1. This is going to sound like a really stupid question, but I’ve never done this before. So how do I actually invite someone to church?
It’s no different than inviting someone to anything else. If you’ve ever invited anyone to anything, you already know the drill.
But for the benefit of the anti-social among us, I’ll spell it out. You have two options:
1. In person
Find a way to direct the conversation toward Easter weekend. (“Are you guys doing anything for Easter this year?”) Mention your plans to go to church. Talk about the church and why you like it. Ask them offhand, “Would you want to come with us?”
Although it’s easier/better if you’ve talked about church before in conversation, it’s not necessary. You can cold invite someone out-of-the-blue over email or text, and many times, they’ll surprise you by accepting.
As you heard already during the testimonies on Sunday, the best approach BY FAR is a combo of #1 and #2 — inviting in person and them following up via text/email, or inviting via text/email and then following up in person.
2. Is it ‘cheating’ to lead with an invite to Easter brunch, and then add in an invitation to church as well?
Absolutely not. That's a great way to go. Even if your friend decides to join you for brunch and not the service,
a) you’ve let them know that you go to church
b) at brunch, it’ll be natural to talk about church, since they know that’s where you just were.
3. My friends can’t come on Easter because of a conflict, but when they declined, they said they’d love to come another time. Is there another upcoming Sunday that would be a good week to invite them?
Yes, and you should. Don’t let the conversation go cold. By far the most natural time to invite them to another Sunday is when you’re already talking about church. It’ll be much more difficult to bring it up again at a later date.
As far as options, Sunday, March 20th (the Sunday before Easter — Palm Sunday) is another great week to invite people. The sermon that week will be geared toward non-churchgoers, just like the Easter sermon.
Then, EVERY Sunday in April works, too — we’re going to be reprising the Obstacles to Belief series from three years ago, discussing the biggest objections most people have to Christianity.
1. This whole thing just makes me feel uncomfortable. I feel like religion is a personal matter, and I’m pretty sure my friends feel the same way. I’m worried about this negatively affecting my relationships with friends and colleagues. I'm even worried that this would be something that might adversely affect my career.
First, a reality check: given the cultural environment we find ourselves in, the fears expressed above, though almost universal, happen to be flat-out irrational and unfounded. It’s just extremely unlikely, as a factual matter of probability, that you sharing your faith or inviting others to church will have any sort of negative effect on your social or professional standing.
Why do I say it’s so unlikely? Because of our cultural climate. Whatever your opinion of ’political correctness’ and ‘tolerance’ may be, there’s no denying that these concepts are the the reigning cultural norms, which means that people tend to be respectful and understanding of different beliefs and traditions. The only exception is if you’re obnoxious about it, in which case you deserve it.
In fact, when it comes to these fears, it’s actually the opposite outcome that’s far more likely. The chances are quite good that you talking more about your faith and inviting your friends/colleagues to church will help you socially and professionally. Even if your friend has no interest in church, and disagrees sharply with your beliefs, you being more open about who you are will almost always have the effect of deepening the friendship, which is something that’s of value to both of you. And as far as your career is concerned, it’s just a law of human nature that people tend to respect and admire those who are unafraid to be open about who they are; initiating relationships, issuing invitations, and engaging others are all perceived as signs of confidence. So the overwhelming likelihood is that you being more open about your church involvement, if done in a tasteful way, will actually improve your standing socially and professionally.
BUT, having said all that, there is still nevertheless a SLIM chance that sharing/inviting might hurt you in some way. It rarely happens, but it does happen. So: is it legitimate to allow the fear of that slim possibility to be a deterrent that keeps you from inviting people? Absolutely not, for three reasons:
1. This is simply a sacrifice you should be willing to make. Christians around the world are killed for their beliefs or ostracized from their families on a daily basis. A loss in social or professional standing is a small price you should be willing to pay. And in many ways, it’s not even a “price” at all. It’s actually more of a privilege — to be counted worthy of suffering any persecution on behalf of your faith is a tremendous honor that has been coveted by Christians throughout the centuries.
2. Any friendship that is negatively affected by you being open and honest about who you are wasn’t really worth much to begin with. The same thing goes for your career — if you can’t share the most important part of your life with your colleagues, then despite what other perks your career might offer, it’s probably the wrong career.
3. Any sacrifice you might make is FAR outweighed by the benefit to those that may actually meet Christ through you. Let’s say that of 10 people you invite, 9 of them think slightly less of you than they did before — think your slightly less normal, slightly less cool — while 1 of the 10 has their life changed forever. That’s a trade you should be willing to make in a heartbeat.
2. It feels disingenuous/sneaky to me to be initiating relationships based on the ulterior motive of inviting people to church. Wouldn’t they be weirded-out if they knew they were being ‘targeted’?
First of all, this question doesn’t apply in most cases. A majority of the time, you’ll be friends with the person first, just for the sake of being friends, and then you'll invite them to church after you already have a relationship with them. There’s nothing even slightly weird about that — you are simply sharing an important part of your life with a person you care about. In fact, the only thing that would be weird is if you did the opposite — if you intentionally didn’t talk to your friend about the most important thing in your life, keeping it a secret from them. It’d be sort of like being married and never telling them.
But there may be other cases in which you initiate relationships with people that you otherwise might not have been friends with, specifically with the motive of wanting to invite them to church and introduce them to Christ. So are these relationships sneaky, weird, or disingenuous in any way?
My answer is No, for the following reasons:
1. You have to compare your behavior toward these individuals to what you would have done otherwise, were it not for your desire to invite them to church — which would have been to ignore them all together. That’s not a preferable outcome for anyone involved. Just on a human level, even without regard to Christianity, we can all agree that reaching out to others and initiating connections makes the world a better place. At the end of the day, you’re taking an interest in another person. Most people appreciate that. And you’re doing it because you care about them — it’s not like you are selling them something that you’re going to make a commission on. There’s nothing in this for you (besides the potential joy of a new & deeper friendship.) So your ‘ulterior’ aren't selfish, but caring. If anything, becoming friends with someone because you want to introduce them to Christ is actually far less selfish than the reason most people seek out friends, which is to have someone listen while they talk.
2. You have to give people more credit when it comes to understanding where you’re coming from. Just because someone doesn’t believe the same thing you do, that doesn’t mean they don’t have the ability to see things from your point of view. Most people will appreciate that the fact that, if your faith is even half-way important to you, you’ll naturally be motivated to share it, even to the point of initiating relationships with that express purpose in mind. I read a great article once by a prominent atheist — I can’t remember who it was, or else I’d pull it up and quote him directly — but the gist of was this: “Look, if Christians really believe this is true, and they really believe that these truths can deeply affect a person’s future, including mine, then if they are humane and compassionate at all, they BETTER be trying to convert me. Otherwise, they are basically saying they don’t care about what happens to me, which feels extremely rude.”
3. You have to fast forward into the future and think about those friends who will actually end up meeting Christ through you. If they ever find out that they were “targeted” by you — that you initiated the relationship with the intention of sharing Christ, and that you had been praying for them — I can guarantee you this: instead of being ‘weirded out,’ they will be absolutely overwhelmed with gratitude, and blown away by your level of care and concern. The knowledge that you went out of your way on their behalf — and that God used your prayers and efforts to change their life in such a dramatic way — will be deeply moving to them.