By Chuck Lawless
Several years ago, more than one study showed large percentages of unchurched would consider attending a church if someone simply invited them. The problem is not the attitude of the unchurched; rather, it is often the failure of church members to invite others. When my church consulting teams have asked church members about their reticence to invite others to church, here are ten responses we have often heard (listed in no particular order):
- “I just don’t think about it.” – Many church members have contact with the unchurched every week, if not every day. They go to school with them, work with them, live beside them – and sometimes live with them. What church folks don’t do, though, is see the unchurched as “sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36), as spiritual beings in need of redemption and a church family.
- “I’m afraid I’ll be rejected.” – Nobody likes to be turned down, especially after taking the risk to invite somebody to church. It’s just easier to avoid that possibility by not inviting anyone at all (interestingly, church members could tell us times when others said “no,” but few could tell us of times when they were rudely or unkindly rejected).
- “The music isn’t that good.” – Some may argue the worship wars are over, but the battles seem to be ongoing. Our teams continue to hear refrains like, “it’s too loud,” “it’s too boring,” “we sing it over and over again,” and “nobody knows the songs.” Church members who themselves don’t enjoy the music don’t readily invite others to join them.
- “The preaching isn’t strong.” – This response was seemingly the most painful one to admit. Church members who love their pastors do not want to hurt them, but they spoke honestly to our consulting teams. When the preaching is poor, invitations to the unchurched decrease.
- “We’ve got too many church problems right now.” – Church members don’t always know all the issues facing a congregation, but they frequently recognize when something “just isn’t right.” They see the attendance decreasing, or they hear of internal conflict. Simply stated, they do not invite their friends onto a battleground.
- “Our church is already too crowded.” – This issue is particularly an American one, as Americans protect our personal space. We don’t like being cramped, even in church. Moreover, we don’t want to have to search for a parking space before entering that already crowded building. One way to avoid more crowding is to stop inviting anyone.
- “Nobody ever challenged me to invite anyone.” – This reason is related to the first one on this list. Some church members never think about inviting others because no one has challenged them to do so. This response is especially tragic if many unchurched would respond affirmatively to an invitation.
- “I don’t know how to start the conversation.” – Simply inviting somebody to church would seem easy, but that’s not the case for many church members. In a culture where discussing religion or politics is almost forbidden, even long-term Christians struggle with initiating an invitation to church.
- “It’s the Spirit’s job—not mine—to bring people to church.” – To be fair, we have heard this response primarily from congregations seeking to avoid any “man-centered” approach to evangelism. In their zeal to keep their focus on God, they walk cautiously when considering their role in evangelism – including simply inviting others to church.
- “It’s too far for people to come.” – We live in a mobile culture that promotes church attendance sometimes quite far from where we live. Our teams have learned, however, that church members who drive a long distance are less willing to invite others to drive that same distance.
What reasons would you add to this list? What steps have you taken to address these responses?
Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.
Posted on July 15, 2014
Dr. Chuck Lawless is a leading expert in spiritual consultation, discipleship and mentoring. As a former pastor, he understands the challenges ministry presents and works with Church Answers to provide advice and counsel for church leaders.
More from Chuck
I try to make a habit to meet and invite people to church when I go shopping or on business ttips. I offer them a church bulletin and/or a “Gospe Minutes” supplement, plus invite them to worship where I worship. I haven’t seen any of them at church worship, but maybe they will come later.
I’ll try and keep this simple. Unfortunately most people go to church to get not give. If the message is relevant with what and how it relates to current world events people see value. My two cents. If a sermon/message spends at least 50% on relevant current events and how they relate to Gods word people will invest.
I have had many Christians approach me in many different ways including: whitnessing, informing, preaching, judging, (sadly, sometimes condemning) leaving religious information, etc. sadly, less than 1% have friendly, and cordially invited me to join them for fellowship. When I am invited; 99% of the time, I show up with my family. We love to meet new people and fellowship with Christians.
In my testimony, I have my own extremely unique relationship with God that nobody else will ever fully understand. We are allowed to be unique as individuals and have our own relationship with God just as differently and uniquely as twins have with their parents. God knows many things about me that i will never tell another living soul and not all of those things are bad. Some of the uniqueness of my relationship with God as private as many parts of my marriage.
It would not be fair to my wife if I kept her hid out and did not include her in parts of my life other than home. When I see someone that I know that she has not met I introduce her as my wife. I am proud of my wife and family. I feel blessed to have them in my life. I am also proud of our home and regularly invite people over.
Many Christians, have a unique relationship with God, go to a nice Church, and have a wonderful Church family but are more willing to introduce their immediate family, and welcome someone into their personal home than to introduce God, their Church family and invite someone to fellowship. In my opinion, This is not fair nor fruitful to God, Church, or congregation.
It should be easier to be open and inviting with Church and fellowship than with our families and home. After all, most people would not show up to a party uninvited, why expect anyone to show up to Church uninvited.
Perhaps it’s because there is no Biblical mandate to invite lost people to “church” ! In fact, there are Scriptural reasons NOT to do so. We are commanded to come out from among them, so why invite them to come among us. Hebrews 10:25 refers to the assembling of “ourselves,” which does not include lost folks. Even in the Old Testament, 4 times we are encouraged to worship the LORD “in the beauty of holiness.” This is an impossibility when there are unholy, unsanctified people in the gathering. If the church is holding a specifically designated “evangelistic meeting,” that is quite another thing, but to invite the unsaved to be edified clearly goes against Biblical principles!
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
― Mahatma Gandhi He might as been living in Pgh Pa. I am 57. NO church as proved to me that the “great soul” was in wrong.
I welcome my friends to
Come to church, and its
So funny thwy dont invite
Me to their church or any
Where else in public, im
Not ugly why? Would
They want to hurt me.