This week at UBC the message was a little different. First, I was assisted by our Student Minister, Patrick—though in the future, I would encourage recruiting others to participate as well.
It started with a disclaimer on our projection screen—All names and streets are real. All descriptions are hypothetical and are not representative of the person’s character, motives, or church attendance.
After that was shown, the screen showed
Romans 10:14-15—“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"”
From there, I walked in with a phone book and turned to the A’s. I had chosen names and streets already and typed them on a small piece of paper. I then began the message by sitting down in an open spot and saying to someone nearby,
“Hi, my name is Don Allison and I live on E 1300th St. I would have been here today, but I didn’t know what time services started—can you tell me?”
I then taped that card onto the pew in that spot.
Across the room, my accomplice sat down next to someone and said, “Hi my name is Kevin Bussey (or something like that ;-)), I live on E. Jackson and this was going to be my seat today but have you seen the weather outside? It’s beautiful golfing weather. Church isn’t better than golfing is it?”
We then proceeded through the alphabet.
I split the message into 3 sections with songs highlighting our evangelism mandates in between each section.
The next section showed 2 Corinthians 5:19b-20—“And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
The third section started with showing Matthew 28:18-20—“Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
I sat down read the verse in character then introduced myself, my street and asked something along the lines of—that sounds important, like something we should be doing. Can you tell me what it means?”
From A to Z—26 names and cards were put into the empty pews.
I then asked if anyone had recognized any names or if they lived on those streets. Several raised their hands. I asked them to come forward and take a look at the congregation imagining there were people in all those spots. How much fuller would we be? How much stronger could our singing be? How many gifts could be serving the body of Christ?
I then read and expanded on Matthew 9:35-38--Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."
An invitation was given, to come and pray for these people if anyone knew them. And to cry out to God for our community and how we can be used of God to reach them with the Gospel of Christ. A time of prayer ensued.
Our invitation was also a reminder of God’s Call—hymn 486 in the Baptist Hymnal “Lord, Here Am I”
It was a fun service as several people played along and bantered back with all the excuses given as to why “I wasn’t in church that morning.”
That’s why I asked the question the other day. Here’s some of the ones I used, though I changed some during the service because they were so similar to Patrick’s own list.
1. I would have been here today, but I didn’t know what time services started—can you tell me?
2. I would have been in this seat, but last time I tried to find the church, I missed it. I ended up going home—where is your church anyway?
3. I would have been in this seat, but the only church I’ve ever been to was so boring it put me to sleep—it’s not boring is it?
4. I would have been in this seat, but it’s such a beautiful day, how could you expect me to stay inside? Is God really better than golfing?
5. I would have been in this seat, but I’m uncomfortable going when I’m not sure if I’ll know anyone—will I still be welcome?
6. I would have been in this seat, but I don’t think I have nice enough clothes to wear—what do you wear anyway?
7. I would have been in this seat, but I need someone to give me a ride
8. I would have been in this seat, but I’m at work getting ready for you and the church crowd to come eat—is there any other time?
9. I would have been here with you today, but no one has ever told me why church is so important—do I really get anything out of being there?
10. I would have been here with you today, but I went forward at church when I was a kid, so I’ve got that covered—I’m OK right?
11. I would have been here with you today, but I didn’t know if you had anything for my kids—do you?
12. I would have been here with you today, but the last church I went to was mean and judgmental—I didn’t know if yours would be any different—is it?
13. I would have been here with you today, but I’ve never heard a good reason to believe in God, Jesus or the Bible—do you have one?
Any other suggested excuses?