A really sweet lady at my daughter's school handed me a card for her church this morning with an invitation to visit. As I reached out to grab the card, memories of a past time were brought back to me. A little over 4 years ago, my husband and I attended a fellowship that was very small, to which we had no objections. We'd just left a much larger church that wasn't hurting for attendees. They were hosting three services at the time we left.
Anywho, one of the biggest things the smaller church promoted was extending invitations for people to visit the church in hopes that they would join. The church had business cards, and all members were highly encouraged to pass them out to get more people in the door (I have several theories as to why they were so hungry for members; most of them having to do with money). There were usually several messages preached on increasing our faith and believing God for the impossible (this was a heavy signs and wonders ministry, but that's a separate post for a different day), but there were very few messages encouraging and teaching us how to evangelize for the Kingdom of God. The expectation was set to tell others about the 'goodness' of our church. We were to make sure they knew how firey praise & worship was, how lovely the people were (which they were) and that our pastor preached power packed messages.
Ok, so to the topic at hand.....
We live in a society and in a time where people want you to compromise your beliefs as a Christian so as not to offend them. We typically find it less offensive to invite others to church than to give them the Gospel outright. The Gospel is confrontational and causes people to examine where they fall short in light of God's law. The light of the Word shines on people's darkness and exposes them, which many find judgmental and offensive. An invitation to church was an easy pitch. For all intents and purposes, you were inviting them to an event . Come for the praise and worship, a loving environment and let the pastor or preacher do the heavy lifting. That's not offensive at all! And if someone did or said something the invitee deemed offensive, you could always pass off the responsibility directly to the offender.
Now that I am on the other side of this model, I find that it is a bit more challenging to pitch Jesus. Just Jesus. Not a service/event/show, but just mankind's need for Christ's Gospel of redemption. I will honestly tell you that this sometimes meets me with a little trepidation. I had my church pitch down, but giving someone the Gospel without the bells and whistles isn't always easy and it dang sure ain't popular. There is a church group here in Houston that you can find in my local Wal-Mart parking lot almost every weekend. I bet you would never guess what they do. (Ok, maybe you can). They pass out flyers and invite people to their church. The pitch goes a little something like this: "Come to (church's name) and be set free from depression and see many miraculous wonders.." Then they hand you the flyer with a few slogans and a picture of their pastor.....*side-eye*. I am not saying this is the case for this particular church, but a lot of church members are henchmen that the pastor sends out to bring in more workhorses (and money) into his stable. You will also find that many people are so enamored with the pastor and his personality/presentation that they want people to come experience how GREAT their 'man of God' is and experience his anointing.
I now realize that each one of us, as disciples, are just as much responsible for the heavy lifting as the man or woman from the pulpit. There isn't much responsibility that comes with inviting people to church, but if you are actively seeking to build a relationship with someone for the purpose of winning them for Jesus or individually disciplining a new believer, there is a lot at stake and much responsibility. There are personal sacrifices you have to make. You have to make sure your conduct as a believer holds up to the Word of God you are sharing; the very word you claim to base your entire life on. There is no hypocriting around with this thing. If you share the Gospel with an unbeliever, you had BETTER believe it yourself. If you explain the role of repentance in salvation, you had BETTER be in a state of repentance from dead works and sin yourself. If you tell someone why they should trust in the Lord with all their heart, you had better be trusting Him with your every breathe (or at least pressing towards it) or run the risk of making your witness invalid. Now, while the onus isn't on you to produce salvation in someone (this is the work of the God alone), we must understand that we are, in a sense, the Word walking. We are NOT Jesus (nor little gods), but we are His ambassadors - authorized messengers or representatives for His Kingdom testifying of His Lordship (2 Corinthians 5:20).
If you are a new Christian, it is understandable if you don't know exactly what to say and refer a person to a more mature believer or even invite someone to attend church meetings, but most of us aren't new believers and we still falter in this area. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that we should stop inviting people to church meetings altogether. There is definitely a place for that. What I am saying is we have to understand that the day we accepted God's call to salvation, we BECAME the Church! Jesus is the cornerstone and we are the living stones that make up the spiritual temple where the Lord dwells, and WE are His priests; constantly looking for more stones to add to His Temple. One of the things priests do is stand in the presence of God on behalf of people that aren't able to, so let's be about that. If you think about it, church meetings are for those that have already been born again. When we go out, we look to convert unbelievers to believers so they can then link up with other members of Christ's body in fellowship, which the church meeting is a part of, so they can be edified and encouraged as they walk out their salvation with Jesus in their own lives.
It would be a shame if we have invited all these people to church and they NEVER hear the Gospel nor have the opportunity to come to know the Lord (and be known by Him) because we hoped someone else at church would do it.