A friend posted the following question on Facebook. I wanted to respond, but I did not want to blow up the thread. So, I decided to take some time to think about the question and respond more fully (mainly for my sake).
On to the question.
Should our focus lean more towards training church members to invite someone to church so they can hear the gospel or on training them to share the gospel without a church invite in mind?
Let me make a couple of observations right at the beginning.
- I believe framing of the question is all wrong, but I understand (at least I think I do) why it is asked this way.
- The problem the Church has to address is its insistence on defining/describing the church as a location.
I want to unpack my two observations a little more fully. This is an important issue and one that we have to work harder at addressing in the Church.
First, I believe the question is all wrong.
Why? Because it poses a question that God, Jesus, the Bible, the apostles, church history will NEVER be able to answer. And the reason the question won’t be answered is that it doesn’t actually identify a problem the aforementioned saw as an issue. The idea of inviting people to go to a location to receive information has been completely foreign to the life of the church.
The notion of “thought leaders,” “content matter experts,” “influencers” and gurus is a modern innovation. This is not the way that people generally looked for answers to their questions. Life was the great teacher. And the people you did life with were the primary source of learning and growing.
To go a little deeper here, the Church does not have a focus, it has a mission. Christians don’t do training, we engage in discipleship. We don’t invite people to church, we receive them into the body. The church is not the place to hear the Gospel,
it’s where believers receive instruction for Gospel mission it’s when believers assemble to receive instruction for Gospel mission. Until we straighten out how we are thinking and talking about these issues, we will continue to have issues.
Second, we have to stop talking about the Church as a place. Period.
The Church is everywhere. And, there may be expressions of that one Church in local congregations. And, those congregations may meet in a variety of locations. But there is still and always will be one Church. No matter how messed up the people who make her up.
This is something I’m actually working on myself. I don’t want to invite people to church. I want to invite them to visit our fellowship, or to come and enjoy our community, or attend our gathering. Anything that makes the invitation about the people present.
We have to move away from using the concepts of marketing and branding as the lens through which we interpret the Church’s identity and purpose. These are tools. Tools that we should redeem. But when the tools become the means by which we understand who and what we are, it may be time to check our hearts!