How do you create a culture of invitation?
Mark Greenwood introduces an exciting new initiative to Elim and says there are thousands of people who are simply waiting to be invited to church
Ten years of study by the developer of Back to Church Sunday, Michael Harvey, reveals that seven out of ten Christians have someone in mind they would like to invite to church. Yet eight out of ten will never invite the person they have in mind. And it’s all down to fear.
Fear is the biggest factor involved in our reluctance to invite friends and family to church. Fear of rejection, humiliation and, worst of all, losing that particular relationship. So, why are we so afraid, when the Bible clearly commands us some 365 times (remarkably, one for each day of the year): “Do not fear…”?
There is power in invitation and obedience to any prompting from God. It is way beyond our understanding.
Tim Cooling, lead pastor of Elim Christian Centre, Barking, attended a recent training session run by Michael on ‘Creating a Culture of Invitation’. He was asked by Michael to model invitation by asking God if there was someone he should invite to church. Tim already had someone in mind.
On the second day of the initiative, the doorbell rang at Tim’s church. The very person he had thought to invite was standing there. Tim asked her to come in for a drink, invited her to church and then for dinner at his house to meet his children. The lady asked Tim if he did this for his entire congregation. He shook his head. The invitee then said she would come to church, giving Tim a hug.
“As church leaders, we can spend lots of resources putting on events geared towards unchurched folks,” Tim reflects. “We tell people to invite their friends, but don’t realise the baggage they carry around about the process of invitation.
No matter how great your event is, if you don’t build courage and confidence into your church members they won’t invite friends and family.”
The trouble is, we put all the focus on the person we are inviting, with little thought for the anxieties and fears of the person doing the inviting. Such training focuses on the need to be obedient and leave the outcome to God. After all, he is big enough to handle the outcome, isn’t he? Moyo Ayeni, assistant pastor of Elim Christian Centre, Barking, agrees about the value and importance of the invitation.
“We’re already seeing people invite friends and family to church,” said Moyo. “It’s taken away the fear factor. Our outlook has changed and we are encouraging people to be intentional about being invitational. I’ve heard of someone in our church that put their friend’s name on the cross in the service Michael led – and they came to church!”
This year, Michael and Peter Meadows, co-founder of Spring Harvest and Premier Radio, launched an exciting new initiative entitled The National Weekend of Invitation. It focuses on local churches creating a weekend of events to which churchgoers can invite friends and family. It will run from June 15-17.
The simple truth is that, at some point, we were all invited to church by someone at a particular stage in our lives – be it through our parents or a friend. For many of us, it was the way we came to Christ. Our lives changed forever.
So this leaves us with an important question we must ask ourselves: Will we share this good news with others by creating a culture of invitation?
To organise ‘Creating a Culture of Invitation’ training in your area, please contact mandy@ weekendofinvitation.com