Recently I went to the Orange Conference on the North Side of Indianapolis. Most of our small group leaders and I went to listen to Andy Stanley preach the word and other pastors talk about their strategies reaching the next generation. It was a great conference where I was definitely stretched and challenged. There were many great lessons taught, but there was one that stuck out to me in particular. Reggie Joiner who started the orange curriculum gave a lesson titled “Sometimes It Takes A Party”. Now at a Christian conference, this caught my attention when he is talking about a party.
Reggie went on to talk about when he was around 25 years old just getting started out as a pastor he moved into his first home in Atlanta, Georgia. There was a neighbor who was the type of neighbor who wanted to talk for an hour every time he saw you. I think we all have that one neighbor that we try to avoid from time to time because we don’t agree with everything they say or we just find them annoying. As the years continued Reggie and this neighbor grew to be good friends and would have dinner together. This neighbor was Catholic and they didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of topics but were still able to manage a civil friendship.
One day this neighbor came over and asked if Reggie would come over and pray at his son’s college graduation party. And of course, Reggie said, “Absolutely.” On the day of the party, Reggie hears a lot of people showing up and most of these people are bringing in kegs of beer into the house. Now you have to understand that at this time in Reggie’s life he was very conservative and didn’t think drinking was okay to do. As Reggie is watching all this beer come into the party he’s thinking wow I am going to go over and bless a beer fest. At this point in the lesson, I am dying laughing in my seat picturing this young pastor who is conservative and he is watching all this beer go into the house and he has to go pray for the party.
Against his own beliefs Reggie walks over to this party and as he walks into the door the neighbor yells and tells everyone to shut up and put their beers down because the pastor is about to pray. Again I hope you are picturing all this. As Reggie prays he is so nervous that he doesn’t even remember what he said in that situation. But what stood out was that when he ended the prayer and looked up his neighbor had tears in his eyes. His neighbor hugged him and said that meant the world to him. From that day forward Reggie and his neighbor’s friendship was on another level. Reggie ended up pouring into his life and truly impacted his neighbor.
How can we expect people to want a relationship with Jesus if we don’t love our neighbor? Or how can we expect people to want a relationship with Jesus if we judge people outside of the church?
If Reggie would have been judgmental when he saw the beer and said to himself I will never pray for this party then he could have lost out on a great opportunity to impact his neighbor for Christ. And this goes for the entire church community to reach a post-church world. How can we expect people to want a relationship with Jesus if we don’t love our neighbor? Or how can we expect people to want a relationship with Jesus if we judge people outside of the church?
We as a whole of the church body need to love our God with all of our hearts and soul and then the second thing we need to do is love our neighbor. Even if people have different views than us and do things that are contrary to our beliefs we need to make an effort to be real and show them the love of Christ because if we don’t we run the risk of never reaching them.
In some situations sometimes it takes a party!