Ephesians 3:4-11 (NIV)
4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mys tery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the bound less riches of Christ,9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.
10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In our new series, What We Say About God, we are looking to the qualities of our community and what they say about God to the watching world. This week, reGROUP Director Kailey Newkirk shows us the importance of inviting others into church, even—or perhaps especially—those who are different from us. People are invited into church not solely by us as individuals, but the posture of the church itself. The church is a multi-faceted image of God, and thus our diversity is a tool to refine us rather than hinder us.
Kailey says that it is possible to be a community full of individuals who are inviting, and yet still be a community with a posture that is inherently uninviting to certain individuals. She shares a specific story in which she was invited in by welcoming, caring people with donuts, and yet the community she encountered didn’t feel inviting because everyone was the same in a way she wasn’t. Describe a time in your life when you have felt a similar way.
Think back to when you were not yet a part of the church. Did you ever ask yourself these questions—“Am I safe to be known here? Am I safe to be seen as I am? Will I still be accepted?”? Why do you think these questions, or ones similar to them, are commonly asked before an individual feels comfortable amongst a body of believers?
Kailey acquiesces that for most of us, inviting someone of a different race or cultural background into church is easy to get on board with. However, in this current political climate in particular, it may be trickier to feel at ease accepting diversity of opinions. Do you think that people with a different opinion than you feel accepted by you? In turn, do you feel accepted by those with a different opinion?
Reread Ephesians 3:4-11. What, if anything, stands out to you from Paul’s words? What overarching themes of the gospel are embedded within this section of Scripture?
Paul refers to himself as “less than the least of all the Lord’s people”. Why do you think he included this detail? In what ways does it help inform how we approach the idea of inviting others in?
None of us are responsible to change the heart of anyone; the Holy Spirit does that. However, we are responsible to bring people to where the Holy Spirit has the best chance of getting into the nooks and crannies of their hearts, and that’s the church. What is it that makes this easier to accept as true on a head level, but maybe not quite take as an actionable step toward inviting?
There are likely those in your sphere of influence who you feel would never accept an invitation to church, but we are encouraged to accept that challenge. Through our actions and our invitations, we have the opportunity to invite those whom God misses most into relationship with him. Each of us is called to participate in making our community an inviting environment where those who may be unlike you are embraced and will encounter truth, even when it may be uncomfortable. For some of us, that means opening our Connect group or community to those who have not yet found a group of believers to pursue God alongside. For all of us, that means inviting those we love— and who God loves even more— to church.