1. Too much baggage
“Church” has so many connotations for people—and so many of them are negative. I could invite my neighbors to my church. I could spend time reassuring them that my church is different, better, more relevant, less judgmental…but why should I? How about if I just be different, better, more interested, and less judgmental myself?
2. Unfair ulterior motives
It’s hard to invite my neighbors to church without it sounding like there’s an ulterior motive to my friendship. As if I’ve decided to be their friend so that I can invite them to church. I don’t like the way that feels.
3. Deferred responsibility
Relatedly, I think sometimes Christians invite people to church so that those people can “hear the gospel.” But I feel like I should be able to explore that good news with my neighbors myself, rather than relying on a professional Christian who doesn’t even know my neighbors to do it for me! Maybe there’s an AA parallel here: I don’t think a recovering alcoholic would say to an alcoholic friend, “You really should come to a meeting with me; it could change your life.” I mean, he might, but typically I think an alcoholic first decides he wants his life to change; then he asks a recovering-alcoholic friend how his life changed; then he starts going to meetings to support the new life that he wants. And my sense is that all recovering alcoholics are able to explain their life-change to their friends without sounding judgmental.
4. Wrong measurements
Too often, Christians think that church attendance is the ultimate measure of whether someone is a Christian or not. I think if we’re measuring church attendance, we’re measuring the wrong thing. That’s like measuring sobriety by how regularly someone attends AA meetings. Yes, the two are absolutely related, but they are not the same thing.
5. Wrong results
“You’re won to what you’re won by.” Have you heard that axiom? It means, for example, if you became a Christian at a Billy Graham crusade, you’ll think evangelistic crusades are the best way for other people to meet Jesus. If you became a Christian because someone invited you to church and you heard a powerful sermon, you’ll think other people need to hear a great sermon in order to learn about Jesus. If you became a Christian while studying the Bible at your neighbor’s kitchen table, you’ll invite other people to your home to explore what the Bible says. I would rather have more people wrestling with the Word around my kitchen table than sitting in a pew nodding at the preacher. And I would rather have the people around my table also invite people around their tables who will go on to invite people around their tables. That’s the grass-roots model I want to attract people to.
If they ask…
Now, if my neighbors happen to ask me what my church believes, and if they express an interest in seeing it for themselves, of course I will happily invite them! I love my church, and I love having other people share Sunday mornings with me.
I think waiting for my neighbors to ask me is the only way to overcome the baggage, avoid ulterior motives, remain responsible and active, avoid over-simplifying spirituality, and reproduce a church based on relationships.