In the COVID world, there’s been much talk about the need for the church to get out of the four walls. Things often get said like, “We shouldn’t be bringing the lost to us, we should be going to the lost!” In one sense I understand this. We should be going to reach people where they are at, showing the love of Christ in workplaces, through social action and with our friends.
However, sentences like this often diminish the role the Worship Service plays in the salvation experience. And it seems that even in Scripture, there is evidence that the Worship Service was used as a tool for evangelism. Consider 1 Corinthians 14: 22-25 (my emphasis added):
“Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!"
It appears that even in the early church, the concept of unbeliever joining the Worship Service was not unheard of, rather, Paul makes is that we help to make services understandable for unbelievers.
The Worship Service still holds a vital role in bringing people to Christ, mostly because it is still by far the most common means by which salvation occurs: Friends bringing their non-Christian friends to church.
However, you may be reading this and thinking, “that’s all well and good, so why don’t my congregation bring their non-Christian friends to church? In the world of online church, it is now easier than ever for people to invite their friends. All they need to do is hit share and they’re done, however the same problems that existed in inviting friends to in-person services exist in inviting friends to online services.
You may be thinking, we have no problem with new people coming to church. However, I’ve rarely seen a church not have this problem. Its almost always a front door problem. A good gauge to work to is that the number of new people per year must at least match the weekly congregation size. So in a church of 100 people, you need to get at least 100 new people in per year, that’s about 2 per week. If you’re not hitting these figures, you’ve got work to do on your service.
Here’s a few reasons why your congregation aren’t inviting their friends:
I hear a lot of preachers downplay the need for great music, lighting and decor in the role it plays in bringing people to Christ. That may be true, however, it undeniably affects whether people will invite their friends. Think about it: let’s say you go to a restaurant that serves healthy food. However, when you arrive, you wait an hour to be seated, the restaurant is dirty, the waiter is rude, they mess up the order, the food comes out cold and it doesn’t even taste nice. Are you going to invite your friends? Of course not! It doesn’t matter how healthy the food is, if the quality of the experience is not good, they’ll never bring their friends through the front door.
If you want your congregation to invite their friends it must pass the bar of quality. Tim Keller put it well when he said,
“The larger the church, the higher its aesthetic bar must be. In smaller churches the worship experience is rooted mainly in horizontal relationships among those who attend. Musical offerings from singers who are untrained and not especially talented are nonetheless appreciated because “we all know them” and they are members of the fellowship. But the larger the church, the more worship is based on the vertical relationship— on a sense of transcendence. If an outsider comes in who doesn’t know the musicians, then a mediocre quality of production will distract them from worship. They don’t have a relationship with the musicians to offset the lack of giftedness. So the larger the church, the more the music becomes an inclusion factor.”
At thinking.church we are non-denominational, and we welcome all Christian denominations. However, denominational practice can still be done without being weird. Unfortunately, we Christians love a bit of weird. As The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14, though, the goal shouldn’t be our experience, but helping others enter in. In Paul’s case, speaking in tongues was the “weird” thing, so he advised the churches to prophesy instead.
People won’t invite their friends if they think it’s going to be weird. And by now, most non-Christians have seen the memes and videos go around on the internet of weird Christian services anyway, so your congregation will know if they think the service is in that ballpark and they’ll avoid inviting their friends.
Whilst I’m a big fan of debating penal substitutionary atonement, your church’s non-Christian friends aren’t. In fact they’ve probably never said the last two words and snigger at the first. If your congregation don’t perceive that the service is going to help their friends in some way, they’re not going to invite them.
This is not to say that your church services need to become shallow. Quite the opposite. Non-Christians are looking to engage in deep thinking, but it needs to be said in understandable language.
This means that you need to run your preach past a few people before you deliver it. Ask people, “Is this speaking to a real need in peoples’ lives?” and “Am I using the right language to convey it?”
If your congregation are not inviting their friends, we can help you get a plan to improve your worship service and hook you up with professionals from Sound & Lighting through to training teams. Just drop us an email to get started on email@example.com.