No one likes to be interrupted.
Having a five, almost six-year-old makes interruptions a way of life. Often, I find myself mid-sentence, or in the infant stages of a story, when all of a sudden “hey daddy… did you know…” or “the other day I was…” Without consideration for what is already taking place.
Interruptions happen. They can be frustrating or sometimes a welcomed break from the irritations of work. At times we don’t want them, and at times we may. Our response to these interruptions tends to be determined by a desire to have control over our lives. Interruptions are unwelcomed because we want to be doing what we are doing; on the other hand, if we do not have a desire for a particular thing, interruptions are a good reason to stop, even for a moment.
Sometimes, though, interruptions are out of our control and in our best interest, especially spiritually.
In the Bible we see so many various types of rhythms in the life of the worshiper of God. We see rhythms of action and reflection like that of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). Neither Mary or Martha were doing anything wrong, there are rhythms for each. We see rhythms of pain and joy (Psalm 126). As the psalmist writes, “Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy,” they realize the deep emotional reality there are rhythms of pain in life and rhythms of joy. We also see rhythms of silence and sound (Psalm 37). But, the most significant and most common rhythm in the Bible is that of work and rest.
Work and rest is a rhythm the Jews in the time of the Bible took very seriously. Eugene Peterson once wrote about Jewish rest where he mentions the dramatic nature of when Old Testament God worshipers were intended to stop their work.
The early Jews had a lifestyle of worship marked by this rhythm of work and rest. Imagine that. But why? Why did God, in his infinite wisdom establish such intense rhythms of ceasing work? Perhaps, it makes sense, if we can get outside of an American mindset and think about or spiritual lives with God as the most important thing about us.
In this period in history, in the culture we live, with history of Christianity behind us, there is a mentality that work is most important. That provision for our families is the ultimate responsibility for the head of a household. That the ladder of society was placed there by God for people to spend their time climbing. This is not new. The prophet Amos, in chapter 8 mentions people grumbling against these rhythms of rest. “Hear this, you who trample on the needy and do away with the poor of the land, asking, “When will the New Moon be over so we may sell grain, and the Sabbath, so we may market wheat? We can reduce the measure while increasing the price and cheat with dishonest scales.” (Amos 8:4-5) They were grumbling because they wanted the celebration of rest to be over so that they could get back to the grind or buying and selling, of making money, of work.
Danger is not far away from the person who neglects rhythms of work and rest. We grow stressed. We begin to be short with those around us. Our priorities shift from worshiping with God’s people to having the more time to accomplish things. We end up trying to save more for retirement in stead of giving to the church and to those in need. The race of this world begins to take precedent and in turn it begins to erode the life of following God. I’m sure you have experienced this in your own life.
Sometimes when life grows more and more busy, chaos ensues, your work becomes more stressful, or your kids are at an age where you can't seem to distinguish day from night, we begin to knock things off the bottom of our lists in order to gain even a little bit more brain space. Unfortunately, in the day and age we live, it is not common for corporate worship, communion with God, or zeal in the life of faith to be very high on the list; so, naturally in these seasons, it gets knocked off and treated as optional. This could result in grumbling like those in Amos 8, “Oh, this sermon is too long, I have so much to do.” or “I can’t stay to fellowship with anyone because my kids have nap time, or we have afternoon plans to mow the lawn.” Or, "I can't wake up to spend time in communion with God, I only got 5 hours of sleep last night."
The work of life begins to creep and the engagement of spiritual life begins to wane.
Symptoms of this are things like perpetual anxiety. Feeling like you are trapped in a cycle of chaos you can’t get out of. Maybe there are feelings of constant temptation you can’t seem to overcome. (That’s because the enemy loves to find weak points when we are weak already) It most often presents itself as withdrawal from community, isolation, feelings of guilt about not praying enough or reading the Bible enough, but then not changing patterns and routines to remedy the sense of guilt.
Rhythms of work and rest are not just important, they are vital for anyone genuinely seeking to prioritize their life of faith. Yes, this is difficult. It means that some days the list of “to-dos” doesn’t get done. It means that you take days off of work realizing that providing for your family is not ultimately your responsibility. It means putting the phone down at night. It means not going out late on Saturday night for the sake of prioritizing corporate worship on Sunday morning.
It means building a life of everything being in its proper place in the proper proportions at the proper time.
In the Bible, this was pressed upon the people of God in the form of celebrations holidays. Today, we have the perfect opportunity to be interrupted from our normal daily grind of life too. This is Holy Week. The week in between Palm Sunday and Easter where we remember and celebrate the final week of Jesus’ ministry before his crucifixion.
There is a great temptation to keep running this week. To think of it as a normal week where nothing is different and life goes on “according to plan.” But I encourage you to not allow that to happen. Welcome the interruption this week. Slow down. Take some time of reflection on the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ in your life.
Maybe journal a little bit. Maybe get out for a walk with your family and take a picture of something remarkable. This is the perfect time to establish a rhythm of family worship in your home. Maybe it is planning yours and your spouse's favorite food to cook this week and celebrate the reality that we can live our lives in Jesus to the brim.
Holy Week is not like every other week of the year. It is set apart. It is special. It is a week to start again in the prioritizing of your spiritual life. It is a week the Lord has given us to audit our chaotic lives and seek to reorder it to prioritize the things he would have us focus on. Lean towards that interruption, not away from it.
The saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is not totally wrong. I would rephrase it though, “All work and no rest makes the Christian feel distant from God and like all the plates are falling.”
I get it. Taking time to focus on God and intentionally taking a rest from your job, your yard work, your house projects, etc. seems really counterproductive.
But, believe me when I tell you, it is truly one of the most productive things you can do.
This is the week to do it and build those rhythms into your life and your family.
Inviting people to church can be an intimidating thing. There are so many moving pieces and factors involved that can make it seem very overwhelming. Generally, when we become overwhelmed we begin to overthink and then eventually talk ourselves out of inviting someone for one reason or another.
First, let me encourage you with a statistic (I know, no one really cares about statistics, but its kind of interesting).
Tim Keller wrote in his church planting book, Center Church, that as far back as 2012 the percentages have stayed pretty much steady showing ~80% of people come to a local church due to a personal invitation. Not marketing, not signage, not radio spots, or social media; an invitation. 80%! That is a sizable percentage of people that need just a simple invite from someone to attend a church worship service.
But why? Why is it important to invite to church? Wouldn’t it be better to invite to a small group, or an event of some kind? Wouldn’t it be better to invite someone to coffee and meet with them personally?
I've heard this a lot. Someone will tell me, "I didn't invite my neighbor to church, but to a cookout where I know other Christians will be." Other times I have heard, "Church on Sunday morning is not really my friend's things, so I invited them out for coffee and I'll disciple them myself."
All of these things have value and have a place in the life of Christians towards their neighbors and friends.
But, it is only the worship service of the local church that is designed by God to look like heaven!
Is it evangelistic to present the gospel; yes. It is productive to invite to an event, a small group, or a coffee shop; it can be. Yet, the worship service is the most evangelistic thing you can do personally. Not to outsource the presentation of the gospel to the pastor. Not to shirk any sort of relational responsibility you have in discipleship.
Rather, to say, “Hey, want to see what Jesus’ love looks like? Come to church with me to see a diverse group of people of varied political ideas, worldviews, and backgrounds unified together around the worship of a God worthy to be united under!”
WE together are a demonstration of the gospel in a different way than YOU are alone. Both are vital and have great value, but it is the local church that our Lord Jesus designed, established, and gave us to constantly demonstrate the love of God to each other and the world.
When Revelation 5:8-10 says that the Lamb (Jesus) was slaughtered to purchase a people, that is the church. This means that when someone engages in that “people” they are eyewitnesses of the redemptive work of the Lamb himself.
And what are they doing in Revelation 7:9? This multitude, too many to count of all different people, are spending time in intentional worship.
What better thing can you think of to pull someone into!?
Did you know that out of that 80% of people that merely need an invitation to attend a church a large portion of them don’t because of some kind of fear? You don’t need to live in a country where Christians suffer persecution to experience fear in participating in church.
--People in your circles are filled with fear of their own failures driving them far away from God.
--There are individuals fearful of how going to church would effect their relationships with family and friends.
--There are also people who, even if they desire or feel prompted to attend church, are fearful of going alone.
An invitation to join for worship is not only an invitation like to a birthday party saying, “Show up at this time and place.” It is you looking at someone you know in the eyes and making a promise to them, “I will be with you when you come. You are not going alone!” This mitigates fear. This unifies rather than isolates. This is an invitation into a community, not into a building.
There are a lot of “What Ifs” in this however. What if this or what if that? Here is the clear truth of our lives: we are not privileged to know the “What Ifs.”
So, let’s play a game of thinking through a few of the What Ifs.
Say an individual is an unbeliever and does not attend church anywhere.
What If they say no? OK, then what? You’re in the same boat as before.
What If they get upset and never want to talk to you again? Then, as 1 Corinthians 3 would claim, you either planted a seed or watered the seed. The ramification in many people’s mind is “I want to maintain the relationship, so I don’t want to push away.”
Here is the frank reality though, at some point that threshold must be crossed or else an element of your own fearful complacency becomes complicit in their staying away.
But, here is the thing. Here are some other What Ifs.
What If your invitation is the very thing that individual needs to step foot in a church, or to hear the gospel for their salvation.
What If they have had a troubling season and didn’t know there were people who cared.
What If you are the vessel the Lord desires to work in their life for their redemption and his glory?
On the other side of that coin, say there is an individual that does attend a church, should you invite anyways? I would say, yes!
What If they say no? Same as before, nothing changes.
But, remember, some of you were also attending other churches prior to coming here. There are so many reasons for people to attend another church.
So, What If these individual are hurting or lost or feel stuck there. You may not know what’s going on in their life and simply assume that because they go to another church it is the best place for them.
An invitation may be the very thing they need to take a step out of one place into another and grow closer to the Lord.
Because we are not privy to the “What Ifs,” we should invite wildly and zealously! We can talk ourselves out of a lot of things. Invitations to church is often on the lower end of our priority lists. But it should not be. It is easy, and the weight of the "What Ifs" are far more positive than negative.
Invitations can happen by simply texting or calling a friend and saying, “Hey what are you doing on Sunday? Would you come with me to church?”
Sit down for a coffee and during the invitation express what you admire and appreciate about your own church community.
No one can argue with your experience. One of the most powerful ways to invite someone to church is to share with them the benefit the church and people of the church have made in your life.
I know that the moving pieces and challenges can make inviting someone to church exhausting and terrifying. But, trusting in the grace of Jesus in these relationships, and trusting that he has you in the relationships you are in for a purpose, his strength can make you strong.