On a hot Thursday afternoon last February in Rio Bravo, I found myself walking through the streets inviting people to come to church. I've never had any Spanish lessons but I was delighted to find out that I already knew the Spanish I needed that day. The two Spanish words we shouted as we moved along were these: "Hotdogs!" and "Chips". You may laugh but it was incredibly effective. Within twenty minutes a crowd of about 130 people had gathered in the broken concrete churchyard of El Sembrador Methodist Church. There some of us frantically passed out the advertised fare. The pastor greeted each one personally and invited them to return for services on Sunday. He gave each one a tract telling the good news about who Jesus is and what he did for us. In less than an hour, the pastor had gone through his entire supply of tracts. Wow.
What does it take to be a growing church these days? There are no
magic bullets or guaranteed recipes to follow but there is one thing that all growing churches have in common. Their members are incredibly active in inviting friends, acquaintances, neighbors and relatives to come to church. Growing churches are inviting churches!
How likely are you to invite other people to church? What can we do to encourage each other to do more inviting? Are you convinced that reaching out to others is part of being a follower of Christ? Do you think that being an "inviter" is an essential part of the Christian life? On average only 2% of American churchgoers invite others to church. Growing churches perform way above this average and are full of people who invite people.
Our role model for inviting is the apostle Andrew. The first thing he did after he met Jesus is recorded in John 1:41, He first found his own brother Simon and said to him "We have found the Christ"...He brought him to Jesus... Commenting on this verse the late Archbishop William Temple wrote, "No greater service can anyone offer to his fellowman than this." Is this a normal, everyday practice for you? If it isn't, what holds you back?
A recent Gallup poll revealed the top 4 things churchgoers in American are looking for:
1. Sermons that teach from the Bible.
2. Sermons that apply the Bible's message to daily life.
3. Spiritual programs for children and youth.
4. Lots of opportunities for community service
The good news is that Highland United Methodist Church is strong in all four of these things! This is not to say there's no room for improvement--we could do better on every score. But this is to say that we have something to tell people about! The people we invite to our services are very likely to be positive about their contact with us. Word of mouth is always the best outreach. So why is it the words so rarely come from our mouths to our friends? When was the last time you invited someone to church? How urgently do we feel the need to reach the community around us?
My experience in Rio Bravo convinced me that we already have the words, we just need to speak them. What is the difference between an empty church and a crowd of 130? An invitation. Be the difference!