Don’t invite your friend to church: The meaning of Pentecost

What if everyone reading this post invited a friend to church next week? A thousand people might read this post. Do you think a thousand more people will be in a church next week? 

Probably not. 

Well, what about 50%? If we all invited one person, would 500 more people be in church next week? 

Probably not. 

If every single one of us invited one person to church next week, I bet only about 50 more people would be in church. Out of those 50, most of them probably already have a church. 

So, even if 1,000 of us invited one person, I bet about a handful of people who are not already Christians would show up in church. 

And those people, the ones who really need to be reached, would probably not understand what’s going on in the worship service and would most likely not come back the following week. 

(I know this sounds negative. Just stick with me. It gets better.)

Let’s face it. Church culture is different than the wider culture. We say weird words like justification. We know weird names like Hezekiah and Mephibosheth. We sing strange songs to an invisible God. It’s weird. So even if your friend came to church, he or she probably wouldn’t get it. 

So instead of inviting your friends to church, you bring church to them

That’s what Pentecost is all about. 

Speaking of weird things that Christians do . . . Pentecost must be at the top of the list. You know, that day 2,000 years ago when a ball of fire separated into little flames and rested on a group of Jesus’ followers. Then they spontaneously started speaking other languages. I’m not making this up. It’s in the Bible (Acts 2); read it for yourself. 

To be honest, I don’t think I understood this event until last week. 

So what’s up with the tongues of fire?

Well, in the Old Testament, God told Moses to build a tabernacle (a fancy church word for “tent of worship”). Then the Lord came down from heaven in a cloud of fire and rested on the tabernacle.  

Fast-forward 500 years and King Solomon upgraded the tabernacle by building a magnificent temple. Again, God showed up and rested on the temple in a cloud of fire

In both cases, the fire represented the presence of the Lord. Through the fire the Lord was saying, “This is where I dwell. If you want to know me, you need to come to my place of worship. You need to come to my temple.”

Jump ahead 900 years, 10 days after Jesus’ ascension. The apostles are gathered in a home and not the temple. The Lord descends again from heaven in fire, but this time he rests on God’s people. 

Do you get it? Do you see what new thing God is teaching us at Pentecost? 

If someone wants to know God, they don’t need to go to a temple or even a church building. They need to meet with you. God’s fiery presence rests on the people of God. You are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19; Ephesians 2:19-22). God dwells in you and works through you wherever you go. 

When you meet with a friend over the backyard fence, at a coffee shop, or around your kitchen table, you bring Jesus into that person’s life. When they tell you their pain and loss, listen, empathize, and then take a bold step and pray with them.

Does this mean you don’t need to go to church? 

Of course not. You need the worship service. It just might be the one hour a week you are surrounded by Christians. Worship energizes you as you realize you’re not alone. Most important, it is in worship where you hear again: You are God’s temple made holy through the blood of Jesus

Years ago every sermon seemed to end with a call to invite a friend to church. Well, the world has changed. Of course, we want as many people as possible to find a house of worship. But for most people, they just aren’t ready yet. 

So don’t invite your friend to church . . . at least not yet. Go and be the church. 

Pastor Ben Sadler has served as a full-time pastor since 2010. He began his ministry serving a Spanish-speaking congregation in Florida. Since March 2014, he has served at Goodview Trinity Church in Minnesota. He is married to Emily, and they have three children. Ben loves to spend time with his family, ride his road bike, read, write, and preach.

 

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