You Are Formally Invited
Imagine. The day you’ve dreamt of since your daughter’s birth is finally here. It’s her wedding day! You have spent months preparing, taking your “Father/Mother of the Bride” role to superhero proportions. Now, the church is decorated and the caterer is setting up a gourmet feast in the reception hall. You’ve even had a couple of heart-to-hearts with your son-to-be. But just before the ceremony is set to begin, the church is still curiously empty. A wave of panic rushes over you. You suddenly realize that you’ve forgotten to send out the wedding invitations. Not one person has been invited to join you and your family on this journey down the aisle! You frantically call a few close friends, but to no avail – it’s too late. They already have plans. They can’t join you. With your heart in your throat, you make your way toward your daughter’s dressing room to tell her that the vision she’s held for her big day is not going to happen. No one has been properly invited, and her dream wedding can’t happen without others taking part. Oh man, this is probably going to mean another one of those heart-to-hearts. As you open her door, you wonder if the caterer can put that ice sculpture, well, on ice…
Not many of us would plan a wedding and forget to send out the invitations. But too often we do that very thing in our ministry. We have big visions God has revealed to us, big dreams for reaching people, and we are striving for big goals. However, we take the Lone Ranger approach towards bringing those visions, dreams, and goals to pass. If God is for us who can be against us, right? Well, that’s true. But when God plants visions in our hearts to reach His people, the “us” He wants to use is not just Him and you. It’s Him, you, and the team of people that you build around you. As leaders, it is our God-given responsibility to invite others along on the journey that He has set before us. You cannot neglect the invitations. After all, the event you are planning is part of the greatest wedding celebration in history – that of Christ and His bride, the Church.
“Processing” The Invitation
Sometimes we are afraid to invite others to join us on our journey. What if they do not want to come along? What if they do not see the vision? Or perhaps, worse, what if they get on board and then let us down? These fears – rejection and poor performance – can be greatly minimized if we understand that there is a process involved in inviting others onto our team. We cannot invite someone to join us without properly investing in them and engaging them first. Conversely, the invitation does not just end with the asking. We must finish the process with correct follow up, empowering the invited, and doing all that we can to ensure success. This is called the “Invitation Process.” Let’s break it down:
Billy Graham says, “We are not cisterns made for hoarding; we are channels made for sharing.” True leaders are continually investing in the lives of everyone around them. A basic tenet of human nature is that people will gravitate toward those who build them up, and steer clear of those who bring them down. As you invest in potential leaders around you, you will actually be investing in future kingdom work. Since you do not know who God will want to add to your team, be generous in your investments. Serve people. Invite them to get involved. Encourage their gifts. An old saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” As you invest in others, they will want to invest in you.
Investing in people makes it possible to engage them. Imagine a young man asking for a woman’s hand in marriage, proposing an engagement, before he has sufficiently invested in their relationship. She would run in the other direction as fast as she could. In the same way, people will shy away from being engaged in anything with you if you have not first invested in them. When you are ready to engage someone, you simply appeal to his or her passion. When looking for someone to join you on your journey, you need to be asking, “Does what I’m asking appeal to their emotions? Does it engage them on a personal level?” If not, do not invite them to join you – this time. People work best when they are passionate about what they are doing. If you present someone with the opportunity to work from a place of passion, your invitation will surely be accepted!
When the time finally comes for you to extend your invitation, make sure you personalize it. If the forgetful parent had remembered to send out his/her daughter’s wedding invitations, you can be sure they would not have been addressed, “Current Resident.” People need to know that a position cannot be filled by “just anyone”. You are asking them, specifically, because of who they are. You must also make sure that your invitation clearly shares your vision and goals, explains the unique contribution that the invitee will make, and asks for a specific commitment. In their excellent book, The Aladdin Factor, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hanson detail seven characteristics of an invitation that will be accepted. To paraphrase, you must know what you want, believe it is worthy, know that it is attainable, be passionate, take action in the face of your own fear, learn from experience, and be perceived as determined to accomplish your goal. As Lee Iacocca says, “Success comes not from what you know, but from who you know and how you present yourself to each of those people.”
John Maxwell tells us, “The people’s capacity to achieve is determined by their leader’s ability to empower.” To empower someone is to enable them to do the job to which they have been appointed. As leaders, it is our responsibility to make sure that those who have accepted our invitation have all the tools they need to accomplish their respective goals. Furthermore, as spiritual leaders, we must see to it that they are growing in faith at the same time. (see Ephesians 4:11-12)
Too many would-be leaders mistakenly think that by empowering another, they relinquish the right to follow-up. Remember: that which gets measured, gets done. Once we have empowered someone, we move to the unique position of being a receiver of their talents and skills, and a giver of feedback and direction. As is often said, “God has given us two hands – one to receive with and one to give with.” Do not let your giving hand drop when it comes to checking in with those you have placed on your team. They need you as much as you need them.
“Inviting” is much less daunting when it is seen as part of the overall “invitation process.” If God has given you a vision and made you a leader, He will bring the right people around to help you accomplish His work. You simply have to know how to properly invite them to join you. Follow this process and you will extend invitations that are communicated persuasively, consented to positively, and completed purposefully.
Reception Immediately Following
So, let’s get back to that ice sculpture. Once you have surrounded yourselves with other leaders on your journey, do not forget to celebrate success! Partnering together with like-minded people, for a higher purpose, brings significance and a sense of satisfaction to everyone involved. Celebrate the work you are doing; celebrate the team around you; celebrate milestones that you hit on the way to accomplishing your goals and fulfilling the vision. The reception is certainly a lot more fun when there are others around to share in the celebration!
About the Authors:
Nelson Searcy is the founding and senior pastor of The Journey Church of the City, in New York City. Prior to starting The Journey in 2002, Rev. Searcy acted as a strategist in the business, non-profit, and religious communities, and served as the Director of the Purpose Driven Community at Saddleback Church. Recognized for its creative, systematic, and relevant approach to evangelism and discipleship, The Journey (www.nyjourney.com) is one of the fastest growing churches in America. Jennifer Henson has served as a marketing communications consultant, writer, and producer for ministry organizations throughout the eastern United States. For ministry and leadership resources, or to subscribe to Nelson Searcy’s free newsletter, please visit www.epicteam.org.