Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Whatever it takes

One of our members, Mary Ann Russo, is using an unusual method to get her unchurched family members to come to WBC for Easter services. Call it bribery, call it extortion if you will...I call it genius! I asked Mary Ann for permission to post her story on the blog. I hope it will serve as an inspiration to all of us. Our friends, neighbors and relatives need the Lord, and we are the most likely candidates to help them meet Him. As Mary Ann told me, she was out of church for fifteen years at one point. A neighbor told her, "I pray for you every time I see you." That neighbor was instrumental in getting her back into the family of God. Now Mary Ann is doing whatever it takes to return the favor. Enjoy:

After Fred's memorial service we heard a lot of comments on how much everyone liked the service and the church. Some of them talked about visiting Westbury. Brad and I did follow-up with them with a invitation and I even sent one family some literature on Westbury. But never did hear anything.

This is what I run into all the time. Someone will say they are interested and I invite. They either do not come or they may come two or three times then come up with excuses.
I told Brad, I feel like I plant seeds but they never grow or bloom.

So when Easter was coming up, I thought about sending out invitations to the Easter Service and then have a brunch at the house. After Bible class or the service I would feel really strong about this...and then a thought would come to me...who would come? It would end up being just Brad and I. I struggled with this for weeks never mentioning it to anyone. At the same time, I realized it was evil or the devil putting these thoughts into my head so no one new would come to know God or come to worship God. This went on and on.

Then one Sunday night when Brad & I were walking the dogs, he asked me - when my next party was going to be? I told him about what I was thinking for Easter. What a different view point. He was very excited and thought everyone would come. No one would miss it. We both did agree that who ever we invited had to go to Easter Service to come to brunch. Our purpose was to get our families to church.

Then one evening we were having dinner with my son and his fiancee, and Brad starting talking to them about the big event. It was going to be the event of the year. Robert and Allie thought Brad and I had set our wedding date. We told them no we had not set a date and they figured out it was something to do at Easter. But we did not tell them what. I wanted everyone to receive their invitations in the mail so they would think about it and not say no immediately.

I bought Easter cards and hand wrote out Easter invitations for church and brunch and asked everyone to RSVP. Before I mailed them I said a prayer that the Holy Spirit would help them to RSVP a yes.
I was so excited the first couple of days because I would come home and my message light would be blinking. My first thought someone is RSVPing... but it was some one selling something or a political add. This went on for several days.

Then my son came over to the house. He said that Allie received her invitation(Robert had not read his yet) and he would come to brunch not church. I informed him he had to go to church to get brunch. He laughed and said OK. He knows his mom.

Then others said they would come but their husbands would come to brunch. Brad and I informed them it was a two in one deal. Church then brunch. Brad & I figured it was not going to hurt anyone to go to church.

So as this date... we have 5 out of 18 RSVP a yes. Some of the 18 will be out of town but I wanted to let them know they were invited.

So, what is your plan to get someone to church?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Seek God and Live

I found a new website this week called ThePublicApology.com. It's a place for people to confess sins they've committed against friends, loved ones, co-workers and perfect strangers. It's morbidly fascinating to read some of the apologies posted on the page: a girl begs forgiveness from the boyfriend she cheated on. A woman apologizes to the anonymous collections agency employee she treated rudely. A man yearns to reconcile with the relatives he estranged himself from. Some of the "apologies" seem false, like the florist who confesses that he put sneezing powder in his customer's flowers. But most seem sincere, and they reek of sadness and regret.

As we conclude Amos this Sunday, I am happy to say that we will end this rather depressing book on a note a hope. We all carry burdens of guilt, but God is a redeemer. Even in sending a cranky old prophet like Amos, God's motive was a hope for our repentance. In this last message, based on Amos 5:4-6, we'll look at what it means to seek God and live. Our God doesn't want us to experience the pain and regret of a life badly lived. Let's talk about the life He has in mind for us.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

What God wants from us--Amos 5:24

Years ago, I had very poignant conversation with an elderly member of a former church. Mother's Day was approaching, and she told me about how, every year her children seemed to compete with one another in giving her the most elaborate and indulgent gift. She said, "I tell them the same thing every year, but none of them seem to believe me. I tell them that I appreciate these lovely gifts, but I would much rather have them come to church with me. I would trade all the gifts in for the chance to sit with my kids and grandkids in church." Sadly, the only time I ever saw those children in the same worship service with their mother was when I performed her funeral a few years later. They just didn't get it.

I wonder how often we're that thick-headed in our relationship to God? Last Sunday, we looked at how God views our religious activities. In Amos 5:21-23, God told the Israelites how much He hated their assemblies, songs and sacrifices. It wasn't because God was anti-religion; they were merely following the rituals prescribed in the law of Moses. Instead, it was their lifestyle that rendered their religion meaningless.

This Sunday, we'll look at the following verse: Amos 5:24. This may be the most famous verse in all of Amos, and it tells us what God really wants from us. As we study what righteousness and justice should look like in our nation, our church and our personal lives, I predict we'll uncover some applications that will have us talking heatedly over Sunday dinner. More importantly, I hope they lead to positive change for all of us.