Invitation

It’s important to remember that Jesus never invited people to come to church (synagogue) or say a prayer of commitment. St Peter didn’t share the “Four Spiritual Laws” with anyone or invite them to receive Christ as their personal Saviour. Jesus met with people on their territory, used their language and spoke of things that mattered to them. Isn’t that a good set of principles for us too? Jesus simply left lots of calling cards that said: ‘The kingdom of God is here. (Did you notice?) Our sharing of faith needs to be less of a sales pitch or an argument or a demand, and more of a conversation, a friendship, an invitation, an opportunity, an exploration. We’re inviting people to take part in an adventure, but it’s an open road all the way into the kingdom.

John Pritchard

John Pritchard, Living Faithfully, 2013, SPCK London, p.132

  • Andrew brought Simon to Jesus (John 1:41-42)
  • Philip found Nathanael and told him about Jesus (John 1:45)
  • The Samaritan woman went off and told everyone is the village… ‘Come and see’ (John 4:28-30)
  • Levi invited his fellow tax collectors and other guests to come and be with Jesus (Luke 5:29)
  • The Philippian jailer shared the good news with joy to his whole family (Acts 16:34)

Jesus said in John 6:44 “No-one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.” So why do we need to invite or evangelise? If it is nothing to do with us and it is all down to the Father drawing people to Jesus, why do we need to evangelise, why do we have to share the gospel or go out of our comfort zones to come alongside people and invite them to come and see? Why? Because God chooses to use us as his message bearers to draw people to himself: It’s through our efforts and evangelism that God draws people.

Experience shows that there are three things most people are concerned about when invited to an event. They are worried that they will be the odd one out, that they will be asked to do something publicly and whether there are any strings attached. Alleviate these as much as possible.

To catch fish you have to go where the fish are. If we spend all of our time with other Christians then we won’t be in a position to invite non-Christian people along to church events in the first place.

Mother Teresa said, ‘Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.’

Evangelism and being invitational is not necessarily about our being competent or gifted, it’s about our being willing. The Bible tells us: God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27). The Samaritan woman Jesus spoke to at the well was not particularly competent or gifted and yet she became the first gentile evangelist. “Come and see,” she said. After speaking with the Lord she went back to town, told everyone what had happened and said, “Come and see” (John 4:29). She was weak not strong; a gentile woman, a Samaritan and a sinner who’d had five husbands and now had a live-in lover! Evangelism and being invitational is not about our being qualified, it’s about our being willing. God delights in using us just as we are. God always chooses the weak because we bring glory to Him through our weakness.

“To each of his disciples, Jesus simply said, “Follow me.” That was an invitation, not a requirement. An invitation respects the freedom on the invitee to accept of decline.

Some people look at the church on the outside and they really don’t like what they see. Experience and the behaviour of a few can repel rather than attract, but true Christianity, real church is not like that. Real church is all about seeking to reflect Jesus. It’s like the owner of an orchard who invited a man to come and taste his wonderful fruit.

‘Oh, no,’ said the man, ‘I have seen the orchard and I have tasted some of the fruit… its apples are sour and bitter!’

‘Ah,’ said the owner of the orchard, ‘I planted sour apple trees on the outside of the orchard to stop thieves coming in and stealing the fruit. But come with me into the centre, taste and see; the fruit is sweet and good to eat.’

Jesus would not have us remain on the outside, but to come in, taste and see the fruit that he offers is good and sweet.

Evangelism means handing out invitations to a free party that’s out of this world.

Personal invitation is much more effective than public invitation. Billy Graham openly said that the success of his massive public meetings was down to massive personal evangelism by lots of other people who, basically, said, ‘come and see’. In John’s Gospel (chapter 1:43-47), Jesus found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”

Philip in turn found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

“Nazareth! Can any good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

“Come and see,” said Philip [and he did].

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” – Jesus knew him already! – If every one of us was a Philip, and we each invited just one other person to ‘come and see’ we might very possibly have to start a new church. Evangelism is a body ministry.

The ‘scatter gun’ approach (inviting anyone and everyone) is not effective. It is personal evangelism that works, calling on our relationship to make a personal invitation. Be personal. Pushing an invitation through a door rarely works. Invite people face to face. It is harder, but much more beneficial.

As we read about Jesus in the Gospels, one thing is clear: He always meets people where they are and then brings them to where they need to be. He never dives into someone’s life and immediately starts making religious demands. When he called Peter, James and John to follow Him, He didn’t give them a list of things they need to start doing and things they needed to stop doing. He simply invited them to lay down their nets and follow Him. When He called Matthew, a tax collector, to follow Him, He didn’t lecture him on the evils of taxation and then tell him he needed a career change. He simply said, “Follow Me,” and Matthew responded to the call… Our actions and habits change after we start following Christ.

Perry Noble

Source: Perry Noble, UNLEASH, 2012, Illinois USA: Tyndale House Publishers, p.4-5

There is no evangelism strategy in the New Testament. That’s because the New Testament letters were written to churches and evangelism is done by individuals, not churches. Personal invitations and word of mouth evangelism is the way that God chooses to draw people to Himself, including us… we are those who heard and responded.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, wrote a commentary on John’s Gospel. When he came to the words ‘and he [Andrew] brought him [Simon Peter] to Jesus’ (John 1:42), Temple wrote a short but momentous sentence: ‘The greatest service that one man can render another.

God has a plan for church growth and you have a part to play. You are called to invite. (…) When was the last time you brought someone to church? If you discovered a cure for cancer or Alzheimer’s, wouldn’t you share it? Jesus said, ‘A certain man gave a great supper and invited many and he sent his servant to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready’ (Luke 14:16-17). When the invited guests started making excuses as to why they couldn’t come, the master said to the servant, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23 NKJV). Note the words ‘compel them to come.’ Pick them up in your car, arrange breakfast before church or lunch afterwards. Get creative, but whatever you do, bring them to church!

Bob Gass

Source: The UCB Word For Today, 1/7/2014

Q. If I were an unbeliever in your neighbourhood/parish do you have an event that you could invite me to?