This post is a special one because it's a joint venture with my new friend, MaryAnn Sibley. She is simply A M A Z I N G I N G and I cannot wait for you to meet her!!!! This gal is on fire for the world to know Jesus and you can learn more about MaryAnn at her website here. We get to present at several workshops together (click here for more details) to encourage the local church in the area of hospitality and volunteers. So MaryAnn and I decided to bring our thoughts and experience in one blog - enjoy! (and yes...it's a little long but remember, there are two women talking here.)
We are two gals, Rebecca and Mary Ann, who formed a bond before we even met in person! We talked on the phone and knew right away that our passions were intertwined and that we must do ministry together!
We love Jesus and share the same heartbeat for the local church: church should be the absolutely best place on the planet where people know that are seen, heard, and wanted. However, our journey that has gotten us here has been so different! And every time we get together, we are in awe how it seems we have been together all along.
So, we are combining our thoughts, ideas and passions into this one space.
Sisters forever with our hearts beating for volunteers in the local church. Enjoy!
AND this is a conversation so we look forward to hearing what your “why” is! Share your story with us!
Someone once said “if you’re functioning out of passion without purpose, you’ll burn out.” Knowing your purpose or your “why” is key
to fueling your passion when the “what’s” are going well
and when they go wrong.
Rebecca-My purpose behind my passion for First Impressions Ministry is Jesus. “There’s no greater act of hospitality than when Jesus died on the cross for our sins so that He might welcome us into His Kingdom.” (Piper)
There's nothing like feeling received - accepted - valued. Jesus did it for the Church and we must extend what we’ve experienced.
Over the course of my life, as a preacher’s daughter (don’t judge me), God has graciously made the significance of this ministry and its role in fulfilling the Great Commission clear. When I was young, I loved imitating my parents who were always serving and loving, walking around the sanctuary before church talking to people, standing at the door after service telling people to have a great week…It was beautiful!
However, I did get exposed the good and the ugly of professional ministry-life and there came a time when I felt like the Church was attacking my family and I angrily distanced myself from it.
But God is so kind. He overhauled the junk out of my heart and I realized that the Church is made up of people...
People are hard to like sometimes and I know because I'm a "people". But, people are just those who want to belong and feel loved.
Also, about the same time, I got food poisoning from a certain sandwich restaurant but I went back to that restaurant.
So, I went back to church.
God turned the stomach-turning bitterness into a passion to help build the Church to be what Christ died for it to be.
When I got married, my husband and I found our own church. I went from being at the same small town church where I knew everyone and it was obvious if there was a guest, to a large multi-site church where we were the guests. We were welcomed at the doors, but got lost in the crowd on the other side. I never want people to feel like that. As we sought community there, we served, rested, pressed in, and grew.
Four years later, church leadership called me to be the Hospitality/First Impressions Ministry Coordinator at a new campus. It came out of nowhere for me, but it was what God had been preparing me for my whole life.
I had been seen and positioned in a place to allow my gifting to grow and contribute to Kingdom purposes. It changed my life and is why I’m so passionate about communicating the importance of this ministry and bringing as many people into this as possible! We must always remember that “people are the mission” (Danny Franks)! We have to SEE them, identify their God-given gifts, and position them for their good and God’s glory.
If we want people own the mission of the Church, we have to show them their valued place in it. First Impressions Ministry perfectly allows for all of that.
My friend says there's only 2 things you can take with you to Heaven: the Word and people. Everything should be motivated by such purposes.
Ephesians 2 describes this purpose: “You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone…He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone…”
Jesus is the cornerstone and ultimate example of hospitality.
Hospitality shouldn't be something we tag on as another committee, but should be the very culture of our churches. We can't get so comfortable in our pews that we get complacent. Our purpose is to turn strangers in to family...whether they attend our church or another. Accomplishing this will allow people to feel safe and bold enough to move from guest to disciple-maker. For their good, the strangers' good, and for God's glory!
MARY ANN:I was raised Buddhist.
My Dad served in the Marine Corp and he met my Mom while stationed in Japan and together, they provided a solid home with all the traditions of holidays and family.
Growing up in the early 1960’s, school wasn’t diverse like it is today - I was “it” and so began a journey of never feeling like I fit in or accepted, “as is”. In fact, my Dad’s family called me “half-breed”.
After college, I got married, started my career but 15 years later, in 1997, I found myself, divorced and a single mom with two young boys, 11 and 8 years old.
I suffered depression years earlier, but now the depression came back with a vengeance.
Any thought of “hope” was gone. And without hope, there is nothing.
Nothing to look forward to.
Nothing to live for. Not even for my boys.
And when you have zero support, zero community, your mind believes the lie that it’s better to not live at all….So I tried to end my life.
But God intervened.
And I then moved into a new neighborhood and met Jeff and Becky, with their 4 boys. I heard that they moved to NC to start a church. I was certain that “they” (those church people) wouldn’t like me and I knew I wouldn’t like them.
For 2 years, Jeff and Becky would invite me for dinner, cookouts and holidays when I didn’t have my boys. They were loving me “as is”.
Meanwhile, Becky was praying and telling her friends; “I have a neighbor who is a single Mom with 2 young boys and need Jesus, would you pray that she comes to church.”
I didn’t know God, but I knew Becky.
After 2 years of declining invitations to church, I finally attended in July 1999. (In my 40 years, no one had ever invited me to church before. Ever.)
On August 10, 1999, I made an appointment with the Pastor to let him know that a Buddhist was attending his church. I remember the Pastor asking me, “Mary Ann, what are you waiting for?”
I surrendered to Jesus.
God connected the dots of my journey to show me:
Even though I was a single Mom. I was loved.
Even though I suffered depression. I was not alone.
Even though I had totally ruined my life…and I could not fix it. God was restoring my life.
And then, God brought Dean into my life and this year we are celebrating 18 years of being married.
But my life is not perfect – I’m not perfect . I still have struggles and insecurities. In fact, the greatest pain in my life revolves around my oldest son, Alex. He has refused to make any contact with me or my extended family since 2008.
It continues to be the most painful part of my life to this day. There was a time when I would obsess over how to find him, talk to him.
But God led me to Luke 15:24 "..for this son of my mine was dead and has come to life again;.."
I noticed that the father never went out to the "far country" to find his son. He never used his power, position or money to get others to help retrieve his son. No, to the father, his son was "dead". There is nothing anyone can to for a dead person - only God revives us - wakes us - gives us a rebirth - brings the dead to life both literally and spiritually. I KNOW and trust and rely on the forever HOPE that He will bring Alex back as well.
So why bother?
I am on mission to remind the local church that there are so many more “Alex’s” out there that need Jesus. Those who need to be seen and know that they are wanted and belong.
The way Jeff & Becky accepted me and loved me into the kingdom is exactly what God is calling us to do. We can do it in our neighborhoods, our workplaces, our gyms and absolutely in our churches!
God restored this gal from not wanting to live to living to point others to Jesus!
So, why do you bother...to sacrifice and pray and dig in and weep and give?
Anyone else melting over this picture, or is it just me?! And it’s not because of the blazing hot sun!!! ☺️
Why do images like this get to us?!
Because we know the realness of the power of being invested in and mentored (discipled)!!
Choosing to invest in someone means you’re telling them they are seen, valued, and worthy... that they belong!!
It’s one of the most life changing experiences. People crave belonging. The most beautiful and most evil things in this world happen because of people’s desire to belong. Choosing to invest in someone Gospels people to pursue the beautiful. Mentorship of someone may last for a season or multiple seasons. In our churches, it’s how we create a missional culture in our First Impressions ministry. Huddles allow the leadership to disciple the whole group, personal investment of the team leaders into their volunteers creates community and spurs them on to see, value, and bring worth to their position of service and the guests they will be serving. Their experience with Jesus and His people on Sunday will encourage and embolden them to invest in the people they influence at work Monday- Friday.
Faithful discipleship in the Church leads to missions outside the Church.
It might be messy but it’s the most worth it. And you can do it at any age or stage. It’s hard work but the best & right Kingdom work. It’s why everyone is called to parenthood whether they have their own kids or not. Jesus chose to do it for multiple seasons with His disciples and with us... eternity. He sticks life out with us because He delights in us and wants us to experience life freely and abundantly!! We can build the Church with disciples and servants and we can reverse the curse and restore the broken by investing, mentoring, discipling.
“We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.”
1 Thessalonians 2:8 NLT
A friend shared this and it struck me. This is such a beautiful image of our Father God's heart. I often think of God as pretty busy... it's hard to really absorb the concept of His omnipresence and omniscience - that He is present with us as He is present with those in Syria or in the remotest or most populated places in the world. He orchestrates all while we are awake and while we sleep... while we are in the company of many and while we're alone, He is with us. I think there are multiple times in our lives where we come to a point of asking God, "where do I sit?" Or "what's my place, God?" But, TRUST that God is for all of us, & yet, a Personal God with a specific place and plan for each one. Hebrews 4:16 says, "So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most." God is never too busy for us. He is never caught off guard. He is not the God of chaos but of order. And more than that, He desires for us to approach Him and seek Him, our Constant One. It's always a good time for Him. That humbles and brings joy to my heart. And emboldens my belief that the Church should do and be the same. We should always have a place for people. We should never be too busy for them or be caught off guard. The Church should be a place that extends the grace, mercy, hospitality that we have experienced, with a cheerful heart. “Therefore receive one another as Christ has received you, for the glory of God.”• Romans 15:7
Oh Hey There TBR Family!
Happy New Year!
I wanted to thank yall for an amazing first year in service to churches developing their Guest Services Ministries. I've said it before, but if this was just me, just my initiation and doing, then I would look like a fool and this would not bear Jesus-fruit. Every night, I humbly thank God for making it clear to me that this is what He called me to do after years of prayer 2 years ago and as He continues to make it clear. I am so grateful for the ways He has made it clear by guiding, equipping, giving discernment, holding back, establishing new friendships in the field, growing old friendships, and opened the doors of His Church and the heart of His Bride. Guest Services is an eternally significant work that I pray every church invests in wisely. It is the front lines of discipleship... it Gospels people, glorifies God, and graces members and guests. This time last year, as I was praying and casting vision, I set a goal of hoping to serve 5 churches. This year God has shown this is all Him because, as of this past December, I have the honor of serving 7 churches, along with the exciting partnership with the North American Mission Board! We've seen churches grow in their leadership and service to the souls they've been given to attend to and care for. Doing life with God is beyond the imagination exciting!! I pray for more of a closeness with God in 2017 and to see more of His goodness in the land of the living!
Habakkuk 1:5 says," The Lord replied, 'Look around at the nations; look and be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it." God said this to His prophet in the midst of the prophet expressing his deep concern about the state of his world at the time. The fact that the Creator God listens and replies to His creation (as seen here and in our daily lives), is a miracle in itself. But, the fact that He promises to show up for us constantly, despite us constantly turning from Him and trying to fix things on our own is a miracle that should daily bring us to our knees in joy! I pray that you and I press in to His presence in ways that we have not done... I know God is stirring something up in our day and He wants to use His Church, His Bride. Let's all unite in the work to build the Church and the Kingdom, for our good and His glory, in Jesus' name!
PS. Thanks to my amazing and hotty hubby (Phillip Carlisle) for his support, wisdom, humor, love and encouragement!!! Love you so much!!!
Passionate about Jesus and people, I've added this blog to communicate strategy and thoughts about Biblical Hospitality and The Church as a movement, rather than just people in a building once a week. It seems like everyone is blogging these days, (which is awesome!) and I know that there are always better and more insightful thoughts, but God is leading this so I'm just writing in obedience.