Andrew invited his brother to hear Jesus for himself. Inviting others to come and see still works.
My congregation was hosting a Friendship Sunday for the first time in years. My members had a renewed excitement to reach out. God’s people have an eagerness to share the gospel message and a desire to share a warm atmosphere with the people from the community. The services for the day had been tailored to target a first-time visitor. Weeks of promotion and publicity had preceded the event. I took the opportunity in sermons, Bible classes, and meetings to encourage members to invite their friends and neighbors. Special invitations were designed, printed, and handed out to members to make the process as easy as possible. A breakfast had been planned. Greeters were in place. A follow-up plan had been laid out. Now all we had to do was get people from the community through the door.
And therein lies the problem. Experience has taught us that the unchurched will not often come to church on their own. But these Christians were confident that people would come if invited. Studies continue to show that more than 80 percent of the unchurched will attend if invited by a Christian friend.*
But those same studies show that a majority of Christians have never invited anyone to church. The outward success of that Friendship Sunday rested on our people’s efforts to invite others to church.
Historically, inviting others has not been the hallmark of WELS. This little synod we call WELS is known for a lot of things, and we have many blessings that characterize us, but personal evangelism has not always been at the top of that list.
The importance of personal evangelism cannot be stressed enough. So many things in society are changing quickly. People’s perceptions of the need for organized religion have changed. The days of successful “come events” are likely behind us. It is increasingly unlikely that the unchurched will come through our church doors without an invitation. If we are going to reach the unchurched, we need to share the gospel with them.
That perhaps makes us uneasy. But the good news is that it works! God blesses his people as they witness for him. And there are opportunities everywhere.
Scripture gives us a wide range of examples of people sharing the gospel in many different situations. The disciple ran to invite his friend to come and see Jesus (John 1:43-51). The captive slave girl shared her faith with a powerful general (2 Kings 5:1-19). Philip told an Ethiopian the good news about Jesus (Acts 8:26-40). Jesus took the time at a well to share the faith with a woman who in turn witnessed to the entire town (John 4:1-42). Even as a man hung dying on the cross, his neighbor took the opportunity to witness to him (Luke 23:39-43). At first glance, those events may be considered unlikely opportunities to share the faith. Yet, in each instance, God blessed the sharing of the gospel.
There are opportunities all around us too. After serving in several congregations, I have witnessed the gospel at work in many unlikely situations: A family invites the entire baseball team to a Friendship Sunday (see sidebar). A pastor invites his son’s football coach to come to church. An ailing man shares the faith with his Muslim physician. A man witnesses to his dying father and has the joy of seeing his dad come to faith. A woman witnesses to the man on the other end of the phone who happened to be helping her set up her cable television service. There are so many opportunities around us to share the gospel. Recent events in our world have provided even more occasions for us to give a reason for the hope that we have.
Have you ever invited a friend to worship? Have you ever introduced your struggling coworker to your pastor? Have you ever shared Jesus with your neighbor? The time is now. Jesus encourages us to work while it is day (see John 9:4). There is no more important task for us to do before Jesus returns. God promises to give us opportunities to witness, and then he promises to bless that witness.
*The Unchurched Next Door, Thom Rainer
Author: Collin Vanderhoof
Volume 108, Number 5
Issue: May 2021