Do you like pizza?
The answer is always yes.
I mean who doesn’t like pizza? You have to be from a different planet, or maybe Utah, if you don’t.
I can’t believe these people exist, and what’s even more mind blowing is I’ve actually met a few of these pizza haters.
Just kidding about Utah, but you’re a weirdo if you don’t like pizza. Just saying.
The Power of The Invite.
I want to share how pizza changed a whole neighborhood; and it all started with an invite.
David Whyte said this, “A real conversation always contains an invitation. You are inviting another person to reveal herself or himself to you, to tell you who they are or what they want.”
That’s right, a simple invite. If you’re anything like me you “over think” everything. When Jesus said,“Love your neighbor as well as you do yourself” I remember being so overwhelmed with one question. “How do I do that?”
Maybe you’re the same.
A student named Joseph approached me after a youth service and asked me that very question, “How do I love my neighbor?” Now, Joseph lived in neighborhood of mostly single parent homes, low income, drug & alcohol abuse, and a heavy population of troubled teens. This isn’t your typical neighborhood where you would knock on doors and invite people to your party.
Yet, that’s part of the problem. Why do we believe that?
I believe at the very core of who we are we really want to love all people. Unfortunately what happens is (and especially us Jesus followers) is we love all the people who look and act like us.
Ouch, I know.
Can I challenge you right now as you read this blog- mentally look around and picture who is in your life. Do they only look and act like you? And is that what you believe Jesus means when he calls you to really love your neighbor?
Even as I write this and think of the people who I surround myself with we all kind of act and look the same.
We at Shock The World do believe in community and it’s only natural to be drawn to people who are similar to us, and that’s okay.
But, if that’s all we’re doing then we’re missing the point.
We miss the point that everyone is someone.
That Everyone deserves love.
Love that can look as simple as an invite.
Now the good part.
So Joseph, myself, and a few others came up with a plan. We asked ourselves what do teenagers and all normal human beings like?
So we made simple invites inviting anyone from the ages of 12-18 to our weekly youth service called ALIVE+FREE. We let them know we were offering a ride and free pizza. We knocked on every door in the neighborhood and left the invites where ever we could.
The first Wednesday came and I remember pulling up where we told people to meet and there were five new students from the neighborhood. I was in shock that the invites worked. I will never forget the first thing one of the new guys said,
“Where’s the Pizza?”
The next week came and I made sure to have two cars ready incase we had more people who wanted to come. We pulled up and there were even more students than I expected. Blown away by the response, the two cars weren’t even close to being enough space, so we literally had to stack everyone on top of one another.
Was this legal?
Would we do it again?
You better believe it.
This went on for weeks and months where we started off with cars, then a van, and then eventually a bus.
Little Caesar's Pizza must have hated us because every Wednesday night we cleared them out of their Hot-N-Readys.
What’s so amazing about this story is not that we were able to fill cars, vans, and buses, but that for most of these students they were feeling loved for the very first time.
And it changed their lives forever.
Countless stories of students who were once on drugs totally set free.
Students giving their lives to Jesus for the first time.
Instead of committing suicide, finding help and hope in a friend.
Parents calling the office wondering why their kids were now behaving.
The local school wanting us to be mentors and a voice.
Students having a place they can call home.
I could go on and on.
And it all started with pizza.
Now it’s your turn.
Love is just love.
It comes in all different shapes, forms, and ideas.
The one thing it’s missing?
We over think it and make it way more complicated than it really is.
It might not be cleaning out Little Caesar's on a Wednesday night, but it could be a simple hello to your neighbor. Or being intentional in talking to someone new at your work place.
If you really want to break out of the norm, it could be inviting someone you don’t know very well over for dinner.
The list of possibilities is endless.
But it takes you. It takes the one step.
So that’s my challenge to you.
How much do you love pizza?