Jesus is our best model of life of mission. The way he interacted with people—both religious and not—helps us know how to interact with people around us. We know from the Gospels that Jesus spent a lot of time around unbelievers. He enjoyed meals with them. He conversed with them. He went to their parties. Is there anything we can learn from this?
The Jewish culture of his day lent itself to parties, as holidays, feasts, and festivals were observed at regular intervals throughout the year. But, Jesus also attended smaller dinner parties quite often. Indeed, the theme of Luke 14 and 15 seems to be parties: the narrative of Jesus at a party or a parable Jesus tells that involves some aspect of a party. Luke 15:1-2 tells us that Jesus drew criticism over his attendance at some parties. And his response to them is telling: when someone finds something that is lost, a party is thrown (Luke 15:6, 9, 23).
At times Jesus was criticized for associating with those who were lost by those who considered themselves to be found. And yet, he kept going to parties (and other meals) when he was invited. He knew his mission; self-righteous religious criticism did not sway him.
What can we learn from Jesus about going to parties? Quite a lot, it seems, if we take the Gospels at face value.
Jesus apparently got invited to parties quite often. He was a friend of sinners. Lost people liked being around him. What about you? Do people who do not share your beliefs still like to be around you? Are they inviting you to be part of their social lives? Or, is the only time lost people are in our personal orbit is if they come to church?
Go to the party.
Jesus went to the parties he was invited to. Even to ones where he was going to be criticized by religious folk. If you get invited, go. Make it a priority. This is the work that fulfills the mission. You are called to plant a church and take the gospel to unreached places and people. Do it! If you are a church planter and are invited to a party by “not-so-churchy-people” don’t question if you should attend. Go! You will encounter people who are far from God. You will almost certainly talk to people who are drinking. People will drop f-bombs as they talk about issues of faith. In other words, lost people will act lost.
Planting a church means going where lost people gather. Otherwise you might be left with hanging out with already-churched people, wooing them away from the congregations they already attend. But, that isn’t church planting.
Meet new people at the party.
The gospel narratives flow because Jesus is always meeting someone new. Many of those were at parties. This is what a party is for! Get your network on! Jesus did!
Talk to people.
Jesus both engaged people and was engaged by people. Jesus was a master at taking a conversation where he wanted it to go (seen in John 4, the woman at the well). When I, a native of Oklahoma, open my mouth in Phoenix someone is going to ask, “Where are you from?” Soon they will ask, “Why did you move here?” Which opens the door for the next step…
Talk about your church.
“I moved here to start this church.” “God called me to this place.” If you have been called to plant a church in your city, you have a compelling story. Now, not everyone you talk to wants to know the long version of your call to your city. But, your story is compelling. Figure out what works best for you in your context. An invite to church is still powerful and can get you into further conversations.
Talk about Jesus.
Maybe someone will be really interested that night. Maybe someone will ask you, “What would Jesus think about….?” Maybe they will remember it the next morning. Maybe someone else will be listening. Who knows what God will do with your witness?
Invite them to your church.
Are you in pre-launch and attending your sending church regularly? Invite them to attend a service with you. Are you leading a community group or a missional cell? Invite them to that. “Go and Tell” does not completely disregard “Come and See.” The two can work quite well together.
Here is how it worked with my friend “Freddy.” My wife and I were invited and attended a Christmas party in 2015. I met “Freddy.” We talked about why we moved and the church and Crossfit and sailing. We worked out together some. I invited “Freddy” to church. I took “Freddy” to lunch and shared the gospel.
A few months later we started meeting regularly to talk about the Bible and what “Freddy” was learning at church. Jesus saved “Freddy.” I will baptize “Freddy” this Sunday. He has invited several of his friends to come see it. Several of them I met previously at…you guessed it—a party. “Freddy”’s birthday party in fact, where he included us among those invited.
Go to a party. Leave the ninety-nine. Find the “one.” Meet a “Freddy.”