I attend a very welcoming church. If you were to visit on a given Sunday, you would be greeted, handed a cup of coffee, and asked if you have anyone to sit with. After the service, you would be introduced to the Pastor and a handful of folks who are genuinely interested in connecting with you later on in the week. These are all good things, and I’m glad I attend a church where feeling at home is so important. However, it doesn’t matter how welcoming a church is if there are no new people to welcome. Because of this we have made it a priority to have an invitational culture.
A culture of invitation is as simple as it sounds. It is stepping out into the Kingdom and asking a person to church. Whenever I think of invitation, Nirup Alphonse (the pastor who wears Nikes) comes to mind. He is the most invitational person I have ever met. Almost every week I will hear a story of how he was out for lunch with a friend, noticed the guy at the table next to him wearing Air Jordans and struck up a conversation. Next thing you know Nirup has invited him to church. It’s a very simple concept: just ask.
One invitation can start a chain reaction. For example, a few months ago we held a baptism service. At this service I witnessed two young ladies about to publicly dedicate their lives to Christ. These ladies had been part of a chain of invitations that had started when our Pastor met a woman in a coffee shop and invited her to church. She then invited a friend and the chain continued. While this process took place over a few months, one simple invitation resulted in two baptisms! Incredible! It took just one person stepping out in faith and offering an invitation. Now, imagine that happening on a regular basis. If everyone in your church did that one Sunday, the attendance could double.
As I said before, it’s not a complex process. All you have to do is ask. However, that can be harder than it seems. The biggest reason stopping people from inviting others to experience their church is the fear of rejection. This fear holds people back from stepping out of their comfort zone and trusting that God will do His part in the process. Many believe that success is measured by how many seats are filled on Sunday. However, God sees planting and watering just as vital. He or she may reject your offer to attend church, but your invitation may have started his or her journey to faith.
As the saying goes: growth doesn’t happen when we’re comfortable. We must step out of our comfort zone and put aside whatever fears we may have and meet others where they are at. In the words of Rob Moss, a church blogger, “[Inviting] means we leave the comfort of our congregational home-court advantage. The main activity doesn’t happen in our worship space when people drop in, but in the neighborhood when we go out. It isn’t so much welcoming them into our place, but going out into their place and meeting them there.” This could not be more true.
By taking initiative and engaging people where they are, we close the gap that may have been hindering them from coming on their own. By being personally invited, we are letting them know that they have not been overlooked. We want them to be included and belong. We want them to experience what we are experiencing. After the initial invite, it is no longer in our hands and we trust that God will do the rest.