The last time I saw my grandfather alive he made fun of me for being a pastor. You’ve probably heard the jokes or even made them yourself. “What does a pastor do all week anyway? You only work like one hour.” I wanted to tell my grandpa we have two worship services on Sunday morning, and they go for three hours by themselves....
Since it is Easter time, people may be more interested in church than they are during other times in the year. I want to share Christ with my friends, family, or neighbors by inviting them to church, don’t you?
It’s a hard thing to do. We may fear that the people we invite to church will respond in hostility, but that may not be the case.
A Surprising Reply
One Saturday, the weather was good, and so this friend and I went kayaking together. We talked about all sorts of things. At one point, I said something like, “I wonder whether you’d be interested in coming to church with me tomorrow.”
My friend’s reply surprised me: “I didn’t think you’d want me to come with you to church.” I assured him I would be glad if he came, and my friend joined me.
People do not go to church for all sorts of reasons. But the number one reason is that no one has invited them. They are not sure what the protocol is for church. They’re not sure how to find a seat. They don’t know whether they are meant to get there early or late. There are enough unknowns that they don’t feel comfortable just showing up.
These days, if someone is going to come to church, 90% of them will have been invited by someone else. Inviting someone to church, as simple as it sounds, is a key way for people to connect with church and therefore, we pray, with Christ.
So, how do we invite people to church?
Spend some time first praying for the person you are thinking of inviting to church. Pray for their heart and mind to be open. Pray that God would give you an opportunity (Colossians 4:3).
You do not need to wait a certain amount of time or have gained a certain amount of relational capital before you invite someone to church.
I know stories of people who have come to Christ through a simple invitation without much previous (if any) relational context from the person who invited them.
And I know people who have come to church just because a neighbor asked them when they first moved into their new home.
But while you do not have to have a certain amount of relational capital, it is important to prepare yourself. Prepare for knowing what to say, and how to say it. Be ready to have an ongoing relationship with that person, whether or not they agree to come to church with you.
No one wants to be a target. Prepare yourself to be ready to care for the person you are inviting to church as a person, not as a project.
Use a reminder.
Whether you use some form of electronic invitation or a physical postcard of some kind, having a reminder to give to someone can help solidify the invitation.
It can tell the person where the church is, when to arrive, and give them a sense of what they are coming to. It also will allow them to think about your invitation when you are no longer there because they have a physical reminder of the invitation you gave them.
Consider your words carefully.
For instance, you might say “I’ve been enjoying our church a lot recently, and I wanted to give you an opportunity to be a part of it too. Are you interested in coming with me on Sunday?”
Or you might say, “We’ve been looking at this book of the Bible at church, and it’s about this. I thought you might be interested in finding out more about that. Would you like to join me on Sunday at church?”
Whatever the exact words you use, pick phrases that do not suggest you are targeting the person or that you are saying they are less than you because you are inviting them. You are sharing something you have found, and you wonder whether the other person would be interested in it, too.
Consider it in the same way you would if you found a grocery store or a gym that you like and that you would want to share with a friend.
Obviously, what you are talking about is far more important than a grocery store or a gym. But you don’t want to make it seem as if you are the righteous person and the one you are inviting is not. You are just one beggar who has found bread showing another beggar where bread can be found.
Invite them to something afterwards too.
Don’t just invite them to church and then leave them after the service.
Say, “We’re going to church and then to get brunch; would you like to join us?” That way it’s clear that what you’re interested in is them, not just getting them to turn up.
Don’t be surprised if they say no.
People are not always going to respond with yes to an invitation to church. But a percentage of people will respond yes. And some who first say no may say yes later.
It’s worth persevering with inviting people to church. You may at times find that a person says no and does not want to be asked again. Respect their wishes in that regard; they may change their mind at some point in the future.
Don’t weight the invitation as a “now or never”; weight it as, “I’d love it if you joined us sometime. Here is a Sunday when we are going to go and get brunch afterward. Why not come along with us?”
Watch for God-given opportunities.
When you pray that God will give you opportunities, don’t be surprised when he does! Look out for them.
For instance, someone might say, “I’ve been feeling very tired at work recently.” You could say, “I know what you mean. I’ve been finding church really refreshing recently. Would you like to come along with me?”
Overall, the model is: pray for opportunities, pray for the preaching of God’s Word to come with power and clarity, be wise in what you say and how you say it to those you are inviting.
Reflect on this passage as you invite people to church this Easter:
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:2-6)