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Source: (consider it) Thread: Inviting friends to church
Gramps49
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It is fairly easy to invite a friend to go shopping with you.

It is fairly easy to invite a friend to go to a movie.

It probably is quite easy to invite a friend to eat dinner, too.

But, why is it hard to invite a friend to go to church?

I ask this because I have been nominated for synod council and am being assigned to be on an evangelism task force.

I would like to get some reactions to consider how to approach the issue.

Thanks for your input.

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Amanda B. Reckondwythe

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The comparison is just a tad bit invalid, I think. The friend who you invite to go shopping, see a movie, or eat dinner is most likely already "into" all of those things, and you know he or she would love to come along.

The friend you invite to church, on the other hand, may be unchurched from the get-go, or may have had a bad experience with church and so shuns it, or may have a variety of other reasons for not wanting to go.

And so the approach you use will be different for that friend as opposed to your shopaholic or movie buff or gourmand friend.

But it must also be said that perhaps your friend is of a different denomination and you are inviting him or her to come along with you to experience worship in your denomination. That, too, requires a different approach.

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Leorning Cniht
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quote:
Originally posted by Gramps49:

But, why is it hard to invite a friend to go to church?

People you invite to see a movie with you, or eat a meal, or go shopping, are people who tend to shop, eat, and watch movies. You're not asking them to do something new - you're asking them to do it with you.

People you ask to church are people who do not attend church - you're asking them to do something new. (It's easy to invite a church-going friend who is visiting your town to come to church with you; not so easy to invite the guys from the pub.)

To the extent that people are aware that churches exist, you're also asking them to do something that they have rejected. So it's not "here's this thing you've never heard of - come and do it with me, it'll be fun."

You're asking people to adopt a faith, not spend a morning in some enjoyable cultural activity. That's a much bigger question than "why not come with me on Sunday for a bit of a sing-song?"

If you invite someone to learn to play bridge with you, the point of the activity is playing bridge. But if you invite them to church, the point of church isn't the details of what you do on a Sunday morning - the point of church is Christ.

(If you sing in the choir, and are recruiting more singers, this might not be true. And this is born out by anecdote - it seems easier to invite someone to sing in the choir with you (where the primary intent is to come and sing, rather than anything to do with faith).)

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SusanDoris

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That is quite a task you are taking on. I hope you do not mind my coming in here with a few thoughts: If you are talking to a friend, then presumably you know something about their lives and beliefs.
What will a church service offer them? If the answer is something about music, company, a sermon, etc, they do not need to go to church to have those.
If the church is a CofE, how would they feel about standing up, sitting down, kneeling, bowing head, etc. What would there be in the service that you think might make them want to repeat the exercise??
If the service is in a cathedral, then they might agree to attend to hear the singing in such acoustics.
How will they feel about the seating?! If it is wooden chairs or pews, then that could well put them off! [Smile]

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Schroedinger's cat

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My answer to this would always be another question "why do you want to invite them to go to church"?

For most people, I would want to be a friend to them, listen to them, see what they are interested in. This is not as a way of getting them into church, just because they are another human being.

I would rather invite them for a meal, or to the pub. I would rather spend time with them, doing things they want to do. That is how you develop a relationship, a friendship with someone. And, in those discussions, my faith is likely to come up, as a part of who I am.

And it may be that at some point I would invite them to church. But I would do that if I felt that it would be something they would find useful. And it is not the end-game - there is no end-game. It is a relationship, a friendship. I hope it would go on a long time.

I do think some people feel that "getting people to church" is the limit of their evangelism. There is a sense that they have done their bit. Then it is down to the vicar or the church or God to do the rest. Which makes it more like a dodgy hard-sell scheme - the sort I would avoid like the plague.

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sabine
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I love where I worship (two places) and often find myself excitedly asking friends to join me.

But as soon as they hear the words "Quaker" or "Mennonite," they act as though they can't decide if I've just asked them to do some sort of anthropological fieldwork.

So I wait until there is a special occasion (e.g., an art exhibit) at the Meeting/church and make my offer then. A couple I invited by this means have since joined my Mennonite church.

sabine

[ 27. March 2017, 17:43: Message edited by: sabine ]

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leo
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quote:
Originally posted by Gramps49:
an evangelism task force.

Evangelism is not about getting people to go to church.

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Pigwidgeon

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quote:
Originally posted by leo:
quote:
Originally posted by Gramps49:
an evangelism task force.

Evangelism is not about getting people to go to church.
Thank you!
[Overused]

(Just as Stewardship is not about increasing pledges and plate offerings.)

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Og, King of Bashan

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quote:
Originally posted by Pigwidgeon:
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
quote:
Originally posted by Gramps49:
an evangelism task force.

Evangelism is not about getting people to go to church.
Thank you!
[Overused]

(Just as Stewardship is not about increasing pledges and plate offerings.)

While I generally agree with this statement, I do think that overemphasis on this point leads my church to near-disaster every year. We get all sorts of talks from vestry members about what the church means to me and why I pledge. Then they try to put together a budget from the resulting pledges, and find themselves very short. We get a follow up "we do really need X number of dollars to pay the priest and the electric bill" talk, and then the money shows up. I don't think that they should focus exclusively on paying the bills, but it's at least part of the point of the stewardship campaign.

So Evangelism isn't about getting butts into seats. We probably all agree on this point. But what is the task of the evangelism committee, and what might be a better tactic than telling everyone to invite a friend?

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"I like to eat crawfish and drink beer. That's despair?" ― Walker Percy

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Gramps49
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Granted, the task of any evangelism effort is to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Thank you for that reminder.


But, again, why is it hard for people to share the good news of Jesus Christ?

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Martin60
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Invite women, their kids and mums to Messy Church and create community. Feed, clothe, comfort, share, shelter, rescue, protect. Their men will follow. You know, like the Donner Party. A matriarchal Islam.

[ 27. March 2017, 20:34: Message edited by: Martin60 ]

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Martin60
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quote:
Originally posted by Gramps49:
Granted, the task of any evangelism effort is to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Thank you for that reminder.


But, again, why is it hard for people to share the good news of Jesus Christ?

What's that?

[ 27. March 2017, 20:43: Message edited by: Martin60 ]

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Love wins

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Leorning Cniht
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quote:
Originally posted by Gramps49:
But, again, why is it hard for people to share the good news of Jesus Christ?

Perhaps because most people think they've heard it? We are (most of us) living in culturally Christian societies. People think they know about God, and that they don't need Him, or He doesn't exist.

And, frankly, Christians have a bad reputation. There are plenty of people doing God's work, but there are a smaller number of very loud people banging on about gays, abortion, contraception, and generally trying to bully people in the name of Christ.

Those are the loudest voices. To many of my colleagues, "Christian" means the Tea Party, not selling cakes to gay couples, and keeping trans kids out of bathrooms.

You have to get past that before you can get anywhere, and "that" is being continually reinforced in the news.

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ThunderBunk

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The world is laminated against Christianity, by slight and partial, passive acquaintance which is mistaken for real knowledge. I really don't know what we do to penetrate the shrink-wrap. It's incredibly strong and flexible.

Seems to be true of most things I care about - I very much hope it's nothing personal.

[ 27. March 2017, 20:49: Message edited by: ThunderBunk ]

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rolyn
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I was secular for 40 years. My impression of religion then, along with most I associated with, was that it was something I didn't want to get 'caught up in'.

I started going to Church because I felt moved to do so. My own commitment has since gone into decline, when I do go I see the once vibrant, (if not mature), congregation shtrinking dramatically year on year.
A friend if asked might come along once or maybe twice out of politeness, it won't stem the rot.

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Martin60
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LC. In the US, not the UK ... apart from the residual homophobia and sexism. The medium is the message. What the church does. Not bizarre stories about a magic man dying for our sins whom we must love or burn. The church is not known for loving those who turn to it in any meaningful way. Islam is.

[ 27. March 2017, 20:59: Message edited by: Martin60 ]

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Love wins

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Gamaliel
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I've not taken an un-churched friend or un-churched family member to church for years and years.

When I have done the experience has rarely been positive.

Either something embarrassing happened or something was said that put them off ...

Mind you, I'd be put off these days by the sorts of churches that I once found attractive ...

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Schroedinger's cat

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quote:
Originally posted by Gramps49:
Granted, the task of any evangelism effort is to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Thank you for that reminder.


But, again, why is it hard for people to share the good news of Jesus Christ?

I think your terms explain this ideally. an "evangelism effort" - sounds like a programme to get more people into church to me. Because that is what it normally is.

"share the good news of Jesus Christ" That is what so many people feel they have to do. Whereas most people should just make friends, without some ulterior motive.

So, on twitter, there are a number of people I engage with who are not Christian, who have (sometimes) explicitly and deliberately rejected Christianity. I engage with them in all sorts of ways, and sometimes say that I will pray for them. And other times offer hugs and share how crap things are.

Far too much of the church is about results - if you are going to have an "evangelism effort", there is an expectation of some new people in church. If there is a "stewardship campaign" [as others have pointed out] there is an expectation that the church coffers will be improved.

Whereas the real "results" of an evangelism effort should be that people realise that they need to talk to other people, their friends and neighbours, and put other people above doing church stuff. The real "results" of a stewardship campaign should be that people use their time and money more thoughtfully.

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Lamb Chopped
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An evangelism campaign IMHO should be about training evangelists--that is, getting ordinary Christians to realize that they are already in fact witnesses for Christ (or against him), and here are some things they can do to improve (or at least avoid being jackasses). One of those things would be to rid them of the idea that getting someone in the church door is going to magically have some good effect on the person, and the inviter can now sit back and do nothing.

If you look at the Bible, you don't (well, I don't) see believers inviting others to come along to a worship service--certainly not often. I do see believers doing stuff like helping the poor etc. and pointing people in the direction of Jesus himself. Church service is not a decent surrogate for that.

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SusanDoris

Incurable Optimist
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quote:
Originally posted by ThunderBunk:
The world is laminated against Christianity, by slight and partial, passive acquaintance which is mistaken for real knowledge.

What would you say is the 'real knowledge'?

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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Gamaliel
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How to lose friends and not influence people (or influence them badly): invite them to church.

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Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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SvitlanaV2
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I did invite a non-churchgoing friend with me to church recently. She loves jazz, so we went to a jazz Christmas carol service, and then the same band was participating in a service a couple of months ago, and she agreed to go to that. (The event was also recorded for 'Songs of Praise'. That was unexpected!)

She really liked the music, but the 2nd time around she didn't find the atmosphere sufficiently uplifting. (It wasn't to do with any hard sell, because these events aren't evangelical in origin.) She's considered going back again, but she reminded me recently that she's not a churchgoer, which I think is a reference to her sense of identity; attending church simply isn't a part of that.

I'm glad she was happy to go along with me, but I shan't mention it again. I'll leave her to bring it up herself, if she wants to.

[ 28. March 2017, 12:58: Message edited by: SvitlanaV2 ]

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leo
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quote:
Originally posted by Gramps49:
Granted, the task of any evangelism effort is to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Thank you for that reminder. ?

I still don't agree. I think it is about establishing God's reign of justice and peace.

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Martin60
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They're the same.

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Love wins

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SusanDoris

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quote:
Originally posted by leo:
I still don't agree. I think it is about establishing God's reign of justice and peace.

How would you explain that to someone you might invite to church, I wonder?

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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leo
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Why invite a non-believer to church?

Why invite a teetotaller to a pub?
Why invite someone tone-deaf to a concert?

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Leorning Cniht
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quote:
Originally posted by leo:
Why invite a non-believer to church?

Why invite a teetotaller to a pub?
Why invite someone tone-deaf to a concert?

Well, I've often been to pubs with people who didn't drink. They chat, play pool, and generally do everything I do in pubs except for drink beer.

And I have, in fact, invited non-believers to church, because they were curious about what went on. I didn't expect them to have a Damascene experience in the pews, but they wanted to see what went on, so I took them.

Oh, and almost every wedding and baptism I've been to has had a collection of non-believers.

But to address what I think is your point, how do you think someone should manage their transition from non-believer to believer? Suppose you begin with a person who has no faith, and over time, through conversation with Christian friends, reading, and whatever, that person starts to think that maybe it's worth considering whether there's something in this whole God business.

What do you think they should do? When would you think they should go to church?

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Schroedinger's cat

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quote:
Originally posted by leo:
quote:
Originally posted by Gramps49:
Granted, the task of any evangelism effort is to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Thank you for that reminder. ?

I still don't agree. I think it is about establishing God's reign of justice and peace.
I still think this is too institutional. The purpose of evangelism is to be the presence of God in the world. An evangelistic effort is to convince the congregation that they can be the presence of God in the world.

Too much of the evangelism discourse makes it sound like a military conquest. The theological basis of this is dubious, and the success in real terms is even more so. But this is so entrenched in so many peoples concepts that it is hard to consider it as something different.

So am I an evangelist at work? Yes. Many people there know I am a Christian. I have had some interesting discussions with others. But there are also some who I talk to each week who don't know, because I am not pushy or overt about it. But I am not ashamed of my faith. When appropriate, I will talk about it. But never ever to force or convert - given that we have Hindus, Muslims, atheists and who knows what else, that is probably safest. And I have no desire to convert people to my particular version of faith. I have a desire, rather, that I can offer help and support and consolation to others.

Maybe if more people knew how to listen, rather than talk, an evangelism effort would actually prove more fruitful.

--------------------
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Lord may all my hard times be healing times
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no prophet's flag is set so...

Proceed to see sea
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So do we have any idea how many times Jesus went to temple and synagogue? Or any of the 12, or Paul? Most of our stories are about the gang being out with people. Doing stuff. Helping, teaching, arguing etc.
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Lamb Chopped
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Er, sorry to deflate the rhetoric, but I ran across this last week:

On Jesus and Paul

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
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Martin60
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quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
I still don't agree. I think it is about establishing God's reign of justice and peace.

How would you explain that to someone you might invite to church, I wonder?
Excellent question SusanDoris.

Anyone?

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Net Spinster
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quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
Invite women, their kids and mums to Messy Church and create community. Feed, clothe, comfort, share, shelter, rescue, protect. Their men will follow. You know, like the Donner Party. A matriarchal Islam.

So who eats whom a la the Donner party?

More seriously organize something that is useful and at least somewhat neutral as far as religion/denomination and invite others to help out. I know one local church was running a temporary homeless shelter during the wettest/coldest months of the year and asked for volunteers from the local community as well as the church (and those actually staying in the shelter) to provide meals and help each day getting the church setup and packed away. Have an event to raise money for something useful for the community and not specifically for the church. You might not gain any new adherents but you will affect how people perceive Christians (plus most importantly helping people). In other words invite by your way of life.

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Schroedinger's cat

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# 64

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quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
I still don't agree. I think it is about establishing God's reign of justice and peace.

How would you explain that to someone you might invite to church, I wonder?
Excellent question SusanDoris.

Anyone?

I think if you get them to come to church for long enough, they too will start using meaningless jargon.

I work in IT. I know all about meaningless jargon.

If it isn't about making the world a better place, and the world for a particular person, with their perspective, then it is meaningless. As in IT, I can write code with all of the latest tools, tricks and frameworks. If it is unusable, it is irrelevant.

A theological understanding of what it is all about is fine. But if that doesn't produce people who are caring, concerned, and passionate for others (not just for getting others into church) it is irrelevant.

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leo
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# 1458

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quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
I still don't agree. I think it is about establishing God's reign of justice and peace.

How would you explain that to someone you might invite to church, I wonder?
Why invite them to church?

I'd invite them to a peace rally or other demo - as i often have.

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Gramps49
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# 16378

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I appreciate the discussion. You are making very good points. My internet is touch and go at this point, but I hope to be able to ask follow on questions shortly.
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SusanDoris

Incurable Optimist
# 12618

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quote:
Originally posted by leo:
Why invite them to church?
I'd invite them to a peace rally or other demo - as i often have.

However, the OP was particularly about inviting a friend to church ...

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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rolyn
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# 16840

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If it was ever going to work, then it would be the other way around.
I.E. a friend might ask a friend,who already frequents Church, -- May I come with you to Church as I have been thinking things through and have a strong feeling that I would like to get into worshiping God in a Church setting--

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stonespring
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# 15530

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At every church I have attended I have heard calls form the pulpit to invite friends, family, etc., to come to church, often couched with the statement that "We (Roman Catholics or Episcopalians, given my church attending history) do evangelism, too. And it is our duty as Christians, you know." The preacher will always differentiate this from the aggressive proselytism that is associated with stereotypical Christian evangelism.

That said, I confess that I have never invited anyone to Church other than for a special celebration (Christmas, Easter, etc.), or if I am visiting them and attending a nearby church while in town, or in order to hear or participate in a choir or other musical group or event.

Who here actually has invited people to church and how have you done it? How many people do you think actually do this, especially in the RCC, Anglicanism, and Mainline denominations?

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SusanDoris

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# 12618

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quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
Excellent question SusanDoris.

Thank you!
quote:
Originally posted by Schroedinger's cat:
I think if you get them to come to church for long enough, they too will start using meaningless jargon.

I work in IT. I know all about meaningless jargon.

That is an interesting take on the language of religions. I had never thought of it like that before, but I shall bear it in mind in future!

That is how I read your post, but please let me know if I have read wrongly.

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Pigwidgeon

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I've also heard many, many times over the years that some large percentage of parishioners originally started attending church because they were invited by someone. Personally, I don't know of any (except those who were invited as boyfriends/girlfriends and might or might not now be spouses). I really wonder where those statistics come from.

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mark_in_manchester

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# 15978

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My (newlywed) parents were invited to the church they still attend 45+ years ago by a neighbour. They'd attended as children various other places in other towns, but here they were. Maybe my forthcoming arrival had something to do with it.

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L'organist
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# 17338

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I invite friends to things like our carol service or if we're having something special like a Christmas Oratorio or similar.

Most of my friends are already churchgoers and/or sing or play in a church, so most of us are already in our own place on a Sunday.

I do make a point of inviting wedding couples I see to attend on Sundays before their banns are read and before any final decisions are made on music because IME it can help those unfamiliar with the building to (a) feel more at ease in church, and (b) get a clearer idea of how things may sound when the building is full of people. To the surprise of our vicar this has resulted in 3 couples becoming regular (twice a month roughly) worshippers.

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Augustine the Aleut
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# 1472

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The only time I have invited a friend to church was a graduate student in music to choral evensong, with bells, whistles, incense, lots of Tallis & Dowland. It was the first time that she (a Calgary-based Jain) had ever been in a church-- she only knew church services from channel-surfing by TV-evangelical services, and said that it was really not what she thought it would be like. In any case she had a great chat with the organist and several of the choristers and went off with a stack of sheet music. She declined the parish bunfight, saying that her temple had far better food.
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Schroedinger's cat

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# 64

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quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
quote:
Originally posted by Schroedinger's cat:
I think if you get them to come to church for long enough, they too will start using meaningless jargon.

I work in IT. I know all about meaningless jargon.

That is an interesting take on the language of religions. I had never thought of it like that before, but I shall bear it in mind in future!

That is how I read your post, but please let me know if I have read wrongly.

The thing is, it isn't actually meaningless jargon, but most people who use it don't understand what it really means, and couldn't explain it. So it is jargon as used by most people. It is not uncommon - there is a lot of it. Usually explained to them by someone who understands it a little bit more, and some people take the terminology and use it with even less understanding. But it sounds good.

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Martin60
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# 368

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Perfick.

@Pigwigeon. I've known two very sweet little old ladies out of half a dozen congregations. They were lonely.

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SvitlanaV2
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# 16967

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It's not part of mainstream church culture to invite friends to church. Even the clergy who politely ask us to do it make it seem like an optional, marginal thing. They offer no advice as to how it might be done without embarrassment.

But institutions that can't bring themselves to invite outsiders (and also find it difficult to hold on to their own members, especially the younger ones) inevitably experience decline. An individual congregation might benefit from various factors that make it successful regardless of wider trends, but many others will end up seriously compromised. As has already happened around Britain and elsewhere.

I'm not saying there's a simple solution. I just think that on a thread about this subject there should be at least a passing reference to this problem.

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Gramps49
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# 16378

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This past Sunday I was the worship assistant. I noted that a 12-year-old boy had invited a friend (who happened to be a girl) to attend church with his family. She even assisted during communion.

Then as I was distributing the bread/body I noted that one of the college-aged women brought came forward with a male friend. I spoke with him right after worship. He said they had met last year in the dorm.

It seems that as I look back on the newcomers who have come in the past year most of them have been invited by young people. They just don't seem to have any qualms about inviting friends.

I just read an article "I Love to Tell the Story" (Helga Jansons, Cross Connection, Apr 2017, p. 4). She points out that, while trying to remember the whole Bible or all of Christian theology, the main question that needs to be answered is "Why is God central in your life?"

If asked, I would think Christians would be open to answering it.

An old saying I once heard, I heard, and liked, describes evangelism as where a hungry person tells another hungry person where to find food.

t

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Martin60
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# 368

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That's been failing since it was new. Unless you're born to it, your chance of converting to anything is about 1:1000

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SvitlanaV2
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# 16967

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quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
That's been failing since it was new. Unless you're born to it, your chance of converting to anything is about 1:1000

Actually, I've read that that's not quite true. Christianity has grown most rapidly where focused efforts have been made to convert outsiders. When groups begin to rely purely on faith transmission to their own children their numbers slide downwards.

But you're right in the sense that British church membership figures as a percentage of the surrounding population for most denominations have been falling for a long time.

[ 29. March 2017, 22:44: Message edited by: SvitlanaV2 ]

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Martin60
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# 368

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What outsiders? Where? China? Japan? India? Indonesia? Pakistan? Bangladesh? Burma? Thailand? Malaysia? Israel? Egypt? Turkey? Iran? The secular, unchurched in Europe? America?

It grows in Catholic America and black Africa. With the population. That's all. Any local exceptions prove the rule. Evangelicalism is dying everywhere apart from where it poaches from Catholicism.

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