Throughout my life, there are moments I can point to that have been significant or have made an impression so deep, I have become a changed person. Most of these instances have been a result of invitations I have received from others. There is a Biblical precedence for this. In the New Testament, Jesus often asked people to come, follow, and eventually abide with Him. Invitations can have significant outcomes.
I have three examples of how invitations affected my Christian journey. I believe that the people, knowingly or unknowingly, were acting on God’s prompting and these invitations were meant to bring me to Jesus and to help in my journey of faith.
Come to me ~ Matthew 11:28
My family moved from Hershey, Pennsylvania to Scotia, New York when I was entering my junior year of High School. It was an awful move for me. I loved living in Hershey and left behind some good friendships. Not only that, but we were immediately thrust into a different climate. Autumn in New York, while being incomparable in visual beauty, was also the advent of long, cold winters. On top of that, we moved on Labor Day weekend into an old farmhouse badly in need of updating. There were only two bedrooms and one small bathroom for six people (four of them being teenage girls).
The day after the move we had a visitor. A young man from up the street came to introduce himself to us. We all fell in love with him. It was as if Laurie from Little Women came true for us in real life. His name wasn’t Laurie, but his friendship to my sisters and I made all the difference in the world.
KP was a Baptist. As if being a Baptist wasn’t bad enough, he was gifted in Evangelism. For this Lutheran family, he was a foreigner. I have fond memories of him arguing with my mother about their theological differences. I listened with amusement, but stayed out of these discussions because at the time, I was moving away from my religious life and trying to be “normal”.
He was also involved with Campus Life, a ministry of Youth for Christ. Always he would invite my sister and me to the meetings. Always we said a firm “no”! But one week I gave in, as he was having the meeting at his house.
That was it for me. My life totally changed and I became reacquainted with Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And I have KP to thank for his constant, nagging invitations, and taking me away from a “normal” life.
Follow me ~ Matthew 4:19
When my husband and I moved to Reading, Pennsylvania, we became involved in a local church. It was there I met many wonderful people, but it was through two invitations that brought significant transformation. It was a small church, so everyone was friendly, even if we didn’t know everybody really well. I don’t remember my first meeting with PC, but I do remember that I liked her immediately. She was attending an international Bible Study outside of the church, which was intriguing, and I accepted at her first invite.
BSF (Bible Study International) was like water for a thirsting soul. I took to it immediately, despite the rules (or patterns as we used to call them). Their way of study leaves an enormous room for the Holy Spirit to speak to the individual as they immerse themselves in the scriptures. BSF promotes the idea of discipline, and it was a godsend that helped me spend a portion of each day in study and prayer. The influence has been invaluable through this day and set me on a journey of a lifetime. I am convinced PC’s invitation was through her obedience to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, although it was probably a simple invitation to her.
Abide in me ~ John 15:4
During our tenure at this church, I also met up with two women who had answered the call to go to seminary, despite the resistance they felt from those within the church. The only saving grace for them was the fact that they were studying within the counseling track. I became better acquainted with them through a women’s retreat, where we had time to talk more deeply with one another. Both felt I would benefit from going to seminary and mentioned it frequently. I was not against the idea, but at the time it seemed overwhelming and impossible. Eventually, through a variety of circumstances, I was able to accept their invitation.
While they wanted me to join them in the counseling classes, I didn’t feel a desire to go into that direction. Instead I attended a Systematic Theology class to see if this really was where God wanted me to be. I was hooked from day one. Their invitation to me opened my eyes to the possibilities of going to seminary. And even if things haven’t turned out the way I hoped, it was an invitation I have not regretted accepting.
Invitations are God’s way of opening the door to His world. Whether we are aware of it or not, God can use us to extend invitations to those who He has called. We don’t know God’s purposes for these people, but you never know where they will go. I know for me, I am very thankful to those who were faithful in answering His call by extending invitations.
Perhaps we can take more seriously those promptings of God towards others. What would happen in someone’s life if we “listened” to God and offered an invitation to that someone?
Who would God like you to extend an invitation to?