Christianity is a disciple-making faith, and the hinge-point of Christian discipleship is conversion. But many Christians in our modern context—including pastors—struggle with the invitations that often lead to those decisions—inviting people into Christian community, and inviting them to make a commitment to Jesus.
Ed Stetzer comments on some relevant Lifeway research about getting folks to church in the first place:
A few years ago LifeWay Research conducted a survey of 15,000 adults for the North American Mission Board to try to determine which of 13 approaches is the best-received when a church wants to be heard. The research showed us that best-received means of seeing new people walk into one's church is, well, a personal invitation.
- 67% of Americans say a personal invitation from a family member would be very or somewhat effective in getting them to visit a church.
- 63% of Americans say a personal invitation from a friend or neighbor would be very or somewhat effective in getting them to visit a church.
- 63% of Americans are very or somewhat willing to receive information about a local congregation or faith community from a family member.
- 56% of Americans are very or somewhat willing to receive information about a local congregation or faith community from a friend or neighbor.
So, people ARE open to an invite from church, particularly if it is from someone they know.
According to veteran evangelist Luis Palau (in this recently published Leadership Journal interview), part of the problem is simple—pastors overthink what other people are thinking, and are unwilling to simply invite. Palau told Portland, Oregon pastor Rick McKinley:
[I]f you're a pastor, a person of God, then people … expect that you're there to tell them something. You're not there to kill time. You're not there to ask for permission to go on the air. So just give them the gospel. You'd be amazed how many of them are ready.
So the thing is this. We Christians—and especially Anglo-Saxons—have this notion that we know what the other guy is thinking before we even begin to talk to him. We really don't. The Holy Spirit said he would convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Do you believe that?
Stezer concludes his article:
This begs the question: how can people be added to the local church (which involves conversation and covenant) unless they experience fellowship and community with that church? And how can they experience fellowship and community in a local church unless someone invites them? If many of our un-churched friends are ready for an invitation to church, what are we waiting on?
Invitations are powerful. Don't overthink them.
Copyright © 2014 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.
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