More church invitations: Friends and Family

This entry is part 4 of 10 in the series Church Invitations

Friendships and Church InvitationsIn the previous article in the series of giving more invitations to church, I focused on prayer.

As I continue to look at various ways to increase the number of personal invitations to church that your church members give, today’s article is focused on the number of personal friends who are unchurched.

Again, the statistics show that a personal invitation from a friend is the best way to get church visitors.

For that to happen, our church members must be in regular and ongoing contact with people who do not go to church.

Trusted Relationships lead to Church Invitations

Are your church members actively engaged in intentional relationships with people who don’t know Christ?

How about you? What is your honest answer to that question?

Active involvement in the life of non-Christians will put you in a place to give a personal invitation to church.

As you regularly attend your church, you’ll see places where a sermon series might connect with the life struggles of your friend.

You’ll hear sermons that will make you think: “I wish my friend could hear this.”

Or you’ll hear some wisdom from a sermon that will allow you to speak the Bible’s wisdom directly into the life of your friend.

If you are actively involved in the life of non-Christians, you’ll begin to see connections between their needs and opportunities to invite them to church.

Even new relationships can provide a context for a church invitation

I regularly visit a park in the late afternoons.  I’ve met another immigrant dad who is always there with his daughter.

While our kids play together, we usually have a conversation.

We are still in the “getting to know you” phase of a friendship, since the only thing in common is our kids playing in the park a few afternoons at a time.

Yet, within the 2nd or 3rd conversation I could tell he was open to an invitation to my church.  We had been talking about church attendance and activities, and it became a recurring theme in our short conversations.

He told me he didn’t attend church regularly.  He expressed his desire that he wanted to start taking his daughter somewhere.  He even mentioned that was casually looking but was nervous about attending a place without any prior contact.

Our conversation led to a natural invitation to church.

A few conversations gathered enough trust to make a safe invitation to church.

Are your church members involved in the life of unchurched people?

Maybe it’s time to invite people to take inventory of their current relationships and intentionally develop new ones.

Herb Miller wrote a short list in Church Effectiveness Nuggets (Vol 8) that can help you lead people to reflect upon their social network:

Either in printed form or oral form, or both, the following paragraphs raise consciousness concerning people the worshippers could invite to worship.

Read the paragraphs slowly at an appropriate time in the worship service, accompanied by meditative background music.

  • Think of family members: spouse, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, inlaws, nephews, and nieces.
  • Think of neighbors: next-door neighbors, elderly persons in the neighborhood, and new families on your block.
  • Think of people at work: supervisors, employees you supervise, secretaries, clerical staff, students you teach, clients, new staff members, and colleagues you see occasionally.
  • Think of friends with whom you dine out: single friends, parents of your child’s friends, old friends from school, and friends of your spouse.
  • Think of casual associates: your dentist, doctor, real estate or life insurance agent, your child’s teacher, merchants, service or luncheon club members, people who belong to clubs or associations or professional groups that you attend, babysitters,sales representatives who call on you, people who graduated from the same university.
  • Think especially of people undergoing personal life stresses of some kind.  These individuals are often ready to hear answers to their problems from within the Christian faith: People who recently divorced, couples with new babies, families that have experienced a recent death, households where someone has lost their job or suffered business reverses.

Use this procedure in morning worship two times a year as a stand-alone part of the worship experience.

The following week, several worshippers will notice the “invisible people” in their circle of acquaintances who do not attend church.

Noticing is the first step toward inviting.

Other ways to help your members think through their list of friends:

 

Book Review:Eats with Sinners

I’ve been in the Church for so long that deep friendships with people apart from Christ have been neglected.

I’ve filled my day with work, managing the lives of my children, administrative and planning for the local church, and running an international ministry.

Recently, I’ve been having a season of reading and re-reading a bunch of books relating to personal evangelism in a more relational style.

My recent evangelism books reading list

I’m particularly looking at intentional ways of building relationships of with people who are apart from Christ.

A recent contribution to Building Relationships

One recent good book in this area is Eats with Sinners: Reaching Hungry People Like Jesus Did by Arron Chambers.

This pastor from Colorado shares lots of his experiences in developing relationships with people who don’t know Christ.

Arron suggests that we set up regular times to meet with people who don’t know Christ, and to share a meal with them.

They are framed in the context of characteristics that Jesus used in His recipe to reach lost people. The list is

  • My review on Aaron Chambers Eats with Sinnersintegrity
  • accessibility
  • grace
  • faith
  • intimacy
  • tolerance
  • resolve
  • urgency
  • mercy
  • humility
  • investment
  •  joy
  • vision.

Meal times allow for that context for authentic relationships to happen.

Over those meal times, we develop a genuine relationship, and eventually get to the place share sharing needs and concerns between us.

We’ve moved from weather, to family, to deep personal concerns.

There, we find opportunities to share our stories of what Christ has done for us, and how our lives have been changed because of this.

Where Eats with Sinners will inspire challenge or push

As you read Eats with Sinners: Reaching Hungry People Like Jesus Did, I believe you will be challenged by the intentionally that we must have to spend quality time with people who don’t yet know Christ.

In my coaching ministry, I see churches that want instant results – like baptisms within a week of a huge weekend outreach.

In a conversation with my own pastor recently, I looked at my own life and this week and realize that I’ve not made enough space to be with people outside the church.

One church I coached last year got intentional.  In 6 months, 6 new people belonged to the Lord and 3 had already taken baptism.  It was the fruit of being intentionally present with people.

Taking the time to develop true relationships will lead to stronger disciplemaking and deeper faith committments in a local church.  It increases the “stickyness factor” and relational strength to the local church.

Chambers gives different creative ways of bringing Christ into your conversations and your daily life and using it to share the Word.

Get out there and enjoy some food

Since sharing meals is the theme of Eats with Sinners: Reaching Hungry People Like Jesus Did, recipes are peppered in sidebars and call out pages.  Some of them look really good.

At the end of each chapter are questions for digging deeper. Also, there are practical suggestions throughout the book for how we can put into practice — some practical ways that we can do more to reach the lost.

You could use Eats with Sinners: Reaching Hungry People Like Jesus Did as a personal devotional book, or use it in your small group that is focused on holding one another accountable to being with people.

Note:  The publisher provided me a review copy, with perfect liberty to say what I really think.  If you buy this book from Amazon through any of the links, Amazon will send me a thank you gift.

Sharing your faith with no results

Why do some people express great interest in the gospel of Jesus Christ, yet they never cross the line of faith and discipleship?

Perhaps you’ve spent time sharing your faith (maybe a few years) by

  • Developing authentic relationships with non-believers
  • Faith sharing conversations over dinner
  • Answering difficult questions

Yet, they never seem to get the faith you share with them.

Years of faith sharing with little results

Some of you probably have encountered this.

I know I have.

There are people in my life that no matter how much I share my faith, they remain apart from Christ.

As an evangelist, that’s hard.

I remember one person with whom I shared my faith with for four years.  Nothing.

Apostle Paul shared his faith with the same person for two years!

At the end of Acts 23, the apostle Paul was sent to Felix, the governor. Felix had Paul guarded in Herod’s palace (Acts 23: 35) until he had the chance to hear Paul himself (Acts 24).

After the hearing, Felix gave Paul some “freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs” (24:23)

Felix had some level of spiritual curiosity, and some working knowledge about the followers of Jesus (Acts 24:22), even if it was only on a political level as the movement of Christianity spread.

Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. (v24)

Paul and Felix discussed Jesus and what it means to follow Jesus.

 25 As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.”

I can imagine that Felix even experienced the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in some of those conversations.  Even if there were some hidden motives for hearing Paul (like bribery – v. 26), Felix still got to hear of Jesus and the implications of being a disciple of Christ.

These faith sharing conversations went on for the next two years (v.27).

Even though Paul was a prisoner, it’s hard not to imagine that a friendship developed, or at least a level of mutual respect between these two men as Paul shared his faith.

We can speculate some of the relationship dynamics that changed over the course of the next two years.

Two years of faith sharing, no immediate fruit

I can imagine (and this is santicified imagination) Paul doing the following

  • Praying for Felix on a regular basis.
  • Asking God for how to talk with Felix.
  • Waiting for God to open the heart of Felix to respond.
  • Frustration when Felix cuts the conversation short when it gets personal.
  • Rejoicing when questions were answered to the satisfaction of Felix
  • Celebrating the apparent progress Felix was making on the journey to faith.

Yet Felix was appointed somewhere else and was no longer in Paul’s life.  The end of the road together had come.

Two years, Felix and Paul talked about Christianity, salvation, following Jesus, etc, yet Felix still walked away without having surrendered his life to Christ.  I would imagine author Luke would have reported on Felix’s conversion if it had happened.

Sharing faith without results?

Perhaps you are in a similar situation of sharing your faith with someone who seems to have spiritual curiosity, but just won’t surrender.

Like Felix, they keep cutting the faith conversation short when it gets personal.

They simply avoid the hard questions of surrender.

What can we do?

1.  Don’t give up.

Keep praying for your friend.

Keep spending time with them.

Enjoy life together.

Keep sharing your faith and answering their questions.  They are on a spiritual journey

They are your friend, not your evangelistic project, so keep the relationship authentic.

2.  Trust God’s sovereignty.

I’ve heard testimony from people who have come to faith 15 years after I shared with them.

Remember the friend I shared my faith with for nearly 4 years without success?

Fifteen years later, she tells me she became a Christian.  Those seeds I planted produced a harvest.

God can keep the story going, even if you are no longer in the picture.

 

How to be ready to share your faith

One to one faith conversationHave you ever been put on the spot with regards to an evangelistic moment?

Imagine, you are at the beach with a friend, talking about life.

The rhythm of the crashing waves, the cry of seagulls, and the breeze creates a relaxing setting where the the conversation takes a deeply spiritual turn.

The spontaneous conversation begins to go deep about some personal issue and it’s clear that

your friend is confessing a deep sense of purpose seeking.

The search for purpose is a spiritual thirst that opens up natural faith sharing opportunities.

The Best Gospel Conversations Are Never Planned

Now this doesn’t happen to me all the time.

But perfect opportunities to share your faith occur spontaneously in naturally reflective settings like gazing over the vast ocean at the beach

Conversations to share your faith like this are never planned ahead.

It’s never organized on my calendar.

It is never at a scripted moment (unless one manipulates the conversation).

Rather, opportunities to share your faith and point people to Jesus are surprise impromptu events in life that catch us off guard.

Are you ready to share your faith?

Remember the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch from Acts 8?

Philip didn’t suffer from paralysis when given the opportunity to share his faith.  He didn’t hide behind fears, or pawn the evangelistic task off to somebody else.

Rather, he was ready to share his faith – which gave him the confidence he needed.

Acts 8:26-40 reads:

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.”

27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian t eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet.

29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

. . . .
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?”

35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.  (NIV, 2011, Acts 8:26-35)

How Philip was ready to share with the Ethiopian Official

1.  Philip recognized the Lord’s prompting

Philip had been directed by the Lord to go on a scavenger hunt.

“Go to the south road, the desert road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.”

He had an angelic visitation to give him this guidance, which many of us don’t ever get, but notice the second prompting.

The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” (NIV,v.29 )

The key is that Philip noticed the prompting of the Holy Spirit to stand next to “THAT” Chariot.  God underlined the chariot and Philip positioned himself.

Philip was ready to share his faith because he had a personal relationship with the Lord where he cultivated the skill of recognizing the evangelistic prompting of the Holy Spirit.

Philip was ready to share his faith because he was spiritually prepared.

2.  Philip knew the Good News about Jesus

Philip was prepared ahead of time for the conversation.

Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.  (NIV 8:35)

He may not have memorized a gospel script like the Bridge Illustration, but he was ready to share the good news.

Philip was ready to share his faith because he knew the gospel story.  Philip knew how to share, and even more so, how to share the story well.

Philip was ready to share his faith because he was prepared with a message.

Develop 2 skills to share your faith

There are certainly more than 2 areas, but these two are foundational to the model of personal evangelism that I teach in the Fear Free Evangelism Seminar (CD SET, available on 5 CDs).

1.  Develop a vibrant personal spiritual life.

In order to be effective at personal evangelism, we need to be nurturing that relationship with Christ.

We do that through

  • through our regular devotional time
  • spending time in the Word of God
  • spending time in prayer
  • spending time giving, serving, and attending church
  • growing in the community of faith,
  • giving ourselves away in the community service programs of our church.

All of these things serve and nurture that vibrant relationship with Jesus.

This helps us to

  • recognize the voice of the Lord when we are prompted.
  • Be sensitive to those God given kairos moments.

You’ve got to have personal experience with God through Jesus Christ. You’ve got to be growing in that.

Coaching step:

What steps can you take this week to deepen your relationship with God?

2.  Know a version of the gospel story

I recently read Trevin Wax’s book, Counterfeit Gospels.  (Read my review of Counterfeit Gospels)

It’s a good theological study on various different gospel versions that are out there.

He reminds us that we need to know not only the gospel announcement, but the whole story.

My advice here is to find one of the gospel scripts and master it.

Be prepared to share your faith by mastering ahead of time a version of the gospel story.  Read about the purpose of evangelism training

Coaching Steps:

What version of the gospel story have you mastered?

I develop this further in this article: How to use a gospel script, along with links to various gospel scripts.

Order an Evangelism Training from me

I offer a virtual seminar on personal evangelism training.  You can use this as an evangelism training event for your team.

It is travel free, and you can offer it on any night that you choose.

If you want this workshop in Spanish, I can do that too.

Read more about how to get your own evangelism training seminar from me.

Sharing Faith With Your Friends

“How do you find forgiveness?”

This was a question my neighbor asks while we visit at the poolside on a spring day.

While our kids are splashing, shouting, screaming, laughing and diving into the water, my friend talks with me about deep issues of the heart.

How did we get to this point?

1.  He is my friend.

We laugh and talk about life over a cup of coffee.  Our kids play together.

We also have a history of sharing concerns and preoccupations.

In other words, we are friends.

We are friends who share life together.  He is not my evangelistic project.

I know that sharing faith in the context of genuine friendships has the deepest impact in making life change.

2.  We pray for them.

As a habit, we have regularly prayed for them as well as all of our neighbors.

We pray specifically that they would experience spiritual thirst and that God would give us the eyes to see those conversational opportunities.

I was sensitive and alert to the moment when his thirst was expressed in the form of his question.

I know that sharing faith will not happen unless we have prepared the way in prayer.

3.  Our faith is visible

Our faith is visible without being obnoxious.

For example, we celebrate birthdays and anniversaries together.  They’ve given us permission to publically pray with them at such events.

We invite them to church on a regular basis, as well as to other church gatherings like picnics and community service opportunities.

We share how we do family devotions as parents, talk about the Bible with our kids, and testimonies to how God answers our prayers.  Our faith is not hidden as private matter behind close doors.  It’s part of who we are.

Our faith is visible and open for examination.  Sharing faith is not revealing a secret about who we really are.

Sharing Faith is easy in the security of relationship

It was easy to share my faith that day at the pool side.

In the security of a authentic friendship, he felt comfortable asking me a deeply spiritual question.

Because we had been walking together in life for several months, I had earned the credibility to potentially speak into his life.

This day at the poolside, he gave me permission to share my faith, particularly about his question on forgiveness.

I shared my faith in Jesus, how I encountered forgiveness in Jesus, and how I knew that I had been reconciled to God.

It wasn’t a scripted monologue, but a two way conversation between friends about my faith and his search for forgiveness.

At the end, his last question was

“How can I have this like you have it?”

That day, after hearing the good news, he asked God to forgive him.