Thursday May 9, 2012 – Inviting Church Seminar for the Diocese of BC with Michael Harvey 2004 Founder of “Back To Church Sunday” Session One
Unlocking the growth
“Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friend” – Gospel reading today.
Back to Church Sunday – my job is to get rid of it. It is only there to remind us about invitation. We are looking at a movement.
Every word has been criticized. “Back” – we are supposed to be moving forward. “Church” – do you expect people to come to church? “Sunday” – reconfirming in peoples’ minds who think church is only for Sunday. “To” – it should be the number 2 in order to attract young people.
At first we thought we were bringing people back who had been lapsed. Over time we discovered we were actually drawing in people who had never been to church.
For me now the “back” is all about God. God wants people back into a relationship. There is a momentum coming from God. God is preparing some people for a simple invitation.
The “church” of “Back to Church Sunday” has lost the plot. We think church is the act of worship on a Sunday – absolute rubbish. In may churches there is nothing going on other than worship.
Church is the gathered people of God, in fellowship, with an act of worship and mission and discipleship.
The Sunday is there, not because we are thinking about a Sunday, but so that we can focus on defeating a problem. When was the last time we invited someone to church? Isn’t invitation at the heart of God?
The one thing missing from us is that we are not inviting. We have a model of invitation but we are not inviting.
Two words to describe your congregation – choose one – is your church welcoming or inviting. But how welcoming can we be if we are not inviting?
I don’t believe in church growth. Paul – “I planted, Apollos watered, but it is God who gave the growth.” Growth comes from God. If we’re not getting growth, what is happening? We are stopping God doing what God wants to do.
Every single person here is stopping God doing what God wants to do.
Back to Church Sunday is all about the people who are not here.
We aim to reach the people who are not here, through the people who are not here. God has launched a mission to his own people. What is it we don’t understand about “Go and make disciples”.
Actually it’s not about people who are not here. This is about us. Let’s forget about evangelism and think about simple invitation.
WE believe success is one person inviting one person. Note I did not say success is NOT one person inviting one person and that person saying “yes”. This is about invitation, not about bringing somebody. The yes or the no of an invitation is God’s bit, not our bit. This is not a “bring” approach, but an invitation approach. We need to relax ourselves.
Around the world, I see that, if we get into invitation, God has prepared people. Why do we need this? You should consider having acts of worship on the threshold, because there is fear on either side of the threshold. We are afraid to invite; they are afraid to come.
Around the world there is a hint of surprise when anything good actually happens.
Around the world there is a phenomenon that 1/3 of the regular congregation don’t turn up on “Back to Church Sunday” usually either because they have not invited someone, or because the person they have invited has said no.
We have ghettoized ourselves from society.
We prove success through measurable results. But personally I am not interested in results. Success is God’s business.
In churches across Canada where there was an invitation Sunday 20% invited 80% did not.
We want to concentrate on why the majority of your congregation are not going to invite anyone.
Typically we look for success. I am not sure we would consider Jesus successful in today’s world.
Why Christians won’t invite?
Children have no trouble with inviting.
Prescription before diagnosis leads to malpractice.
We prescribe solutions – improve our liturgy, build better buildings, but we haven’t diagnosed the problem. So, what is the problem – why won’t people invite?
Suggested answers from audience:
Fear and experience of rejection.
Religion is a private thing.
Too many other activities on a Sunday – everyone is busy.
Worry that if the person comes, others will not be nice to them in church.
Don’t know how.
It’s not my job.
Don’t want change.
It feels intrusive.
They’ll find out I’m a Christian. (=the Nicodemus syndrome. He only came out at night when everyone was asleep. We are secret disciples)
Fear of associations.
Why are we going to do this?
Around the world, wherever I go, the same answers come out.