Serving is a part of life for those who make Stone Ridge Church their home. “Don’t stay where you are,” “Raise the bar,” and “Others need you” are three of our five values. “Serve one another selflessly” is the third step of our discipleship process. We frequently put out the call for help and fully expect that everyone in our church will find a way to serve. “Attend One, Serve One” is our call to Stone Ridgers on Easter weekend, when we ask everyone to commit to two services, one to invite friends and the other to help out in some way. Yes, serving is a way of life for us...
…so what I’m about to tell you will set some of you free. You see, one of the perils of a servant culture is that some people take on loads they were never meant to carry. Nowhere is this more true than in the area of reaching out to our friends who are far from God.
I was reflecting recently about the Easter a few years ago when I invited our neighbors to attend a service. I prayed and looked for an opportunity to connect to them. The door finally opened a few days before Easter. I saw my neighbor outside, went over for a short conversation and popped the question: “Would you guys be able to attend Stone Ridge on Easter…we’d love to have you!” I was crestfallen when he replied, “We already have other plans.”
All of us feel the weight of eternity on our shoulders when we step outside our comfort zone and initiate a faith conversation with someone we care about. The stakes are high and one of our greatest fears is that we will put ourselves out there, only to be turned down. The temptation is to never take the risk, but what if we don’t? What if we just play it comfortable and pretend that the spiritual condition of those we care about doesn’t really matter all that much?
"I thought you said you were going to set us free, Sam! This feels just like the heavy weight I have already been carrying around.” Hang on, friend. The freedom part starts NOW. I want you to look at something Jesus said…"For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me.” (John 6:44 New Living Translation) Did you get that? This was JESUS talking! He said that he didn’t walk around with that weight on his shoulders. His job wasn’t to argue, nor to convince. His job was to be available and to reach out in love to those around him.
It’s Easter season. WE ARE RESPONSIBLE TO REACH OUT IN LOVE. WE AREN’T RESPONSIBLE FOR THE OTHER PERSON’S RESPONSE! It’s not our job to change their heart.
I discovered this principle the very next year after my neighbor had turned me down. If anything, I felt even more intimidated by the challenge of inviting them…I already had one rejection to discourage me. So, here’s what happened: a week or two before Easter, I pulled into our driveway, noticing our neighbor out in his front yard. I waved at him, then pulled into the garage. As I got out of my car, a bit fearful of another rejection, I stepped into the sunlight to see him walking my way. “When are your Easter services this year?” he asked. “We want to come!"
It took a couple more years after that, but one Sunday at Stone Ridge, my neighbor and his wife gave their hearts to Jesus. All along, I had prayed for them. When God had fully prepared their hearts, they gladly received Jesus. It’s not my job to change those hearts…it is my job to pray and invite, making the most of every opportunity to declare and demonstrate the love of Jesus!
If you are reading this and don’t really know where you stand in your relationship with God, I want to encourage you. If someone has reached out to You, inviting you to an Easter service, but you have turned them down in the past, why not call them or text them? Or go next door and tell them that you want to attend with them this year. It’s very likely that the God who made you has been gently preparing your heart for you to meet…and develop a relationship with…Jesus!
Our Bible friend Andrew, who has been the subject of our Stone Ridge “Take Me To Your Leader” series, has one more experience for our reflection. This week, we’ll see how he handles it when someone comes to him, WANTING to meet Jesus. It will be fun…and a great preparation for Easter! Can’t make it to Stone Ridge this weekend? Catch the podcast!