I’m going to be praying for the congregation of another church tomorrow morning. They won’t know it; they’re thousands of miles away and only a few people from there know me. I’m praying for them because they are doing something very brave that I wish my church would do.
They’re going door to door inviting their neighbors to church on Easter.
A couple of months ago I visited this church while on a trip. I filled out the guest book and gave them my email address, and now from time to time I receive the pastor’s updates to the congregation.
The other day I got an email about what’s happening at the church during Holy Week. One of the things that impressed me most about the schedule was that on Saturday – tomorrow – the congregation is walking the surrounding neighborhood to invite neighbors to Easter services.
At the end of the email the pastor included a script that walkers will use. It starts asking if the person is familiar with the church on the corner (the church is hard to miss, so I’m assuming most people will at least be familiar with the building). It includes a gracious invitation to Easter services.
My favorite part of the script is this question:
“We also want to be a good neighbor so today we are asking if there is anything you think we should know about the neighborhood?”
I love that question for a couple of reasons. One, it establishes and frames the relationship. “We’re neighbors, and not only that we want to be ‘good’ neighbors.”
Second, it asks an open-ended question that allows the neighbor talk, and requires the congregation member to listen.
I can see from the community activities this church is already involved in that the church leadership actually cares about the answers to this question. I don’t think this is an idle question that’s being asked for show. I think the church is actually interested in what neighbors will have to say.
So I will be holding them up in prayer tomorrow, celebrating their willingness to go out and meet the neighbors, as well as their willingness to listen to what their neighbors have to say.
And while most of us won’t be going door-to-door inviting neighbors to Easter services, some of our neighbors will find their way inside our sanctuaries on Easter. In preparation for guests we’re putting on our “Easter best”, getting the church cleaned up, hanging celebratory banners, displaying the Easer lilies, and preparing our best sermons and Alleluia choruses.
We obviously have something to say on Easter: “He is risen!” But are we ready to listen? Are we ready to hear what our neighbors have to say is what’s most important to them?
My encouragement to all of us would be to not just speak on Easter Sunday, but to also listen. If you have the opportunity, plainly ask: “What do you think is something we should know about this neighborhood? What’s important to you and your family?” And then really listen.
If that doesn’t feel natural, at least take the time to engage guests in conversations and listen for clues about who they are and what’s behind their decision to come on this Easter.
We like to talk a lot in the church about being Christ’s hands and feet. On this Easter, let’s be his ears, too.