Ed: The book does not have evangelism in the title, but it’s categorized under that. So, why an evangelism book? Everyone’s talking about mission, justice, etc., but not a lot about evangelism. So, why write on that?
Steve: Friends told me that writing your first book on evangelism isn't the smartest business decision, but for some reason I felt like I needed to do it. Over the past ten years, I've seen a decrease in urgency when it comes to sharing one’s faith. I think a lot of it has to do with the way evangelism has been portrayed and done over the years. What I want to do is to try and reclaim the essence of the word.
Paul tells Timothy to "Do the work of an evangelist" (2 Tim. 4:2) and he's telling Timothy to make the good news your life's work! This Invitational Life is an attempt to inspire everyday people to live winsomely and risk themselves to align with God's heartbeat for humanity.
Ed: Talk to me about the title— why “invitational”?
Steve: We come from a great tradition of invitation. I think of a devout disciple in Damascus who heard God whisper his name and his response was "Yes, Lord." God asked Ananias to go downtown and meet with Saul and invite him into the church family. Ananias had to overcome his own fear of what Saul might do and his own fear of rejection, and then trust that this moment was brimming with redemptive potential.
People whom I come across that are unchurched or post-church still love to be invited. When we live invitational lives, we are choosing to invite people into our story, our homes for a meal, our lives, our church, and God's story.
I didn't grow up in a Christian home and my life was transformed by two juniors in high school. Their names were Dominic and Nathan, but they went by the name "Dominate," which is just awesome! When they were in 11th grade and I was in 7th, one day Dominic came up to me on the basketball court and said, "Hey Carter, do you want to learn how to dominate life?"
To this day, that might just be the single greatest question anyone has ever asked me. I said yes, and over the next six to nine months, they showed me and taught me what a life in Christ looked like over hamburgers, car rides, or shooting hoops.
They invited me into their life—into what mattered most to them—and it changed me. I got baptized and they told me that I now needed to go share that invitation with others. Since that day, I've been trying to help people learn how to dominate life.
Ed: Why do so many people struggle in the area of evangelism?
Steve: The two most common struggles I hear are, "It's not my spiritual gift” and “I'm afraid of rejection." When it comes to spiritual gifts, don't they all point people to Jesus and good news? Hospitality points people to Jesus. Mercy points people to Jesus. Great leadership points people to Jesus. Administration points people to Jesus. Preaching points people to Jesus.
Evangelism is a gift, but it's also the purpose of every gift. When people tell me their spiritual gift, I quickly begin asking how they can leverage that gift to help people see and experience good news. One of the primary objectives of our spiritual gift is utilizing it in our attempts to make the good news our life's work.
The second major concern people have is a fear of rejection. I get that. Nobody wants that. But again, when you reframe it, I think it takes the pressure off of us. The Church has separated evangelism from discipleship and I think we're seeing a deep longing for the two to become one again.
This Invitational Life is broken up into four sections—Live, Show Up, Relate, and Risk—as an attempt to bring evangelism and discipleship together. This Invitational Life centers on living deeply with Jesus (knowing God's story, your place in it, and how to remain in Christ), showing up with expectation (every moment is brimming with redemptive potential because God is there), sparking oncoming relationships (being curious, listening well, praying boldly, and asking great questions), and risking it all on what matters most to God (being brave, bold, and fearless to invite).
Ed: What advice would you give to those who want to live an invitational life?
Steve: My advice for those who want to live an invitational life is to show up with expectancy, with one ear attuned to heaven, so that when God whispers you'll be ready to respond. God's heartbeat is for humanity and He is inviting us to be ministers of reconciliation. He has given us a story of reconciliation and we are His ambassadors as if God was making his appeal through us. He wants to use you. When the spirit whispers, please say yes!
Ananias said yes and God used him to help Saul, and he ended up doing incredible things for the kingdom. Edward Kimball said yes and God used him in a major way in D.L. Moody's life and look what God did through him.
The Church wins every time we hear a prompting of God and say yes! The Church is blessed with Pauls and D.L. Moodys because everyday risk-takers decided to say YES and invite people into God's story. Who said yes to God and invited you into God's family? Who has God put in your life who He wants you to answer yes to sharing the good news with?