Posted by: Harry Sasnowitz | April 21, 2016

Another “I Invited Someone To Church” Disaster

Just heard someone share another “I invited someone to church” story that turned out to be a total disaster.

If you have a relational connection with someone, why not take time getting to know them and engaging relationally with them over dinner or coffee? Why not be in an environment where there can be a mutual exchange of hearts? When opportunities arise, why not be there to offer the encouragement or help they need in the current moment? Why not let them taste of the life of Christ in you through your love, service and friendship? Why not demonstrate the reality of the gospel to them, and share the Word of the gospel when appropriate?

Inviting someone to church has become a convenient way for many of us to avoid relational engagement with those that God has put across our paths. It’s much easier to simply invite someone to church and wait for them to show up, rather than making ourselves available to them in time, love and service. It’s sad when our preoccupation with “church” becomes more important than walking by faith. No need to be present in the life or circumstance of another, allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal the life of Jesus through you. Just invite them to church and let them hear your magnificent pastor! Let the professional clergy do what they’re paid to do!

All to often, the whole “taking someone to church” scenario turns out to be the proverbial “nail in the coffin” for your guest. Not only are they not coming back; they’re totally turned off by our plastic church pageantry. Let me just say that I know that there can be exceptions to this; you may be part of a traditional congregation that is truly relationally centered and not given over to dry liturgy and religious form over relational substance. If that’s the case, that’s wonderful! But think about what so many people DO experience who are invited to church for the first time: They walk into an environment with a bunch of people they don’t know, typically hear “Christian Lingo” in the congregation and from the pulpit that they don’t understand, witness a “worship time” where the congregants robotically follow the instructions of the worship leader to sing, clap, praise, shout, jump, etc…, and then sit quietly for 45 minutes in a one way communication environment to hear a sermon that may or may not be relevant to where they’re at… something they could have easily listened to via a podcast or download in the comfort of their own home. No meaningful interaction whatsoever.

You may say, “Well, it’s still better than sitting at home on Sunday morning! For the Bible makes it clear that we should not neglect the assembling of ourselves together.”

But how “relationally engaging” are our typical Sunday morning services? They’re not, and it’s time we were honest about this. When the Bible talks of the assembling of ourselves together, the context has nothing to do with a group of people who continually gather under the same roof for years, yet for the most part don’t even know each other’s names. If that’s the “assembling together” that the New Testament speaks of, I’ll pass. And so will many of your friends who you invite to church.

I still recall the day I officially left institutional Christianity. Over time, I was slowly drawing back from it; I was becoming more engaged with others outside of the typical institutional church environment, and in the process was finding more authentic relationships with people and deeper growth in my relationship with God. After a particular Sunday morning service, the pastor implored everybody to “bring their friends to church so they could be a part of what’s going on.” I sat for awhile in my seat and asked myself some honest questions:

“Do I really want to invite people here? Do I really want to introduce them to institutional Christian religion… to Sunday services…. to hearing the mixture of law and grace coming from the pulpit? Do I really want them to be fleeced under a mandatory tithe which has no legitimacy from a New Covenant exegetical perspective? Do I really want them to be part of an environment that establishes people in performance based religion and a dependency upon services and programs, rather than the deeper realities of the New Covenant, our identity in Christ, the Holy Spirit within and real-life relationship? Do I really want to point them in the direction of finding relationship with Christ and others through this type of faith-expression?”

My honest answer was “No.” Which led me to the next question that I asked myself, which was, “Then why are you even here?” That’s when I left for good, other than to go back periodically to get a glimpse of various churches, for the purpose of having a point of reference when engaging with those who are coming out of religious institutions to find more relational expressions of faith.

People are thirsting for relationships… for community. And that’s one of the reasons why there’s a mass exodus from religious institutions…. not by people who are “leaving the faith” but by people who desire a greater experience and expression of authentic faith. It’s an exodus from institutional Christian religion to the simplicity of life in Christ… a life of faith expressing itself through love, friendship and service… not via organized institutional events or programs, but through lives in true communion with each other that are sensitive to the heart-beat of God and open to engaging with humanity in the arena of real life.

Biblically speaking, the Church is not a place to go, or something to do. The Church (Ekklesia) is a people; we are the Body of Christ, and may His fullness be expressed in and through us, not only to one another, but to those that God has graciously placed within our unique spheres of influence.

 

 

 

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Responses

  1. I was a teenager, about 14-15 maybe, invited to local church, I barely sat down when a man, who turned was my neighbor from across the street, said to me in a loud boisterous voice, calling me by name, ‘the church is going to burn down, ‘me’ is in church and it’s gonna burn!’ This coming from a man who prided himself all his life for not tasting alcohol, yet was an adulterer about town…
    Thank GOD, GOD got me a few years later, and it wasn’t in any church building or from another person, He reached out in dreams, I am so thankful.
    Too many out there who have hurt others by judging and opening their mouths against others and are such hypocrites…

    Like

    • Wanda, it’s amazing how much God loves us. He will pursue us through whatever means necessary. So glad that your teenage experience in that church wasn’t the final straw for you. Thank you for sharing.

      Like


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