Ed Stetzer: Why a Simple Invitation Has Strategic Power for Evangelism

People want to be invited to church and into a relationship with Jesus. It’s really that simple.

invitation to church

The church is to be on mission with God. The God of the Bible is a missionary God who graciously pursues people.

That pursuit involves the work of the Holy Spirit and the proclamation of His people—and that proclamation often involves emphases from the local church.

The church exists to proclaim the gospel and demonstrate the kingdom of God in a lost and dying world. In being faithful to her calling, the church should be reaching people with the good news of the gospel and welcoming them into a local community of believers.

Welcoming people into the local church should be the natural overflow of a local church’s faithful ministry. However, many churches find themselves unfruitful in seeing new people to connect with their congregation.

Some people think that is a good thing—church is for believers and unbelievers should not be connected to that church. I’m not of the same view—covenant community (what we often call church membership) is for believers, but Christian community (what we often call attendance) is a place where evangelism should take place.

The Lost Are Waiting for an Invitation

Whatever happened to the strategy of simply inviting a friend, co-worker or neighbor to church? According to our research, an invitation to church is still an effective way to reach the lost.

A few years ago ,LifeWay Research conducted a survey of 15,000 adults for the North American Mission Board to try to determine which of 13 approaches is the best-received when a church wants to be heard. The research showed us that best-received means of seeing new people walk into one’s church is, well, a personal invitation.

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a. Sixty-seven percent of Americans say a personal invitation from a family member would be very or somewhat effective in getting them to visit a church.

b. Sixty-three percent of Americans say a personal invitation from a friend or neighbor would be very or somewhat effective in getting them to visit a church.

c. Sixty-three percent of Americans are very or somewhat willing to receive information about a local congregation or faith community from a family member.

d. Fifty-six percent of Americans are very or somewhat willing to receive information about a local congregation or faith community from a friend or neighbor.

So, people ARE open to an invite from church, particularly if it is from someone they know. But one simple invitation isn’t necessarily going to result in subsequent attendance. Neighbors may come because of an invitation, but they’ll stay for the community.

People Are Attracted to Community

Why is it that many of our unchurched friends are ready for an invitation to church? Several missiologists have recently offered a similar observation. In our post-Christian nation, people who are skeptical of the faith are often attracted to the Christian community before they are attracted to the Christian message. Therefore, introducing people into the relational network of a local church community becomes an important aspect of their journey to the faith.

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Ed Stetzer
Ed Stetzer is President of LifeWay Research and LifeWay’s Missiologist in Residence. He has trained pastors and church planters on five continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Ed is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine and Catalyst Monthly, serves on the advisory council of Sermon Central and Christianity Today's Building Church Leaders, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN.
  • David

    Jesus died for people. Not an organization. Not a method. Not a style. Our priority in our organization, method, and style should reflect His priority. It would be far better to arrive “at the gate” with new brothers and sisters, than stories of how we did not bend. His house is a place where all are welcome – and feel welcome.