Investing in the Invite
By Ben Johnson
“Eighty-percent of people said that they would go to church if they were invited.”
I’ve heard this statistic multiple times, most recently from a seminary professor. The source is apparently from the SBC, but I’m sorry, I have to disagree with this statistic. Either it is wrong, or my life is just one big outlier because I definitely don’t have an 80% record when asking people to church. It’s probably not even 20%.
Since college, I’ve worked in both ministry jobs and secular jobs, and have been exposed to a wide array of people, both churched and unchurched. Over time, I would get to know these people and eventually ask them to church. I think maybe 3 people have gone with me, and maybe two went again. I’ve never seen a person go to church from just being asked. From my experience, the only time a person kept going to church with me was after we had become friends. Getting people to come to church takes more than just asking them; it takes investing in them.
It’s easy to state this; it’s harder to put it into practice. Investing in people is, well, an investment. It takes time, energy, and sometimes even money. We often have to go out of our way in order to get to know someone on a deeper level. It’s hard, especially when we have our own lives, schedules, jobs, and errands that need done. It’s a lot easier to just ask someone to church and then put the blame on him when he is a no-show than to take a critical look at our approach to outreach. Asking is good, outreach is good, but I often wonder if we are willing to critically examine what it would take to reach unchurched people.
For me, I would not go to a church just because a nice stranger asked me. I know this because I have been asked by a nice person, and I didn’t go. I also would not go to a church just because I went to an event there. When I was an unbeliever, I went to numerous fall festivals, youth nights, movie nights, barbecues, and college lunches at churches and ministries where I never once stepped in the door. Why didn’t I ever go back? I didn’t return because I didn’t know anyone. No one knew my last name, where I worked, or where I was from? Why would I want to go spend an hour and half in a room full of strangers?
My path to the gospel started with the video game Super Smash Bros. Melee. A guy on my freshmen hall played with a group of guys every Wednesday night and asked if I wanted to go. Finding myself without any friends I said, sure. I rode with him to the house and found out that all the guys there were a part of the same ministry on campus. For the next three weeks, we met and played video games every Wednesday night. This eventually evolved into a Bible study, which led to me checking out the ministry they were a part of, which eventually led to my receiving and understanding the gospel. Why did I check out their ministry? I checked it out because that’s where my friends went, and I wanted to see what it was about. I didn’t become friends with them by going to the ministry; I went to the ministry by becoming friends with them.
That’s how we get people to come to church: by becoming their friends. We have to do more than just ask them to come with us, we have to know who they are and what they are interested in and take part in those interests. Samuel Chan says in his book Evangelism in a Skeptical World, “We have to go to their things before they come to our things.” Growing the body of Christ involves more than just asking someone to go to church, it involves becoming a part of their lives. After all, we serve the God who came into our lives and got invested in us. So, we need to model that by investing in others.