If you have been in church for any length of time you will have been encouraged to “invite a friend” or even “bring a friend”.
The personal invitation is much more effective means of bringing unbelievers to church than a brochure in the letterbox or a sign outside the church. And encouragingly, many unbelievers still know Christians who could invite them. In Australia, for example, a new research project revealed that 92 per cent of people know at least one Christian (with 46 per cent saying they know over 11 Christians).
But do you invite friends to church? What would need to change for you to do so?
Here are 12 reasons why we don't invite our friends to church. You can share your reasons why in the poll at the end of the article.
1. We believe that church is primarily for Christians.
This wouldn't be a common objection, but there are certainly some people feel this way.
2. We have asked all of our friends already.
There's only so many times you can ask, and if you've asked all of your friends this number of times, where to next?
3. We don't know anyone who isn't a Christian.
Sadly, it is all too easy to only associate with other Christians. If you don't know people who aren't Christians it's difficult to invite them to church.
4. We don't know any unbelievers well enough.
We might know people who aren't yet Christian but feel that the relationship isn't at a deep enough level yet for us to invite them to church. For example, I have a friend who won't invite others to church until he's had them to his house for a meal.
5. Our friends live too far away.
For many of us, work provides some of the best opportunities to develop deep relationships with unbelievers. But in cities especially, our colleagues often don't live near us, and we usually live close to the church. It's difficult to ask a colleague to travel a long distance to come to church – especially if we hope they will begin attending regularly.
6. We don't believe that church is the best next step for them.
We might think that coming to church is too big of a jump for our friends and that other ‘next steps' might be more suitable – continuing to speak with them, inviting them to Christianity Explored, giving them a book to read, etc.
7. We don't think our friends would like it.
It's easy to invite a friend to an event you are pretty sure they will enjoy. It's much more difficult if you're pretty sure they won't enjoy it.
8. We wouldn’t be able to look after them.
We might be so involved in church each week (this is often the challenge in smaller churches) that we wouldn't be able to sit them with and look after them if they came.
9. We aren't confident they would be welcomed.
If we bring a friend will anyone speak to them? A friendly welcome by someone who isn't on staff is, after all, the best way to welcome people to church. But what if no one talks to them and they feel ignored?
10. We aren't confident the service will be good.
There have been moments for all of us when something has happened in church and we’ve breathed a sign of relief and thought “I’m glad I didn’t invite someone to church today.”
We need to be confident that the service will be good. We're willing for the gospel to offend our unbelieving friends. We're less tolerant of other elements turning them away from Jesus.
Church size can contribute to this as Tim Keller explains in Leadership and Church Size Dynamics:
“The larger the church, the higher its aesthetic bar must be. In smaller churches the worship experience is rooted mainly in horizontal relationships among those who attend. Musical offerings from singers who are untrained and not especially talented are nonetheless appreciated because “we all know them” and they are members of the fellowship. But the larger the church, the more worship is based on the vertical relationship— on a sense of transcendence. If an outsider comes in who doesn’t know the musicians, then a mediocre quality of production will distract them from worship. They don’t have a relationship with the musicians to offset the lack of giftedness. So the larger the church, the more the music becomes an inclusion factor.”
Churches with a culture of people bringing their friends often seem to invest a lot of time and energy into the quality of their church services. I know of one church that describes every Sunday as “grand final Sunday” – where every person involved in the service serves as if their friend is coming for the very first time.
11. We don't know how to ask a friend to church.
Sure, we could just say “Jenny, do you want to come to church with me this Sunday?”. But at what point in a conversation is this question appropriate? The mechanics of the ask can be difficult.
12. We are afraid of what they might think, say or do if we asked them.
Most of us feel this to some degree, and when we do we need to be reminded to not be ashamed of Jesus.