Christian Living

Are You Reluctant to Invite Friends to Church?

The Service that Members Want Isn’t What Unchurched People Need

Over the years I’ve wanted to invite friends to church. Too often I don’t. This isn’t due to a lack of courage on my part but a fear that the church service would drive them from Jesus instead of drawing them closer.

And for those times I took the risk and invited friends to church, I can’t ever remember once when the outcome was positive. They came once and never returned. When I asked why, they often cited an aspect of the service that confused them, turned them off, or offended them.

I may have been more successful at pointing them to Jesus if I hadn’t invited them to go to church with me.

Dogmatic Preaching

At one fundamental church I attended, the teaching pastor delighted in decrying sinful behavior. He was legalistic to the extreme. He had a lengthy list of things we should not do as followers of Jesus. And the list of things we could do was short and dreary.

He had the zeal of a Pharisee. And he seldom mentioned God’s grace or mercy. Given this, why would anyone want to follow Jesus?

When we invite friends to church, they need to hear a compelling message, not a repelling one.

Miserable Music

The worship music at many churches struggles to speak to unchurched people. Sometimes it’s a dated style that’s irrelevant in today’s world. It’s out of touch and inaccessible, sending the wrong signal about Jesus and his church.

Other times it’s a quality issue. True, from a worship standpoint, it’s what’s in the musicians’ hearts that matters to God, not the sound of their voice or the skill of their playing. Yet to someone on the outside, unprofessional music is a huge turnoff.

When we invite friends to church, they deserve, and expect, to experience professional music that connects with them and draws them to God—not makes them cringe.

Unfriendly People

What happens before and after the service, of course, is critical too. Some churches are friendly toward visitors and welcome them well. But most people at most churches don’t talk with those they don’t know. This means they ignore visitors.

When we invite friends to church, we shouldn’t be the only ones to talk to them. But too often we are.

A Seeker Sensitive Solution

This problem of inviting people to church is not a new issue, but one that’s been around for a while. It’s just that it’s become more pronounced in recent years. There is now a bigger comprehension and expectation gap between people who go to church and people who don’t.

If you decades ago, the pronounced solution was to have a seeker sensitive service. The goal was to recast what happened on Sunday morning to appeal to the unchurched who showed up.

The vision was that members would invite friends to church, and the church would give them a service that connected with them and drew them in.

Though this was an insightful vision, it neglected to address the spiritual growth of members, directing everything that happened on Sunday morning to those on the outside. A seeker sensitive service addressed one problem and created another one.

The Purpose of Church

As we grapple with this problem, we should consider the purpose of church. Let’s look at the early church as recorded in the New Testament of the Bible. The churches were a gathering of believers.

Their goal wasn’t to invite friends to church to encounter Jesus. Instead, they first invited their friends to follow Jesus. Then they would go to church to receive encouragement from other believers and grow in their faith.

The purpose of church wasn’t to bring about their salvation but to help them grow in it.

Therefore, our goal shouldn’t be to invite friends to church, but to invite them to follow Jesus first. Church comes later.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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