By: Rev. Estee Valendy
Co-Senior Pastor, Keller United Methodist Church
1 Corinthians 2:6-9
When I was in the residency process for ordination an interesting opportunity for ministry arose at my local church. At the time, I served as an associate pastor at First United Methodist Church in Arlington. The new Dallas Cowboy stadium had recently opened right around the corner and a parking company contracted with the church to shuttle people from the church parking lot to the stadium. This arrangement appeared to me to be a unique opportunity to do ministry. I gathered a team and we hosted tailgate parties in the parking lot, serving hot dogs and providing bottled water for people going to Cowboy games. This outreach activity was a lot of fun for us and I enjoyed having conversation with the folks who came for parking. People were usually open to sharing a part of their story as they waited on the shuttle to pick them up.
When I wrote a report on this tailgate ministry and submitted it for approval as part of the evangelism requirement of my residency, a member of my lay covenant committee questioned the effort. I remember this person wondering if the parking lot tailgates were a good “return on investment.” This church member wondered if the people who parked in our lot would ever return to worship at our church. Many of those who parked with us came from out of town. Was it worth the resources to show them hospitality, or would our resources better be used targeting those who would actually come to worship and engage with the church?
This “return on investment” question has subsequently provoked me when I think about evangelism. Should we extend the good news of Christ only when it will benefit us in some way? Is there a transactional component to sharing God’s love? What will make our evangelism efforts “worth it”?
The scripture from 1 Corinthians is always a reminder to me of a more faithful way to approach evangelism. The outcome of our evangelism is in God’s hands, not ours. I am called to be a witness to God’s love, to plant and to sow seeds of hope through what I say and do. But the growth of those seeds is not up to me. God is the one who gives the growth. Maybe the person who parked in the lot of First United Methodist Church of Arlington 10 years ago has never darkened the door of a Methodist church. Maybe they are far from the fold. Or maybe they are slowly responding to the prevenient grace of God and the hospitality we showed to them was one bread crumb on a trail that leads them deeper into the heart of the One who calls them home.
Prayer: Gracious God, we so want to be in control of all things, including how people respond when we share your grace. Will you please unclench our fists and soften our hearts. Help us to surrender and trust you with the outcome in all things. Amen.
February 19th, 2021 – Waco, TX – 9:00-3:30
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