Inviting people to church can be an intimidating thing. There are so many moving pieces and factors involved that can make it seem very overwhelming. Generally, when we become overwhelmed we begin to overthink and then eventually talk ourselves out of inviting someone for one reason or another.
First, let me encourage you with a statistic (I know, no one really cares about statistics, but its kind of interesting).
Tim Keller wrote in his church planting book, Center Church, that as far back as 2012 the percentages have stayed pretty much steady showing ~80% of people come to a local church due to a personal invitation. Not marketing, not signage, not radio spots, or social media; an invitation. 80%! That is a sizable percentage of people that need just a simple invite from someone to attend a church worship service.
But why? Why is it important to invite to church? Wouldn’t it be better to invite to a small group, or an event of some kind? Wouldn’t it be better to invite someone to coffee and meet with them personally?
I've heard this a lot. Someone will tell me, "I didn't invite my neighbor to church, but to a cookout where I know other Christians will be." Other times I have heard, "Church on Sunday morning is not really my friend's things, so I invited them out for coffee and I'll disciple them myself."
All of these things have value and have a place in the life of Christians towards their neighbors and friends.
But, it is only the worship service of the local church that is designed by God to look like heaven!
Is it evangelistic to present the gospel; yes. It is productive to invite to an event, a small group, or a coffee shop; it can be. Yet, the worship service is the most evangelistic thing you can do personally. Not to outsource the presentation of the gospel to the pastor. Not to shirk any sort of relational responsibility you have in discipleship.
Rather, to say, “Hey, want to see what Jesus’ love looks like? Come to church with me to see a diverse group of people of varied political ideas, worldviews, and backgrounds unified together around the worship of a God worthy to be united under!”
WE together are a demonstration of the gospel in a different way than YOU are alone. Both are vital and have great value, but it is the local church that our Lord Jesus designed, established, and gave us to constantly demonstrate the love of God to each other and the world.
When Revelation 5:8-10 says that the Lamb (Jesus) was slaughtered to purchase a people, that is the church. This means that when someone engages in that “people” they are eyewitnesses of the redemptive work of the Lamb himself.
And what are they doing in Revelation 7:9? This multitude, too many to count of all different people, are spending time in intentional worship.
What better thing can you think of to pull someone into!?
Did you know that out of that 80% of people that merely need an invitation to attend a church a large portion of them don’t because of some kind of fear? You don’t need to live in a country where Christians suffer persecution to experience fear in participating in church.
--People in your circles are filled with fear of their own failures driving them far away from God.
--There are individuals fearful of how going to church would effect their relationships with family and friends.
--There are also people who, even if they desire or feel prompted to attend church, are fearful of going alone.
An invitation to join for worship is not only an invitation like to a birthday party saying, “Show up at this time and place.” It is you looking at someone you know in the eyes and making a promise to them, “I will be with you when you come. You are not going alone!” This mitigates fear. This unifies rather than isolates. This is an invitation into a community, not into a building.
There are a lot of “What Ifs” in this however. What if this or what if that? Here is the clear truth of our lives: we are not privileged to know the “What Ifs.”
So, let’s play a game of thinking through a few of the What Ifs.
Say an individual is an unbeliever and does not attend church anywhere.
What If they say no? OK, then what? You’re in the same boat as before.
What If they get upset and never want to talk to you again? Then, as 1 Corinthians 3 would claim, you either planted a seed or watered the seed. The ramification in many people’s mind is “I want to maintain the relationship, so I don’t want to push away.”
Here is the frank reality though, at some point that threshold must be crossed or else an element of your own fearful complacency becomes complicit in their staying away.
But, here is the thing. Here are some other What Ifs.
What If your invitation is the very thing that individual needs to step foot in a church, or to hear the gospel for their salvation.
What If they have had a troubling season and didn’t know there were people who cared.
What If you are the vessel the Lord desires to work in their life for their redemption and his glory?
On the other side of that coin, say there is an individual that does attend a church, should you invite anyways? I would say, yes!
What If they say no? Same as before, nothing changes.
But, remember, some of you were also attending other churches prior to coming here. There are so many reasons for people to attend another church.
So, What If these individual are hurting or lost or feel stuck there. You may not know what’s going on in their life and simply assume that because they go to another church it is the best place for them.
An invitation may be the very thing they need to take a step out of one place into another and grow closer to the Lord.
Because we are not privy to the “What Ifs,” we should invite wildly and zealously! We can talk ourselves out of a lot of things. Invitations to church is often on the lower end of our priority lists. But it should not be. It is easy, and the weight of the "What Ifs" are far more positive than negative.
Invitations can happen by simply texting or calling a friend and saying, “Hey what are you doing on Sunday? Would you come with me to church?”
Sit down for a coffee and during the invitation express what you admire and appreciate about your own church community.
No one can argue with your experience. One of the most powerful ways to invite someone to church is to share with them the benefit the church and people of the church have made in your life.
I know that the moving pieces and challenges can make inviting someone to church exhausting and terrifying. But, trusting in the grace of Jesus in these relationships, and trusting that he has you in the relationships you are in for a purpose, his strength can make you strong.
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Andrew is the Senior Pastor of Olivet Bible Church. Find out more HERE.