the art of invitation
82% of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited.
Only 2% of church members invite a single unchurched person to church each year.
Yep. You read that correctly.
If you’re a church-going Christian, when is the last time you invited someone to church?
If you’re not a church-goer or a Christian, when is the last time someone extended you an invitation to attend?
In this context “church” can mean a variety of things.
I consider the men’s small group I lead to be just as much “church” as a Sunday morning service in a steeple-topped sanctuary.
More often than not, it’s easier for me to invite someone to Friday morning men’s group than Sunday morning service.
While our idea of “church” has changed drastically over the past few months, the idea of Christian community has not.
Did you know... Evangelical Christianity remains the fastest growing faith worldwide? The center of the Christian world is now Africa and Asia. Less than a century or two ago, it was Europe and North America.
Jason Mandryk’s "The State of the Gospel” includes fascinating statistical evidence painting a surprising picture of global evangelism.
According to the studies referenced in his whitepaper, from 1900 to today, European Christians have declined from 70% of the world’s Christian population to less than 20%. North America’s decline is slight in comparison, but Europe was the center of world evangelism much before America was.
Will the North American church, the United States church in particular, face the same downfall as the European church?
I hope not, but the next few decades are crucial in determining its fate.
What caused the European and potentially American church’s decline?
There are a variety of cultural, political, and economic factors, but one thing in particular is immune to any of those aforementioned factors which has been the ultimate killer of the church...
Christians stopped inviting.
Christians got secure and comfortable with the treasure they had found, and instead of sharing it with others, they kept it to themselves.
“...unable to bear the sight of a congregation of a thousand or more Christian people rejoicing in their own security, while millions were perishing for lack of knowledge, I wandered out on the sands alone, in great spiritual agony; there the Lord conquered my unbelief, and I surrendered myself to God for this service.”
- J. Hudson Taylor, England April 1865
The world didn’t kill the European church, the European church killed the European church.
And now it's happening here too. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the numbers.
In a study referenced in Dr. Thom Rainer’s 2008 book, The Unchurched Next Door, “82% of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited.”
This means 8 of the 10 people you pass on the street, live next door to, work in the cubicle beside, and email on a daily basis are likely to attend church with you if you simply invited them.
Nope. This is not a one-off statistic to prove a point.
Other studies asking similar or the same question in their surveys consistently show 63%-85% of respondents are likely to attend if extended an invite.
This is great news... if we capitalize on the world’s willingness while it still exists.
The problem is we aren’t capitalizing.
According to the same study found in Rainer’s book, "only 2% of church members invite a single unchurched person to church each year."
This means 98% of church-goers never extend an invitation to anyone within a calendar year.
98 of every 100 people in your congregation are keeping Christ to themselves.
Is it because they are bad people? No.
It’s because we as a church haven’t made extending invitations enough of a priority.
We don't know the true worth of the treasure we've found.
Europe’s church didn’t die because unchurched Europeans didn’t like the church.
Europe's church died because unchurched Europeans didn’t feel welcomed in the church.
Is America following suit?
The vast majority of people boasting a faith in Christ only have that faith because someone already having faith shared theirs with them.
I am a proud product of invitation. You probably are too.
Nearly every person in any congregation can trace their faith back to an initial invitation to attend a worship service, small group, or a simple hangout.
Where along the line did those who were recipients of an invitation quit extending that same invitation to others?
If we are to be grace recipients, we are called to be grace-givers. It’s as simple as that.
To believe the Bible’s words of redeeming grace, unlimited love, and open doors for anyone who earnestly seeks the truth, you must be willing, able, ready, and (most importantly) eager to share that treasure with others who are suffering in a world wishing to take whatever hope they have left.
People you pass every single day are yearning for purpose and dying for community.
We, the church, have both.
Your invitation to someone is arguably the most powerful weapon in God’s arsenal to bring about His Kingdom here on Earth.
Imagine the difference it would make if instead of 2% each year, 3% or 4% of the nearly 2.4 billion Christians around the world committed to inviting just one person to church each year.
If the statistics are correct, that would mean between 24 and 48 million more people each year would finally feel welcomed in the church, and up to 39.3 million of them would likely attend!
This is HUGE.
Here lies the exponential power of the Gospel.
All it takes to tap into that power is offering a simple invitation to the person right beside you to partake in the same grace that saves you and me daily.
It doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It’s actually more effective if the invitation is neither hard nor elaborate.
It just needs to be sincere.
Don't know where to start? Start here.
Earnestly listen and learn about that person.
Tell them about the difference having community has made in your life.
Then, invite them to join you one day.
One invitation. Zero obligation.
Some of the invitations I’ve extended have been accepted immediately. Some have taken months and even years to come to fruition.
Regardless, the invitation was given, the love was received, and the seed was planted. Well done, good and faithful servant. Keep planting and expect a big harvest.
Casting Crowns’ song, “If We Are the Body” rings true now more than ever. If you haven’t heard it yet, listen to it now.
Moral of the story: Your invitation can change the world.
Don’t let it go to waste.
“...The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few."
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