Dec 17, 2020.
Here we are one week prior to Christmas, and I am so glad I understand what the season truly means. You and I have been invited by heaven to the Fathers table, and we have taken our place at that table. And what a life-changing privilege it has been. Yes? The Lord sought us, invited us, and we said “yes”. I am intrigued however, that not all invitations are the same.
#JesusStories: Among the Incarnation accounts, I love the bit about the shepherds found in Luke 2. These nomad sheep-tenders represented the lowest rung on the social ladder of early Palestine; they spent their nights sleeping in the fields with their sheep. Yet on the night Jesus was born, heaven orchestrated a spectacular invite to “them” performed by glowing angels speaking in prose and song. WOW! The contrast between lowliness and glory is breathtaking. And as expected, this invite resulted in the shepherds making their way to the side of the newborn Messiah. And when they got there, they did not walk into a palace or high-end Inn, it was an animal cave on the edge of town – a place chosen so they would not feel uncomfortable or upstaged. It appears God went out of His way to make this invitation perfect for them, even to the discomfort of the first family. Now it is true that much later, wealthy nobles found a place at the side of the Christ Child too, but their invite was not the same as the shepherds. For the lowly, God pursued them in a most marvelous way and literally swept them to the side of the infant Jesus; for the others, God posted a star and left the door open for them to find their way. So all were welcomed, but the poor were given an invitation of extravagance.
What does this mean to the leaders of Jesus’ Church through the ages? In rich America, it serves as a confrontation against any form of elitism. Many Christian leaders have missed-the-mark by envisioning their churches filled with impressive people, while overlooking the lower-third who live in the shadow of their steeples. This is exactly the opposite of the message that flows from the shepherds grand invite story, isn’t it? Further, it is exactly the opposite of the people Jesus pursued first during his ministry – the sick, the poor, the sinner, and the isolated at all levels of the social ladder. Could the American Church ever learn to reserve our most extravagant invitations for those left-behind and over-looked?
#DinnerChurchQuotes: “Those who abandon everything in order to seek God know well that He is the God of the poor.” -Thomas Merton
#PracticalStuff: This is the season to remember that the Divine Invite holds particular power for challenged groups. So here is the idea-of-the-week: 1)Call a holiday huddle with your core team and remember where your dinner churchs’ calling lies. 2)Then read the Luke 2:8-16, followed by Mt. 25:34-40. 3)End by leading them in a prayer of recommitment to set a table for the isolated knowing full-well that Jesus Himself will sit down with them.
Blessings & Boldness,
Dr. Verlon and Melodee Fosner have led a multi-site Assemblies of God Dinner Church in Seattle, Washington since 1999 (www.CommunityDinners.com). In this decade when more churches in the U.S. are declining than thriving, and when ninety-six churches a week are closing, Verlon and Melodee sensed that a different way of doing church was needed for their 97-year old Seattle congregation. It soon became obvious that they were not the only ones in need of a different path. They joined the FX team in 2016 and founded the Dinner Church Collective. And then in 2019 founded the Dinner Church School of Leadership. There is a lot to be gained when church leaders begin to see open doors in the American landscape that they had previously overlooked. Therein lies the journey for those who will forge a new future for the American Church.