08 October, 2009
Daring to Ask
Most people who attend church really want to see their church grow. (I have met a few who did not.) The problem is, most people, while they want their church to grow, are not doing much (if anything) to help it to grow. They come to church, worship, give in the offering, but the sad, cold fact is, most never invite anyone new to attend the church. If they do invite someone, it is usually a friend who is already a Christian and they want them to come check out their church. Very few invite the lost. I once did an annonymous survey in one of the churches where I had been pastor for a couple of years. I asked the people to be honest, knowing no one would ever know who gave what answers. The questions were 1) Have you invited an unchurched person to come to church with you in the past 6 months? 2) Have you invited an unchurched person to come to church with you in the past year? 3) Have you brought an unchurched person (other than family) with you in the past year? and 4) Have you ever brought an unchurched person (not related to you) to church? I was pretty astonished to find that more than 85% of the people checked "No" to all four questions.
Now, this was at one church, so it is not necessarily an accurate reflection on the Body of Christ, but I have to acknowledge that looking at the churches I've pastored over the years and how many people did bring visitors that were not family or people from another church, and the percentage would probably be pretty close to the results from this survey.
This is obviously not a good situation, but it is even more important when we realize the trends for church growth. George Barna says, "The best chance of getting the Unattached (unchurched) to a church is when someone they know and trust personally invites them, offers to accompany them, and they believe the service will address an issue or need they are struggling with at that moment."
Armed with this information, we have to realize that we in the church must confront the fact that most are not inviting the unchurched. We talk all the time about this being the last days before Christ returns. If we believe this, then we must start trying to reach the harvest. Add to this the information that was the headline today on the Fox News webpage. The information jumped out at me that a new study revealed that one of every four people living on the earth today is a Muslim. In short, we are losing the battle!
I've been thinking today, wondering what might be the reason that people are not inviting others to church. It could be that people just don't care if people go to hell, but I really don't think that is the case. I honestly think most people are simply afraid to invite someone to church. Honestly, do we think they are going to whip out a ball bat and smack us over the head? Of course they are not going to do that. What it really boils down to is either that we are afraid of rejection, OR we are afraid that they might think we are a religious fanatic. Hey... we should be! Well, not a religious fanatic, but a Jesus fanatic.
Today, I wanted to just test the waters, so to speak, and I invited a couple of people to church that I've casually known for the past couple of years. Note, these folks are not "friends" and honestly, we only know each other on a limited basis. In fact, they never knew that I was a pastor before. They do now. You would really be surprised how people clam up and their behavior changes when they find out you are a minister! Many times they have told me of "adventures" in their lives and more or less aired dirty laundry. The reality of this hit them when they found out I was a pastor and the woman began apologizing for things she has said in front of me. I assured her that it was absolutely fine, and asked her if she thought that I judged them or thought bad of them. Neither answered, and I reassured them that it was usually I who struck up a conversation with them, so it obviously was not an issue with me. That seemed to put them at ease, and they began to talk more openly about church. Now get this. Once I offered the invitation to them to come to church, our conversation switched from the woes of Galesburg politics and raising our kids, and now we were discussing church, what they thought of most church people and the phoney preachers (their term) that they had seen on TV. The invitation was very simple. I simply told them that I've really enjoyed talking with them many times and I wanted to invite them into a part of my life that holds real meaning, and asked them to come with me to church next week. They asked who my Pastor was and I held out my hand and said, "Well, since you asked, let me fully introduce myself... I am Pastor, Darrell Garrett." As I said, it did take them a bit off guard, but once we got around that, my simple invitation became more than an hour of discussion with them about church, serving God and it was just like the flood gates opened for them. I have to tell you, they offered what seemed like a hundred (I'm exaggerating folks) excuses for not coming to church, but by the end of the conversation they promised me that they'd come "soon." That probably means I'll need to invite them again... and again... but I am prepared to do that.
So, I have two potential guest coming to church with me, and I didn't get hit... not even yelled at. To the contrary, I know these two better now than I have gotten to know them over the past 2 years. Why? Because I dared to ask.
So now I am sitting here wondering... what would happen if everyone who attends Harvest Church (or where ever you attend or pastor) dared to ask just 4 people each year to church? I think the results would astound us all!