The family table serves as a sacred place in many of our homes. Visitors are always welcome, and rich conversations range from jokes to sports, to politics to school work, to spiritual life and the goodness of God. The table is a place of belonging and security, joy and laughter. Jesus loved the culture of table, and the Gospels record that He ate at the homes of many people. In fact, His lack of discrimination in choosing dinner partners often earned Him criticism. He ate with the misfits, the hated, the outcasts, and even the oppressors.
On one such occasion, in the home of a pharisee, He told a parable about the Kingdom. He likened the Kingdom to a great banquet to which many had been invited, but few had responded. Many invited guests snubbed the host, making excuses as the party was about to begin. The excuses were intended to humiliate the host, thinking that if they chose not to come, the party would be over, even before it began.
In response, the Master of the house instructed his servants, not once, but twice, to go out and bring in the marginalized and despised, the refugees and immigrants. His heart turned to those who would not otherwise be invited to the banquet.
“Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ ‘Sir,’ the servant replied, ‘what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’ So, the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full”
(Luke 14:21-23, ESV).
For 100 years we have gone as servants of the master into the streets and alleys, the highways and hedges of this world, inviting people to the table. The spiritually poor, crippled, blind, and the lame have responded. Millions have accepted the invitation of the Master and are now numbered among the children of God. But we’re not finished yet. The house is not yet full; there are still empty seats.
As I reflect on our 100 years of missional impact around the world, an old Sunday School song comes to mind:
“Deep and wide, deep and wide, there is a fountain flowing deep and wide.”
From a deep, personal relationship with the Father, with eyes firmly fixed on Jesus and empowered by the Spirit, we scattered wide into the world, a fountain of living water. We obeyed and went with the firm conviction that the Gospel is the hope of the world, the power of God for salvation for all who believe. As we enter our second century, we must continue to compel people from the ends of the earth to come to the table. The Master sees that there is still room and is telling us to keep inviting.
The effectiveness of our witness is dependent upon remaining committed to increase the depth of church life and the width of our gospel witness. As a holy nation gathered, we stand in the gap and represent the world to God. As royal priests scattered, we mediate the presence of God to the world. We are sent by God to offer shalom and invite people to reconciliation with God.
These two foci, the inward priestly devotion and the outward scattered work, serve each other. In our passion to know God, we embrace the character of the missional triune God whose love is beyond comprehension. In our passion to reach the world, we deepen our walk with God when we meet the prisoner, the stranger, the poor, the widow, the orphan, the addict, and even those who violently oppose the gospel. Paul grasps this connection between the inward and the outward when he prays that we “being rooted and established in love may have the power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that we may be filled with the measure of all the fullness of God” (Eph 3: 17 – 19). There is no limit (in height or depth) to this love that compels us into the world.
In the face of secularism, we must not merely become a church filled with well-formed Christians in deep communion with God. We must be true to God’s mission in the world. We must have a profound sense of engagement with the world both at home and to the ends of the earth.
We are called to missional width and spiritual depth; to an openness to the world and a deep integrity and holiness. We must be culturally relevant yet maintain a confessional rootedness in the gospel which is the power to save. As we dive deep in our understanding of God’s love and character, we must remain open to the fresh new ways that the Spirit empowers us to witness in the world. The biblical story celebrates the transformation of people from every walk of life: governors, kings, business persons, soldiers, lepers, the blind – all are welcome.
The good news is that we are not alone in this responsibility to invite people to the table. In August we will welcome Pentecostals from around the world to Calgary for the Pentecostal World Conference. People are coming from over 100 countries; they too are sending their sons and daughters into the world to invite people to the table. Mission today is a shared responsibility.
Together, we are inviting the world to the table!
Murray Cornelius is the Executive Director of International Missions for PAOC. He has served in this role for the past 12 years. Murray and Cindy enjoy spending time with their two adult sons and two grandsons.