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The Power of An Invitation

The Power of An Invitation August 18, 2021

Welcome my friend Julie to The Estuary!

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“Julie, I hear you play the piano. Would you be willing to play for us?”

A surprising invitation came from a church member I didn’t know well. At the time, I was sitting in the middle of an infertility journey, questioning my life’s purpose. I spent a few minutes talking to Ron about the mid-week lay service and their accompaniment needs. It was truly an out-of-the-blue invitation, and I decided to say yes. (Full confession: I also knew this news would give my mother great pleasure in realizing those long-ago piano lessons were worth the daily practice struggle.)

invitation to play
Photo by Steve Johnson from Pexels. Used with permission.

Unleashing Potential

This invitation from someone I barely knew led to an adventure with the incredible team of people who coordinated and led mid-week church services for a retirement community. I played the piano at the lay-led service in a retirement home and eventually played for the service at a nursing home too.

After several months, they discovered I was on my Sunday school teaching team and invited me to join their lay preaching team.

Then they suggested I become a certified lay speaker through our church so I could gain official standing and be available for additional opportunities within the church community. Going through the process grew my passion and training for speaking and teaching, which then led to my eventual study focus at Dallas Theological Seminary. All of these together pointed me to my current speaking and writing pursuits.

My friend Ron would have never guessed what that simple invitation would unleash in my life. How God would use him and that musical opportunity to send me down a path toward renewed life purpose and the unfolding of new dreams. I didn’t recognize the entirety of the gift one invitation could give, and I never would have imagined at the time where it would lead. It is only now, with reflection, that I see how these events connected over the course of several years.

Asking Key Questions

The constant needs in ministry require a never-ending supply of helpers. Sometimes we hear the “80/20 rule” thrown around: 20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work. When we find ourselves in leadership, the lack of support can lead to resentment, frustration, and weariness. But while we struggle to tread water, we might not realize just how many people long to involve themselves but don’t know how, and if we continue to say yes to all the things then we might actually withhold opportunities for others.

How can we open up places for others to help? It starts by taking time to evaluate our commitments, to think about whether we still want to give our time and skill to a specific area. To pray about where God leads us to obediently and joyfully serve. To consider letting go of our pet projects.

  • Let’s make space for others and pray about inviting them in.
  • Pay attention to friends and acquaintances to see their interests and talents.
  • Invite someone personally to participate in an event—ask, and you too might unleash someone’s dreams without even knowing.

In Hebrews 10, the author encourages us to live in the full assurance and light of Christ’s sacrifice for us, his sanctifying work in us, and the Holy Spirit’s outworking through us. We see the assurance of our salvation in him and the exhortation to hold fast to our faith while considering how to stir up one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). Inviting one another to join in joyful acts of service and kingdom work spurs us forward in our united faith as well as in our individual walk with our Lord and Savior.

Keep inviting. Keep including. Pay attention. Ask key questions.

If you are the one hoping to find a place, taking that first step alone can be intimidating. A personal invitation to come along with a welcoming friend makes a big difference. Maybe it won’t be the area you feel excited about or called to, but it can get you started and build up your confidence to pursue your own path.

Those black and white piano keys gave music to my world in more ways than one. They paved the way for hopeful expectation. I only now trace the twists and turns of the last several years back to the magnitude of that simple question:

Would you be willing to play for us?

Author Insight

Dr. Julie Shannon’s 15+ years of experience in church lay leadership, teaching, and speaking includes workshops, retreats, classes, sermons, and large group presentations. She uses writing, podcasting, teaching, speaking, and coaching to equip others in defining steps for life. Experiences in infertility, childlessness, singleness, and life realities inspire her to share solutions and stories to offer hope, community, and a new perspective on life.
Julie, D.EdMin (Dallas Seminary) studied Radio/TV Communication at Stephen F. Austin State University and also earned a Master in Christian Education degree from DTS. Her two books are available on Amazon, When the Stork Passes By: A Field Guide to Practical Compassion and Infertility & Involuntary Childlessness: Traveling the Terrain, contributed to Invitation to Educational Ministry: Foundations of Transformative Christian Education by George M. Hillman Jr. and Sue G. Edwards, and has a new book about rebuilding life after storms which will be available mid-2022. Julie hosts The Bearing Life, a podcast available wherever you listen to podcasts or you
can subscribe on her website. Reach her on Instagram: @drjulieshannon Website: drjulieshannon.com

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