I've been encouraging everyone to invite friends and neighbors without a church home to visit Grace for some time. Personal invitation is still, by far, the most effective way to bring new people to church. A few months ago I began to think that as a leader I could not in good nature encourage others to do something I was not doing. Being somewhat new in town, I do not have many non-church relationships, so I began to pray for a way to reach unchurched people to bring the gospel to them. As part of our Healthy Church Initiative work, I read about a pastor who set up shop at a local coffee house for a couple of hours each week. He only brought a sign with him that basically said, "I am a pastor. Stop by if you'd like to chat." I couldn't get this out of my mind; I even dreamed about it. But in my mind it didn't happen at a coffee shop. It happened here:

I knew this would be a radical thing for me to do, but I could not get it out of my mind. So a couple of months ago I decided to give it a shot. I chose Whataburger because of the huge variety of people there; coffee shops only cater to a select group of people. And I would go at lunchtime. I printed out a sign that read:

Hello! My name is Pastor Frank. I am the pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Sherman (1417 @ 82). I am here for you every Friday, 11:00-1:00 p.m. If you need prayer, have questions about faith, or just need to be heard, I am available. No judgments, pressure, or expectations. 
Stop by!

This was terrifying. For those two hours my pulse basically doubled (and not only because of the extra salt and sugar in my blood!). I sweat. It was stressful. But I believed God called me to do this-- there's no rational reason why I would ever do this. I received a few anxious glances, and the staff had no reaction. I did have a few conversations, but they were with Christians who were surprised and thought this was a great idea. And one man asked me for gas money. So after a few weeks I decided this was not a fruitful use of my time, and I haven't returned. Who knows, maybe a coffee shop is a better environment. It's difficult to have intimate conversations over burgers and fries in a packed fast food joint.

I tried something new and uncomfortable. It didn't work the way I hoped, but I learned from the experience. I'm sharing this for two reasons:
1. Do not be afraid to try something risky to advance the kingdom! God calls us to share the gospel, and if conventional ways aren't working, let's expand horizons.
2. If you signed up for Small Group Ministry, and (nearly 70 people did!!!), you're going to hear about "the empty chair." It's an idea to keep in mind those who are not yet here. To leave space for those just exploring faith. How will they get here? What can you do?

There is still space for you in a small group each night-- Sunday/Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday-- so sign up Sunday if you're interested. Groups begin meeting this week.