It's funny how you remember certain things. I remember the first time I went to youth group. I think I was in the 5th grade. Our church had recently gotten a new pastor, Faith Chandler. We didn't have a youth group, but she was determined to start one.
I was pretty shy as a kid, and I probably wouldn't have gone. I wanted to go. But I really didn't know who else was going or if I would know anyone else. It sounded like fun. But I wasn't sure what to expect. Ultimately I did go, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. It was at youth group over the next several years that I begin to genuinely connect to Jesus and grow in my faith. A few years into my youth group experience, at the age of 15, I felt the call to ministry.
So, why did I go to youth group that first time? Because someone invited me, and I knew there would be at least one other person I knew. I want to remind us that there is power in invitation. As a church, we do all kinds of outreach activities. We advertise in the paper, put up posters, place lawn signs and hang banners. We even promote on social media. And all of those things have value. But far and away the most effective tool we have for reaching the unchurched is still personal invitation.
I realize that sometimes we will invite people and they will not come. But sometimes they will. And for those who accept the invitation the results can be life changing. When people have the opportunity to hear and respond to the good news of Jesus, it not only changes their life in the here and now, it changes their eternity.
While none of us are likely to bat a thousand when it comes to people's response to our invitation, there are some things that can help to increase our averages.
- Invite them to something specific. i.e. Come with me to this concert, join me for worship this Sunday, bring the kids to our Easter Egg hunt on this day.
- Invite then to come WITH you. Offer to pick them up. Tell them you will meet them at the front door. Maybe even invite them to breakfast before or after.
- Give them something as a reminder. We often provide invitation cards that you can hand to people. All the basic information they need to know is included on it. People don't always remember details. With the card in hand they have the address, the time of the service/event and the church website. It gives them something they can put on their fridge as a reminder.
- Make the most of high potential times. There are certain times when people are likely to be more open to an invitation. For example, Christmas and Easter are times people are more likely to be open to an invitation to worship.
- Pray. Pray for the people that you would like to invite. Ask God to begin to prepare their heart to receive the invitation.
With Easter soon to be upon us, I would ask you to begin praying for a few of your friends, coworkers, neighbors or family members who do not yet have an active relationship with Jesus Christ. Ask God to begin to open their heart to an invitation. Pray for opportunities to extend an invitation. And pray that God would give you the boldness to seize those opportunities as they come. Your invitation could change someone's eternity. Remember, Everyone Needs Jesus!
I hope you can join us this weekend as we continue what has been a great series from the Book of James "Real World."