“I want to invite you to our church. You will love our Pastor – he is such a nice guy and makes you feel welcome. He is a great speaker and his sermons are never long and boring.”
“I want to invite you to our church. We have the best singers – you’ve just got to hear them. They can sing anything from traditional to contemporary.”
“I want to invite you to our church. The people are so nice and get along so well. And we have some of the best cooks you’ll find. You can’t pass up one of our church dinners – everything is so good.”
“I want to invite you to our church. We have a great youth program. There are classes for every age group. They do lots of activities with the kids and take them on field trips.”
“I want to invite you to our church. We have installed all the latest technology in the sanctuary and the Bible study classrooms. You could even watch the sermon from home and not even have to get out of bed!”
And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.
We are encouraged to invite people to church. After all, how will the unsaved become saved unless they hear the word of God? (Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.) We extend our invitation to friends, family and even strangers we might encounter in the course of our day. But our invitation is usually more than giving someone a place and time to show up. We feel compelled to “sell” our church. After all, there are a lot of churches around that people could choose from. We want them to know what makes our church special or different from all the others. The size and location of the church, the pastor, the teachers, the choir, the social connections, youth programs, music style and aesthetic appeal can all be factors to someone who is “church shopping.”
If our goal is simply to fill every seat in the sanctuary, then this is a great approach. All we have to do is make sure we have a great pastor, who preaches brief, non-boring sermons. We’ll need a rocking choir that will keep the people on their feet. We can paint the place inside and out and install new fixtures and amenities. We can plan lots of family friendly activities and events that will appeal to young and old alike. We’ll keep the engaged and entertained – they’ll never want to leave.
Has your church become more like a social club than a house of worship? Has it become the place to come see others and to be seen? A church is indeed what we call the building that is designated for Christian worship. But as I have quoted before, being in a church building doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car. However, the real church isn’t the building, regardless of its architectural excellence. The real church is the body of believers united by their faith in Christ. This is the church we should be inviting others to join.
With this in mind, let’s rethink how we can invite others to our church. As good “fishers of men”, we want to cast a wide net. We shouldn’t pick or choose who we ask based on how they look or what we think about them. God says it is His will that none should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Also, when inviting people, we shouldn’t think about what our church does or doesn’t have in terms of programs or amenities. Maybe you haven’t invited people because you think your church is lacking in some area – like not enough programs for youth or maybe you think the music is bad. Maybe the person you invite will become a youth pastor or a great singer or musician! But that won’t happen if you don’t do your part. We need to trust God to take care of these things.
In extending the invitation, think spiritual instead of material. Who cares if you just put down new carpeting or if your praise team includes a cool dude who plays drums? Are they looking for a place to relax or a place to rest their soul? Instead, invite them to a place where they can feel and be in the presence of God. Invite them to a place where they will hear the word of Truth preached, that will go out and not return void. Invite them to a place where they can find out what it means to have a personal relationship with their Creator. Invite them to a place where they can become a part of body that loves Christ and loves one another. Invite them to a place where they can learn who Jesus Christ is and what He did for them – a place where they can freely choose whether or not to accept Him as their personal savior.
For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
Not everyone you invite is going to stay. We take it so personally when we invite people and they either don’t show up or they never come back after the first visit. Did you invite them to church or did you invite them to a relationship with Christ? If all you did was invite them to come hear the choir or a sermon in a building, then they just missed a show – no big deal. There’s another one next Sunday. But if you have shared the Gospel with them and invited them to hear the Word of God and be changed, then you have done your part. If they reject the opportunity, they have not rejected you, but have rejected Christ.
Not everyone who comes to your church should stay there. In John 6, Jesus said that no one could come to Him unless the Father draws him. We need to do our part – inviting and welcoming people – and let God do His, which is determining who will become a part of the body of Christ. Just because someone attends your church doesn’t mean they are a member of the body of Christ. If they have no intention of following Christ, then we need to let God remove them from our midst instead of fighting to hold on to them so we can keep up our precious attendance numbers. Otherwise, they might become a cancer to our church body.
If we aren’t inviting people to church for the right reasons, then we are in danger of becoming like the hypocritical Pharisees. Jesus said to them in Matthew 23, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” There is more to church than a building or rituals or traditions. To be a part of a church is to dwell in Christ. In Revelation, we read about the New Jerusalem and the new heaven and earth. Here there are no churches on every corner. There are no denominations. There is only the Body of Christ dwelling with God.
But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Our churches – the buildings – are special places. They are God’s house and we do want them to be clean and look nice and have nice things. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, we get ourselves in trouble when we neglect God’s house. But people do not come to worship a building. They come to worship the One, True, Living God. It’s all about intention and motivations. Do you want to just fill the house or do you want to fill it with saved souls. Do you want your church to be the hip place to be or the place that leads hearts to salvation? Promotion and marketing might bring them in, but only the Spirit of God will cause them to remain.