Over the last several decades, churches that experienced steady or rapid growth and people coming to faith in Jesus had congregational members who joyfully invited their friends, family, and neighbors to come to church.
Several things were essential:
- People had relationships with people who didn’t attend a church.
- They were motivated by the love of Jesus and their love of others.
- They felt safe that it would be a good experience for their friends.
So, does it still work to employ an “invite your friends and neighbors to church” strategy?
YES … and NO!
While all of the above is still true–relationships, love, good experience–if it’s simply “come to church” as a destination or as an event, then that strategy probably doesn’t work.
Here’s what works, and here’s the challenge:
People are much more likely to respond to the invitation to come to church when it’s part of a larger invitation into your life.
“And I’d like to invite you to church because church is a part of my life.”
It’s a lot about the relationship, not just the destination!
That makes sense, right, in our Post-Christendom culture?
The priority is “belonging” in relationship, with no manipulative agenda (yes you care about them and not what you can get them to do), sometimes long before “believing” is ever on the table.
There are a couple of challenges with this:
- We’re busy. Life is complicated. It’s a big step to add people into our lives who might make our own lives busier or more complicated.
- It’s easy to assimilate a self-centered spirit and not really care about the well-being (spiritual and otherwise) of others. Sad…but true!
- The majority in most communities have not experienced the church as good news in their lives, and they’re reluctant. People will have more initial success with simply…
- Listening to their story,
- Sharing their own story…
- and that obviously includes God’s story.
It would seem appropriate to reference the Good Samaritan OR Jesus sending the 12 or the 72 disciples OR The Apostle Paul in Ephesus or Athens.
Here’s what comes to mind…when I simply make myself available to people in my life–and I have the same hurdles you do–I usually return with joy (Luke 10:17).
Rev. Dr. Jock Ficken
Excellent article! This article is helpful in equipping people to invite other people to be part of their journey of faith instead of attending an event. Thank you Jock!
“They felt safe that it would be a good experience for their friends.” Sometimes, as pastors, we are called to spend a great deal of time and energy preparing a congregation to receive others well.