By Jim Burnett
Imagine such a thing as a magnet with the ability to draw large numbers of unchurched and dechurched people onto your campus, into your congregation, and ultimately to Christ. Would you be interested in having one?
You’re probably thinking, “Are you kidding me? How do I order? Can I get it overnighted?”
Here’s the exciting reality: Every congregation can be a magnet, one person at a time, drawing the disconnected to Christ—because the magnetism of God lives within each believer.
But many churches need a radical paradigm shift to activate the magnet. We need to create and maintain a culture of invitation.
How did we ever stray so far from the biblical mandate to personally go and invite?
The Great Commission is really the Great Invitation, extended by God through those who belong to Him. Sadly, many Christians outsource this calling to church leaders and a few other church members.
We are not only mandated to invite but also outfitted with the power of the Holy Spirit to do so (Acts 1:8). Inviting should not be a burdensome duty or a frightening one-time act to be performed. It must become a lifestyle.
Here are four ways to create a culture of invitation in your church.
1. Pray for a spiritual movement in your church.
Many pastors and church leaders are worn to a frazzle by the endless supply of plug-and-play modules, must-attend conferences, and promising programs that often fail to deliver.
In reality, modules, methods, and ministries will always fizzle and fail unless they have the breath of God on them.
To create an invitation culture that becomes a movement rather than an emphasis, prayer must precede and pervade the endeavor.
Pentecost was preceded by a prayer meeting. The church of Jerusalem grew leaps and bounds because of its magnetic invitation culture—which happened organically, partly through the believers’ devotion to daily prayer (Acts 2:42).
Their magnetism was a result of their dependence on God. Others in the community wanted what those disciples had.
Providential conviction will motivate members to invite others to church and to Christ. And through prayer, a sense of urgency could replace the malady of apathy, fear, and lethargy plaguing so many congregations in America today.
2. Create momentum by continually preaching and teaching on inviting.
Highlight the importance of personal outreach with a series of sermons. Have every small group or Sunday school class in your church, from students to adults, focus on this topic for at least four weeks. If we consistently talk about the need to invite, our people will find the opportunity to do so.
Many different stories in the Bible serve as great examples of those who aggressively invited others to God. Jesus was the ultimate inviter.
Throughout His public ministry, everywhere He went He invited people to give God not only their problems but also their lives.
The Samaritan woman is another wonderful example of inviting. Listen to what she did immediately after her encounter with Jesus: “Then the woman left her water jar, went into town, and told the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?’ They left the town and made their way to him” (John 4:28-30).
3. Celebrate the faithfulness of those who invite.
As someone has said, what gets rewarded gets repeated. Make sure to encourage those who invite others.
Remind them God actively seeks the lost and disconnected, and many people are waiting for a simple but personal invitation to your church.
Lifeway Research did a study recently on the unchurched. Interestingly, 55 percent of them say an invitation from a family member would be effective in getting them to visit a local congregation, and 51 percent say an invitation from a friend or family member would be effective.
4. Set the tone from the top.
Leaders, beginning with the pastor, church staff, elders, and deacons, must model invitation. It must be more than a sermon series or a desperate attempt to spike baptisms or fill empty chairs or pews.
It must be a movement started and sustained by none other than the Spirit of God and faithfully practiced by the church leadership.
JIM BURNETT is pastor of Willow Pointe Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.