Why don’t we invite more friends to church? It’s a simple question but the answers to that question may be much more complicated than we think. We might tell ourselves that people would be uncomfortable with our church and its old fashioned ways or they might not like the contemporary style of our church. But, the problem might be we are uncomfortable inviting friends to church because they are our friends.
Kris Berkert has come up with a number of real reasons people don’t invite friends to church that I will paraphrase, but see if you might fit into one of these reasons.
1. We don’t want our everyday world and our church world to collide. There is a desire to keep separate what people know about you in the workplace, sports team or recreational activities from the person your church friends know you as. People who know you during the week might wonder why you act and speak differently when in church. If that is a problem for us it might be a motivation for us to live a more genuine Christian lifestyle whether or not if we are in church or at work Monday mornings.
This came home to me during the sixteen years I cut myself off from church and most things spiritual. A good friend of mine knew I had been a pastor but we never talked much about it because we were busy with other things in life. One day he introduced me to an artist friend of his by saying, “this is my friend Ladd, he’s a pastor, but he swears a lot.”
It was like I had been hit by a ton of bricks. Was that how my friend perceived me? Even though I wasn’t going to church I still considered myself a Christian, yet to my friend he saw me as a “pastor who swore a lot.” Reflecting on what he had said I realized how much I had drifted back into my old pre-Christian days of swearing without knowing it. Our witness in the workplace or our social life needs to be consistent with what we claim to believe when on our best behavior at church.
2. Inviting a friend to church might communicate that you think your friend has troubles and needs your church to sort things out. Our politically correct world causes us to back off from anything that seems judgmental or seems to disrespect other people’s understanding of belief or lack of belief. We feel that to invite a close friend to church could make our relationship seem strange or weird.
If you invite the friend to church and he or she declines then it puts stress on the relationship and we are not sure whether we should ever approach the subject again. We worry about offending friends who might not agree with our beliefs, especially if we know some of the teachings of our church wouldn’t be considered tolerant or accepting by more secular thinking people.
As Christian’s we will be more comfortable inviting people to church if they know in advance what we believe and most importantly why. Our close friends are close because we tend to be open to them and talk about things that might not be safe talking to less intimate friends. If these friends know you, trust you and have respect for you they will be more open to the invitation than we might think.
3. More and more people work weekends. Thirty percent of Americans now work Sunday mornings and a large number work late Saturday nights and find it difficult to drag themselves out of bed to worship a God they are not even sure exists. It doesn’t make sense to them to expend what little free time they have engaged in an activity that seems non-productive.
One way around this is to invite them to less formal activities like a home Bible study or a home church that meets Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon if they have to work Sunday mornings. Be creative on how to adapt to their schedule to help them on their spiritual journey.
4. We might not invite friends to church because we feel that they might ask questions about why we believe what we believe and we might not have a clue to why we believe as we do. We don’t want to look stupid and we don’t want our church to look stupid in front of our friends. But, this might just be the opening you need to study up on why you believe what you do, and it might be the opening for a friend to have some of their questions answered as well.
5. “It’s too foreign to them” is a real problem for our head to get around when it comes to inviting people to worship with us. I remember bringing a friend to church with me to a little church group that I worship with and he was totally confused by everything that was happening. Though he was in his 60’s he had only been in church a handful of times in his life and he had no idea when he should stand, sit or kneel. He didn’t have a clue about what he was singing about and sitting for an hour in very uncomfortable pews is a test in itself.
We are use to the hymns and praise songs we sing. We know from years of repetition when to stand and when to kneel. We know from the first note played from the piano what song is to be sung and that is our cue to stand or kneel.
If we overcome all the hang-ups about inviting friends to church the last thing we need is for them to feel totally estranged and confused by the whole procedure. If more churches would simplify their services and even write in the bulletin what to expect in the service it would be a great help.
I’m sure you could add to the list or modify the list we have here, but the point of this post is to take a hard look at ourselves and ask the question is my reluctance to invite people to church about the church or more to do about my comfort zone?
I would like to hear about your stories of inviting people to a spiritual event and how it worked out. Did you have any doubts about inviting your friend or was it straightforward?
* Please pray for the persecuted Christians around the world – they need our support as brothers and sisters in Christ. Some of their stories can be found at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/