Invitations are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, if you receive an invitation to something you really have been looking forward to, then it is a cause for celebration. However, on the other hand, if you receive an invitation to something you really have been dreading or something you cannot stand… then it might be a cause for apprehension. We all have been there before, and have all been put in awkward situations where someone has invited us to something we really have no interest in at all. If you choose not to go, then you are rude. If you do go, then you will be miserable the entire time, and wonder why you even decided to go in the first place. Inviting a neighbor to the Church can either be something they are excited about, or something they want no part in. The difference is up to how well you have conducted steps one through six.
If we have successfully and effectively: introduced ourselves, built a rapport, engaged them, expressed faith, served them, and listened to their thoughts in discussion… then it is only natural for them to want to know more about who we are and why we are. If we skip to this step before actually dedicating ourselves to steps one through six, that is when we potentially get a no-show or see the apprehension we would have if we were in their shoes. Once we have proven to our neighbor that we care about them through the previous steps, an invitation is simply the next logical phase we must go through in the pursuit of their soul. It is likely even that they will have been waiting for this invitation for a while. If we have been effective in the evangelism process, then this invitation will be something our neighbor has been really looking forward to.
The transition from discussion to an invitation is one of the most fluid and effortless parts of the entire process. It is simple to go from a conversation about what THEY believe to an invitation to learn more about what it is WE believe. At the close of the discussion of their beliefs, one could say something like, “That is so interesting! Thanks for sharing that with me. I’d love for you to come with me some time and see what my Church is like. I think you would really love it!” You have flawlessly moved from discussion to invitation, and are ready to gauge their interest in learning more about the Church of the Bible.
Consider the Samaritan woman in John 4:29. After encountering Jesus, she runs to the village and tells the men, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” This prompts the men of the city to take her up on her invitation to see Jesus, and it changes their lives forever. “And many more believed because of His own word. Then they said to the woman, ‘Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world,’” John 4:41-42. There is a tremendous lesson to learn from this story. Had the Samaritan woman only told the city about her encounter with Christ, only some would have believed. In fact, it says that in verse 39, “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’” However, the greater response is found when the city went and saw Jesus for themselves.
The invitation the Samaritan woman gave to her village is the exact same invitation we should offer our neighbors. We should be inviting our neighbors to COME and see Jesus at WORK in the lives of Christians today! Showing our neighbors how Jesus LIVES in our lives, and how He impacts us every single day — allowing them to see for themselves the Church of GOD’S INTENT. Once they see for themselves God’s Family, and the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that we are striving to have… THAT is when they will see Jesus for themselves, and want to become a part of the Body of Christ. Just like the Samaritan woman, we can win some by our word… but Christ can win much more by us, showing Him to them!
There really is potentially only one problem with this, and it is a simple question that we, as a congregation, have to be able to answer. The question is… “Are we a place that the lost can see Jesus at work? Are we a place that the lost can see Jesus living? Is it obvious through our lives that Jesus is impacting us every day? Are we the Church of God’s intent? Are we a part of God’s Family that has: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?” If the answer to any of these questions is, “No,” then I am afraid that we may need to work on this BEFORE we invite the lost to come to be with us. Indeed, we are always in the pursuit of these things, and we may never fully attain perfection… but if we are not striving for these goals, we cannot truly show Christ to the lost through our invitation.
Many congregations of the Lord’s Church have entirely lost the desire for the lost to be with them. This “elitist” attitude will never bring anyone to Christ. If a visitor sitting in your pew offends you, then you obviously are not someone I want my lost neighbor to meet. If you are gossiping in the Church lobby about how a visitor is dressed, then you are not someone I want my lost neighbor to meet. If you are not displaying the Fruit of the Spirit but instead are showing: hate, anger, gloom, impatience, cold-heartedness, meanness, unfaithfulness, harshness, and self-indulgence… then you are obviously not someone I want my lost neighbor to meet. Consider 1 Timothy 3:15, “I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” If we are not conducting ourselves the way Christ would have us to in His own House… then we have no chance of ever bringing someone to Christ by our invitation to this House.
We so frequently say in our weekly announcements, “If you are visiting with us today, you are our HONORED GUEST.” If they truly are honored guests, we must treat them the way Christ would have treated them. We spend so much time preparing our own homes when the company is coming over… how much time do we spend preparing a warm and welcoming atmosphere for our guests in the Church? If a guest is with us, this may be the only time they ever are in the presence of God’s people! We must make the most of that opportunity! “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be a partaker of it with you,” 1 Corinthians 9:22b-23. What are you willing to do to bring someone to Christ?
-Ben Hogan, Minister of Evangelism