Stop Inviting Friends to Church

April 13, 2003

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[Big yawn]Has anyone ever heard this from the pulpit? “50% of the unchurched say they would go to church if only someone asked them.” Well guess what, I must not know any of those people. Is this a real Barna statistic, or a Christian urban legend? If it’s a statistic, who did they poll — moderns who were raised in American Christendom?

The reason for my mini-rant is that on Thursday over lunch, I invited someone to our Easter service. He gave it some thought, then declined. Now bear these things in mind:

  • I consider this person a good friend.
  • He knows I am a Christ-follower, and I don’t think I fit any of his negative stereotypes.
  • I once instant-messaged him that I’ve thought of inviting him before, but didn’t want to be pushy. He responded, “I’m not afraid of church.”
  • He is a fellow musician and bass-player.
  • On Thursday, he asked me how things were going with the band at church.
  • He asked, “Where is your church? Oh wait, I mean where does your church meet?”

Given all these factors, wouldn’t you expect him to accept my invitation of, “Hey, I’m doing the Easter gig. You wanna come?” For years, I’ve assumed that people would come because they know me and hey, I’m doing the music. And for years, not a single person has come. Not one.

The fact that despite all of my friend’s apparently positive indications, he declined, tells me a very important thing: Church services are, at best, irrelevant to normal people. It also betrays the fact that most evangelism is meeting-centered. Of course, meeting-centeredness is a big danger for church life in general — even home groups are not exempt from this disease!

…So I am not going to invite any of my friends to church services again. Over many lunches, they probably have some idea of what I believe. I want to find out more about what they believe — not to convince them otherwise, but because I’m really kind of curious.

++ Master, show me what you are already doing in the lives of my friends. ++

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Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

10 responses to Stop Inviting Friends to Church

  1. Accountability
    …So I am not going to invite any of my friends to church services again. Over many lunches, they probably have some idea of what I believe. I want to find out more about what they believe — not to convince them otherwise, but because I’m really kind of curious.
    But aren’t we going to be held accountable for those we could have but didn’t attempt to reach? If people say no, then they say no, but that certainly doesn’t relieve us of our responsibility to evangelize. How else you gonna reach the lost — including the guy next door — if you don’t ask?

  2. What is effective evangelism?
    Hi, thanks for your comment — I appreciate your enthusiasm for evangelism; I think I share it. My response probably needs a full posting, but for now, here’s the short version:
    – I am not telling you to stop inviting your friends to your church services. Perhaps your friends are different than mine. I am merely sharing my experience, and my experience tells me that what I’ve been doing isn’t effective. I want to be effective.
    – I would be thrilled if my friends came to our church services. That said, there are times when I kind of “sit through church” and wait for it to be over.
    – I kind of glossed over this in my post: I think there is a world of difference between “evangelism” and “inviting someone to a meeting”: It puts evangelism in the hands of “experts”, absolving me of my responsibility. It puts the emphasis on the acceptance of the meeting, rather than the acceptance of the Christ. …I know I am overstating things, but let me go wild and overstate it all the way: Is evangelism about bringing my friends to a meeting, or is it about bringing Jesus to my friends?

  3. Is evangelism about bringing my friends to a meeting, or is it about bringing Jesus to my friends?
    Well said. Blog on!

  4. Oh, I’d say that by inviting them to lunch you ARE inviting them to “church”…assuming that we are the church.
    Or, on the other hand, maybe they just THINK church “services” are irrelevant, because they haven’t been to one.

  5. meeting = church = Jesus
    (I’m agreeing with you, bear with me)
    You invited a friend to a meeting, if they don’t come they’re rejecting Jesus. Hmmm. At least there’s some of this thinking running around in my brain unexamined until now.
    It reminds me of a very old joke.
    Ray Charles is blind.
    Love is blind
    God is Love
    Therefore, Ray Charles is God!

    I agree with Laurie, inviting them to lunch is more like inviting them to church than inviting them to church.
    Jesus taught in the synogogues AND in people’s homes AND in the countryside (seminars?, retreats?, concerts?) He went to where they were, and spoke to them in their context, AND the context of the Kingdom at the same time. Because He embodied the Kingdom, He brought the Kingdom to them by being where they were at, and talking to them where they were at, not because he got them to come to where the Kingdom was (like at a meeting).

  6. ooh, ooh, I got some more!
    It occurs to me that Jesus didn’t say that people would reject our meetings, or our clubs, He said they would reject US.
    I’m possibly reading too much into it, but it seems to me that Jesus emphasized the personal nature of discipleship and ambassadorship. Not that we don’t meet together to encourage one another, etc. But that the purpose of our meeting together wasn’t to create an event for people to enter the Kingdom. Jesus spoke it as very interpersonal.
    Thanks for raising this… good issue.

  7. great post, man. the last few people i invited to church several years ago stopped being my friends. it was then that i realized i was a big sissy for doing the cop-out “come to my church” evangelism.
    not only did my friends not like my church, for some reason they stopped liking me. i sincerely doubt it was their attempt to persecute me for my faith…

  8. Ryan, thanks! I’m glad to see someone catch the sub-text of this post, the whole “cop-out evangelism” thing.
    Funny, but my friends became a lot more open to talking about spiritual things when I stopped targeting them. Check out my 14 Reasons to Stop Evangelizing Your Friends.

  9. I would never invite anyone to church, I cant stand the atmosphere of supposed christians attempting to fake worship! I dont care how good the band is,I hate church and I have tried over and over. why would i torture a freind with such hypocricy, and no i dont do spellcheck.Oh yea and for a special treat will all the guests raise there hand so we can show off a little more.Riddiculous!Is there anyone who doesnt know christ as lord and savior, please lets make it public so we can toot our house of cards church horn!

  10. Rae, wow. I’m sorry you’ve had experiences that cause you to characterize it as “supposed christians attempting to fake worship.” That has not generally been my experience. In our zeal for true discipleship, for genuine worship, and for ways that our normal friends can experience Spirit-led community, let’s be careful not to slam our brothers and sisters, no matter how much of a “house of cards” their churches may seem. Pride is our greatest enemy, and oddly, we serve a humble king.