Written by: Rev. Dave Sawler
I would like you to try something. Please stop inviting people to your church. This may seem like strange advice coming from a pastor who is trying to grow a church, but please hear me out.
Perhaps this piece of advice may even seem like a relief to you, as the idea of inviting your friends, neighbors, and family may have you terrified anyways. Just to let you off the hook even more, I am not sure that there is even anything in scripture instructing us to invite people to church services. Yes, of course there are verses that encourage believers to continue to meet, but what about those aren’t there yet?
What scripture does teach is that we are to make disciples. We. You. Me. Us. All. I believe this is a calling each one of us has. This thought alone may strike fear into your heart as you may be thinking, ‘I don’t know how to run a discipleship course’, ‘I don’t know a lot about theology’, or you may think that you are not the greatest example for people to follow. Well don’t worry, I don’t think you need to run out and do any of those things either.
Let’s look at a few verses in John 15. I believe the reason that you should not just invite people to church is clearly seen in it.
This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.’
This section of scripture definitely talks about us bearing fruit. It even brings the father glory when we do. However, there is another underlying theme that I hope you don’t miss. It resonates with another section of scripture found in 1 Corinthians 13:1 -7. It says, ‘If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.’
Before any church, or any person, begins to invite anyone to church event they need to ask, ‘What is my motivation?’ Just think about it for a moment, why are you inviting them to an event or gathering? If these scriptures teach us anything the underlying theme that is repeated over and over is this, ‘LOVE.’
In John 15 in the instruction we are given to bear fruit the words ‘love’ or ‘loved’ appear nine times. Without love there will be very little fruit, and very little fruit that lasts. A call to disciple people means being in contact with people. It means loving people.
What I do think we must consider is this, ‘Am I inviting someone to an event or into my life?’ Without a church inviting people into their lives, it is extremely empty and hollow. It is like you are a ‘noisy gong’, or in modern language, ‘you are simply annoying.’
What LOVE looks like in a Christian Family is ‘Adoption’. When someone comes into the family of God they are adopted by God and brought into His family. He becomes their Heavenly Father, and they become a son or daughter. However, do we want them as a brother and sister? Discipleship means we have to adopt people into our families not just send them to events.
Is this easy? No. However, if love is not at the centre we are totally missing the point. Many churches do not see long term growth, and many believers fail to make disciples for this one reason. We want to be involved with procreation but not involved with parenting.
Why? Because it seems like work. However, lets look at this from another perspective for a moment. When I was a teenager I remember seeing my sister, and others, babysit and they did one of the things I thought was the most disgusting thing in the world. They changed diapers. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but in my teenage mind the thought of changing a diaper and possibly touching someone else’s poo seemed like a horrible experience.
However, in one moment it all changed. In a split second I went from thinking I will never ever do this to changing diapers. Diapers filled with horrible things and very vivid smells. What happened? My son was born. When Matthew filled his diaper, my own flesh and blood, I did what I said I never would. Truthfully, it was not forced, it just happened. Why? Because he was my son.
When people become our family we will even put up with things that stink. We will put up with mess. We will live with imperfection. There is even joy in our labour. However, if they aren’t family we will never be motivated in the same way.
We are left with the questions, ‘will we adopt?’ ‘Will we invite people into our lives?’ If the answer is no, then please do not invite people to your events, gatherings, and church. Instead it may be time to ask God to give you His gift of love. A gift that can fill us with the compassion of Christ and the spirit of adoption.
About Pastor Dave:
I am a husband to my wife Shirley. I am trying my best to raise my three kids which are now all teenagers and a young adult. I am presently the lead Pastor of Lighthouse Community Church in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. My family and several people moved into the area almost six years ago to start a church planting ministry. On a personal side I have been an extreme sports fan and participant most of my life. I have been an active snowboarder and skateboarder for almost twenty five years. I have a few other hobbies like photography, video shooting and editing, and playing music. Feel free to check out more on Pastor Dave, HERE.