Jesus has given us and is prophetically speaking over our nation - calling us to act.
He is calling you to extend the invitation. To live openly and take small steps in our everyday lives. When God calls you, will you accept his invitation?
Read more on this story: 'I was a Muslim kid who was invited to a brilliant Christian camp. Now I’m a church leader'
London City Mission will be holding a Thanksgiving service next month, which will contain more inspiring stories. Find out more at lcm.org.uk/thanksgiving