Stop Inviting People to Church

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : February 23, 2005

I ripped this from House Church Blog.  It is an email that Roger received from Mike Lyons, and I want y’all to read it:

I have made a promise to myself. I will stop inviting people to my church.

Hear me out now.

I spent nearly a decade with my well paid job in the church trying
to get people to come to church. We would develop strategies,
advertising through TV, radio, print, internet, marketing plans…
wowing them with worship experiences, video, dramas, amazing sermons,
direct mail strategies.. on and on..whew. all designed with one aim.
That when you would invite your friend, they would say yes and go to
church with you. All you would have to do is invite them, they would
respond to the engaging message and multi-sensory worship, become
curious, eventually come to Christ, and eventually become a part of our
church. The problem is, it didn’t work very well.

Sure some came, just enough to make us think we were being
effective. But still as the Barna Institutes research shows " The
unbelieving world remains unconvinced.", and each year the Church
continues to loose ground and a credibility voice in our communities.

(Disclaimer Note: I still love, support and honor any church that is
doing all it can to reach out to others. God will still work through
imperfect people as well as strategies.)

Allow me to be very honest. I see too many of us in the house church
falling into the same trap and pattern of fruitlessness. And some are
suffering unnecessarily from disillusionment. I hear the same words
over and over, "If only we could get more people to come to our house
church." Sound familiar? The benefits we offer are different, but the
hope is the same. Please come to my church.if we could get them there
they will be so captured by our Jesus through our community, intimacy,
casualness, or great food… that they will accept Him and become a
part of our church. Old habits die very hard don’t they.

We can no longer afford to be "come here" people, we must be a "go there" kind of people.

I can honestly say that I have never invited someone to join me for
coffee, lunch or breakfast and had them say no. Not ever, not once.

I’m slow but I’m learning.

Here’s to forsaking old habits.

May His presence dwell in you richly,

Mike Lyons

for further reading . . .

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9 Responses to “Stop Inviting People to Church”

  1. Gordon on February 23rd, 2005 4:09 pm

    Do you think that it is because glitzy slick come to us mission isn’t that alternative?

    Brueggeman makes the comment “In a world where jingles replace doxology, God is not free and the people know no justice or compassion.”

    Actually not that attractive. The point is maybe easily seen with Church inc. but perhaps em. church needs to be equally aware.

    Thanks for ripping this. Thanks also to stimulating some thought that I might extend at some point.

  2. blorge on February 24th, 2005 9:34 am

    I, too, feel ready to become more missional and relational in my approach. It doesn’t mean that I want to forsake having a good service, and even doing some advertising, but we shouldn’t think of this as the primary way to get people to be involved with “Church” (aka the community of God).

  3. trike on February 25th, 2005 3:57 pm

    I think my bible says “go make disciples” not “create really cool events that will WOW them into coming and giving and working to make more events for more people to make disciples.”

    My question is this: how do we avoid this? No matter how big or small our works may be, we always have a semblance of this going on? At least all the ministries I have ever been a part of have. Any ideas?

  4. Van S on February 26th, 2005 12:39 am

    Some of this is ok. The problem become when we structure church and define church in such a way as a “come to us” sort of thing, instead of a “go to them” sort of thing. I don’t think it has to be an either/or sort of deal. However, we must give preference to, and spend more time doing, the “go” instead of spending time and money cultivating an event to which peoplce can comfortably “come.”

    We can do this by spending energy on equipping our people to share their faith. We can do this by creating ministries that have relationship-building as a goal, rather than on “attractional” programming. We can do this by encouraging a “neighborhood” mentality. By frequenting the same places, and getting to know our neighbors, we are building relationships that we wouldn’t naturally make. Just a few thoughts.

  5. Gordon on February 26th, 2005 3:52 am

    Mark (VanS)

    Sounds like you have read Hirsch and Frost - If you haven’t you really should.

  6. the she-wolf on March 1st, 2005 2:31 am

    This comment is specifically in response to Trike’s post. We must be careful not to make programatic features of the church idols, such as good worship music or funny, engaging preaching. However, that said, worship music should be good and preaching should be engaging.
    One thing I loved when I went to Hard Core Bible study was the simplicity and genuineness of both the speaking and the worship. I will talk about the music, I know this might sound strange to some people, but its what I happen to be obsessed with just now. I LOVED the raw honesty of Dan Scott’s songs, and the perfect warm clean tone he got from his semi-hollow electric guitar played through a vintage spring reverb unit, an old Fender tube head and a 4×12 cabinet. Why does this matter? Because all of this gear is big and unwieldly and he lugs it week after week, because as a worship leader he is also a musician, and we are to do all things with excellence and to the glory of God, and the care that he put into the writing of the songs, and into the sound of them conveyed a picture of God. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say it certainly did for me.
    Think of a christian leader writing an article for Christianity Today - they would write it and hopefully pore over it time and again, for a second, third and fourth draft, because God gaves us minds and intends us to use them. To whom much is given, much is required. If we are going to write something, we should strive for the clearest possible expression of the best and truest ideas of which we are prayerfully capable.
    Dan Scott has been given an amazing musical gift, and he has the responsibility to put that to use to provide folks with the clearest picture of God possible. The paradox of those times at Hard Core is, though the worship music was some of the best I’ve ever heard, I almost didn’t realize it at the time. I simply worshipped, and only afterwards thought about the more technical aspects. By pursuing excellence - not for its own sake, but because when God calls us to do something he calls us to use all our heart and all our mind - we make ourselves invisible.
    Please don’t take this as a sort of veiled elitism that those most technically skilled should be the ones preaching, teaching, or in the band. Technically proficient worship music without any heart or conviction behind it can be both beautiful and dry as dust - the same would go for preaching. And the inverse can also be true - sometimes a few simple words can speak volumes.
    This whole dialectic is a tough one, something I spend a lot of time thinking about. If anyone agrees or disagrees with these thoughts, let me know.

  7. Van S on March 1st, 2005 8:08 am

    As someone who enjoys preaching, and thinks of it as an artform that I need to develop, I understand. There is a line that must be carefully guarded, however, between impressing people with packaging, and being skillful. I think it is good for people to recognize that skill and care have been put into our gatherings. However, and I know this sounds very cliche, there has to be an “authentic” quality to it. In other words, I should preach as an act of worship, and as an act that can bring transformation to people’s lives…not because I want to impress people and have them dig Missio Dei.

  8. the she-wolf on March 1st, 2005 11:39 pm

    I think the fact that you care about your preaching and put effort behind it is in itself a sort of authenticity. People pick up on that stuff - they’ll know where your heart is.

  9. Rev. Fr. David Parker on March 13th, 2005 1:22 am

    Greetings Dear Brother in Christ,
    I really enjoyed your blog, so I thought I would try to contact you. I have been interested in starting my own blog, but I really have no idea how to get started. The right people to use, the cost, I mean it when I say I know nothing. I wonder if you would be so kind as to send me some information to my email address. Sorry to bother you with something that seems so mundane, but after teaching theology for so long I really miss academia. I have developed some pretty serious heart trouble and I would love to express myself with a blog. We are currently moving to another part of the state and we are excited about starting a new ministry as well. Thanks so much, and God bless.

    Rev. Fr. David Parker
    St. Aidan’s Community in Christ Church (Celtic)
    Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches

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