Pause for thought: How about we leave the safety of the four walls of our churches and go do some inviting?
Over the last few weeks I’ve been reading a book by one of my favourite communicators. I’ve been reading “The other side of hope” by Danielle Strickland. It is a far more personal book than many of her previous offerings and talks about her upbringing and that of her parents and grandparents. It is quite an emotional read at times but always ‘hope’ shines through.
It tells the story of how when her mum was 10 she saw her dad beat her pregnant mum (Danielle’s grandmother) so severely that the baby died. It tells of the police arriving and Danielle’s mother being removed from this scene of horrific violence and eventually being placed with her aunt. Taken to a place where her needs could be met but there was no love. She was made to live in the garage and given lists of endless chores. A Cinderella story but with no balls and no princes. But the aunt attended the Salvation Army Sunday services and when a knock came at the door one day and a Salvation Army officer stood there giving out invites to their Kids Club/Sunday School this young girl was sent to join.
Danielle’s dad was immersed in violence from a young age and became part of a violent gang. He had no sense of identity. His ‘parents’ told him that he had been sold to them as a baby. And sure enough when the house was eventually sold decades later and things cleared out, there was the receipt – an actual receipt – for the sale of a baby for $50. This is not in the developing world, this is in Canada. It wasn’t until he was eventually thrown out of this home to go and get married that his birth certificate, his real birth certificate, was hurled after him into the street. For the first time he saw his actual date of birth and real name. But his life had begun to change long before this. Why? The Salvation Army were visiting every home in the neighbourhood and knocking on every door to invite children to their Kids Club/Sunday School – and so he was sent by his mum to the kids club.
And soon enough these two people would meet and in the course of time they would marry. But not your fairly tale ending, but maybe the hint of a fairy tale beginning. They didn’t know how to parent. They’d been raised in chaos. And maybe no surprises that Danielle would embark on extreme rebellion from the youngest age involving drugs and alcohol, stealing cars when she was as young as 11, and then running away. But she comes through, again because of the intervention of the Salvation Army – who stood with her in juvenile court on numerous occasions and interceded with various judges – the Salvation Army come out of this story really well! But Danielle’s ability to communicate hope and love and Jesus in transparency and vulnerability make her my favourite communicator. But don’t miss the timing. There was nothing instant. Sometimes generational change within families can take a few generations. Transformation can be instantaneous, but usually it takes time. There are going to be bumps in the road. But if we can just walk with people for long enough, stay with them, provide support, despite the knockbacks, then we can truly intervene and turn around entire families.
But what I want you to see, what I need you to see, is this story of the now international speaker who has seen transformed lives all over the world, is made possible because some people left the safety of the four walls of their churches and did some inviting. To change the future takes a commitment now. To transform families for generations to come necessitates placing ourselves in someone else’s world, not waiting for them to walk into ours.
How about we leave the safety of the four walls of our churches and go do some inviting? Maybe time to go and knock on a few doors.
Revd Dr Mark Griffiths
Mark Griffiths is married to Rhian and they have three grown up children. He has been a children’s pastor, community evangelist and a vicar, he is author of numerous books and his PhD in in child evangelism and its connection to church growth. He has spoken on the need to win rising generation all over the world. He currently works for St Padarn’s Institute where he trains ministers and curates for the Church in Wales as well as running an MA Specialism in Ministry to Children, Young People & Families