"Ninety-six percent of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if they are invited." Dr. Thomas Rainer made this claim in his article Ten Surprises About the Unchurched - Understanding their Hearts and Minds posted 7/11/2007.
The next obvious question is: Are Christians inviting non-Christians to church? The heartbreaking answer is "no." Rainer claims that only 21 percent of active churchgoers invite anyone to church in the course of a year. But only 2 percent of the church members invited an unchurched person to church. That's sad! Why do you think this is? A simple invite can go a long way.
One excuse might be that we're too afraid to invite. I like a basic four-step relational formula that helps remove some of my fear because it's so simple.
It's based on a concept I heard a while ago that explains four levels of relationships:
- The Sidewalk Stage This is the basic stranger relationship. If you took your trash to the curb and someone was walking by on the sidewalk in front of your house, how would the conversation go? It would be primitive, shallow, and probably about the weather. You may not ever get their name, but you smiled, were friendly, and conversational.
- The Porch Stage If the sidewalk contact were to happen on a regular basis, eventually you would get the individual's name and the conversations would begin to extend beyond just the weather. They would extend in length and eventually the person may enter your yard, just to connect with you. The relationship is developing and may or may not go any further.
- The Living Room Stage If a porch relationship continued to develop, a friendship would begin. At this point you may invite this new found friend into your home. The conversations would continue to go deeper and yet, still not intimate. At this point, you are serving your friend and they are welcome guests into your home and life.
- The Kitchen Stage As the relationship continued to develop and the Living Room visits became more frequent, the conversations would become more intimate. At this point, you move beyond serving a guest and into close friends. Close friends and family are welcome into the kitchen and begin to assist in preparing the meal and helping with clean-up. Isn't it true? When we have family over for Christmas dinner, don't you find that often the best and deepest conversations occur in the kitchen as we work together toward a common end.
I've applied these four levels into my own life and experience and I have taught them to our church. I encourage people to invest in a relationship so that it progresses through the levels, stressing not to extend an invite to church until the relationship has at least comfortably moved to the Living Room stage. It's simple. It's comfortable. And, I've found that it works.
When is the last time you have invited an unchurched person to church? It could make the difference in the eternal destiny of a person. Try the four levels. It may be that simple, and it may be that profound.