I was sitting at a conference a couple weeks back listening to some of the leading minds in discipleship and family ministry who shared insight and ideas on how to effectively lead in ministry. I enjoy conferences like this for the same reasons most people do: they refresh me, encourage me, and challenge me to become a better leader than I was the day before. The speakers at these conferences are typically high-quality and engaging; I learn just as much from watching them teach as I do from listening to what they have to say.
I was particularly interested in a theme that appeared during the teachings from that day – a party. Everyone loves a good party! We enjoy having people over to our house, sometimes in the spirit of a “party.” Other times simply in the form of a Life Group or a simple dinner. But what makes a party unique?
A special day of the year?
It’s probably a combination of things. But it seems to me that what separates a party from a normal gathering is simply the people. Here’s a working definition of how this particular speaker defined “party”:
A party is any effort to celebrate, serve, or enjoy each other in ways that adds value to life.
This may seem like a weird topic, but before you close out this window, keep this in mind: Jesus seemed to find himself at parties quite often…
– The Wedding at Cana
– The Parable of the Wedding Feast
– The Parable of the Prodigal Son
– Dining with tax collectors and sinners
Jesus seemed to understand that something happens at a party that can’t happen anywhere else. When someone is invited to a created space that is intended to celebrate, serve, and enjoy those who are invited, an incredible amount of value can be added to that life.
Here are five statements that have challenged my perspective over the last several days. My hope is to leave you equally challenged and maybe desiring to dig deeper into this idea of being a “party starter.”
1. Sometimes it takes a party to change how we see others
Is your world compartmentalized? Do you see the same people in the same settings on a consistent basis? Often times, if we invite people into an environment that is designed to add value to their life, things happen. Relationships are established and barriers are broken. We begin to see potential in people instead of their problems.
2. Sometimes it takes a party to demonstrate that God cares about people
The Gospels clearly reveal that Jesus cared about people – all people! He spent time with people who, legally and politically, he should’ve avoided entirely. The fact that he consistently found himself surrounded by these people is evidence of his care.
3. Sometimes it takes a party to confirm that we can always be forgiven
The illustration given for this particular point is the story of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15. In a nutshell, a teenage boy asks his father for his inheritance early so he can leave home and enjoy life. The father courageously grants the sons wish, only to look forward to the day of his return. Eventually, the son runs out of money and humbly returns home, only to be greeted by his gracious father who throws him a party to celebrate his return. It has to be one of Jesus’ most powerful stories, yet the temptation for us is to be far too selective about who we choose to forgive.
4. Sometimes it takes a party to prove that people matter more than our opinions
Jesus apparently spent so much time around tax collectors, sinners, and other “bad people” that he was accused by the Pharisees (church leaders) of having a drinking problem (Matthew 11:19). He cared about people more than just his own opinions, but the opinions of others as well.
5. Sometimes it takes a party to remind us all that everyone is invited to the party
Everyone. Sadly, not everyone will accept the invitation extended by Jesus. I can’t help but wonder how different this might be if we made it a point to treat everyone like they are invited to the party. Not a different party, or to a different part of the party. But what if we acted like their reserved seat is sitting right next to ours? What if we put aside our ideas, opinions, and beliefs and committed to seeing all people the way God sees them?
What if we started acting like everyone is invited to the party? What if the Church operated in a way that followed this example set by Jesus? It starts with us. Let’s be party starters.