Harley Scalf ~ Stop Inviting People to Church!

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It’s so awkward…

Your spouse meets someone while they’re out. “The kids play so well together.” She says. “He’s pretty cool.” He tells you. “We’re alike in so many ways, it’s funny.” She says. “By the way, they’re coming over on Sunday.” … What!?

So, they had a connection. Now, you are forced into trying to achieve the same connection with the other spouse…who probably feels just as awkward about things as you do. Yet, neither of you dare mention it. You know better. Plus, it really wouldn’t help matters. So on we go.

Sometimes, the connection comes. It’s a relief when it does. You like the same struggling sports team (Let’s Go! Mountaineers?!). You drink the same beer/soda. Whatever it is, sometimes it’s a fit. It’s great when that happens.

Then, there are those other times…

Sometimes, it just doesn’t work. You plan, you try, you fail. Your attempt at conversation is met by a lackluster, “yup” and you know it’s gonna be a long day.

It reminds me of the current model of evangelism we have in the church…Let me explain:

We want our congregation to grow, so we invite people to church. We have evangelism plans designed to add to the church. We ask people to volunteer in the church. We have people give to the church. We have folks make commitments to the church. We ask people to join the church so they can be members of the church. If we’re successful with all this inviting to church and asking for church, we basically end up creating people for church – church people.

Then, when these church people begin to act petty, when they argue over ridiculous things that don’t really matter, when feelings get hurt and dysfunction becomes King, we ask, “Why? How? The church was growing, why are people acting like this?”

But how could they not? All we’ve done is invite them to bring their baggage, their selfishness and everything else, into a camp meeting that’s already so full of nasty baggage it looks more like a landfill than a church anyway. And that’s when we ask Jesus to step in…and it’s just plain awkward. If, as the Bible says, the Church is the bride of Christ, it’s exactly like your husband/wife inviting the other couple to your house…awkward!

Up until now we haven’t really talked about Jesus. We didn’t tell people about the transformational nature of Jesus. We didn’t talk about self-sacrifice. We invited people to become church members, not Jesus-followers. And that’s what we got. Now, Jesus is saying, “So, what am I supposed to talk to him/her about? You’ve invited them to be in church. They’ve been there for years and sit on your boards. They’re your friend. You didn’t ask my opinion before now. What do you want me to do?”

Luckily, Jesus can step in and fix things.

I’ve got a plan to avoid all the headaches, angry emails, heated meetings, and sleepless nights. It won’t fix everything, but I think it’s a huge first step:

Stop inviting people to church! Stop it! Right Now!

Don’t invite people to your church. We know the results of that. It rarely works anyway. Even when people actually show up, most don’t stick around for long. They sense the discontent. They recognize the troubles. They head for the door.

Invite them, instead, to follow Jesus. No, it’s not the same thing. Following Jesus means I’m not the most important person in the world…not even in this room…even when I’m alone.

Following Jesus is about turning over my desires, my wants, my needs to Him. It’s about putting to death my own selfishness, narcissism, greed, desire for control, etc. When we follow Jesus, things change, churches become places of hope, restoration, and redemption, and communities are transformed.

It’s a game-changer. Meetings become inspiring, evangelism becomes more about the Kingdom of God than it does about growing a local congregation, marriages are healed, chains of addiction are broken, and death gives way to life! Following Jesus is exciting stuff!

Don’t mistake what I’m saying. We need to be connected to other believers. The best way to do that is through a local church/congregation. I’m in the beginning stages of starting a new church, so I am surely not anti-church. I just realize there are more important things…like Jesus.

I want people to come to the church. I want every church to be filled. I just want them to be filled with, and invited to become, Jesus followers & not church members.

So instead of inviting people to church, let’s invite them to follow Jesus.

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