Bring One Friend - 2nd reflection
Last week we began our “Bring One Friend Challenge”. In my first reflection, I considered the significance of you being someone who invites. Your friends and acquaintances trust you. They will seriously think about coming to church, and they will weigh the claims of the Lord Jesus if you ask them to. Because it’s you, they may come. And so I reflected on persistence in inviting, and my colleagues and I set a challenge for you, namely to consider whom to invite. But if you’ve done that, and you have a shortlist of people, what are you going to invite them to? This reflection helps you consider that.
We can find many reasons for NOT inviting our friends. For example – and this example reaches far beyond the church – we want somebody to have a good experience, and yet invitation is always risky. We have all known that fear of recommending something we love to a friend, then worrying that they won’t enjoy what we love as much as we did. In short, that fear of missing the mark.
Do you know what I mean? You say to your friend: “I thought that film was the most moving and inspirational thing I have ever seen in my life – you’ve got to see it!”. And they do. And they hate it. Aagh! How toe-curling to have them tell me that was the worst two and a half hours they ever spent…
What goes for the movies can go also for church. We want to invite someone we know to something we love, but how can we be sure that they will love it too?
This is a question that we need to take to God in our prayers. As Christmas approaches, your own church, and the churches in your Deanery and in the Diocese will be providing a wide range of worship for all.
So one of the things for which we need to seek discernment and wisdom is: as I think about my friend, what sort of experience would speak to them of God? Are they a quiet person who needs space and peace and beauty in contemplation and silence at Christmas midnight? Are they a proud parent or grandparent who will love a noisy and messy afternoon crib service that will involve and bless their children or grandchildren? Do they want to experience glorious music, perhaps in our Cathedral, and if so will I accompany them there to a carol service? Do they, on the other hand, want to know that prayers are said, and worship offered, week by week in their local community, and to know that they will always be welcome there at the weekly Communion or Morning Prayer service?
Of course, many people are all these things at once, and then the discernment is to know how God wants to speak specifically to one or other part of them, as Christmas approaches.
The church is amazingly diverse, and integrity in worship embraces a huge variety of forms, as we come to the infinite God with our finite and limited selves. All this is a matter for rejoicing.
And as you pray, it may be you will feel led to invite your friend to something that you yourself wouldn’t ordinarily choose to go to. As a Christian disciple you’re sent to tell, and sometimes this will take you outside your comfort zone. So this Advent and Christmas, you may need to be prepared to step out with them, experiencing something different yourself so that they can experience something of the infinite God and the diverse Church of Jesus Christ.
All this talk of preferences may sound a bit mechanical. In the end worship is not about us but about God and therefore, you might think, we should not look at these choices with a consumerist attitude. I understand that.
But God has made you into the kind of person who is fit for evangelism, and your own preferences are part of you. Whether it’s catholic or evangelical, charismatic or choral you know the way of worshiping that makes your heart sing. And by these very preferences and loves, you will commend the Gospel to your friends, who see that you really love being with God in worship – just as you will also commend the Gospel if your friends know that you are prepared to put yourself out for their sakes and to invite them along with yourself, to worship in new and different ways.
In his first letter to the Corinthian church, St Paul makes clear that the purpose of worship is to honour and exalt God – but also to speak of God to visitors and newcomers who will connect with the truth of Jesus Christ because they understand what is being said; it speaks in their own language (see for example 1 Corinthians 14:16ff)
With all this in mind, we need to prayerfully read through our shortlist of potential invitees and ask: what do they like, what are they like?
Then we need to look at what the Church provides in this season – what are the services or events we can bring them to? What other church people might be there who could provide friendship and conversation? How can you make sure that this will be the best possible experience for the person you are looking to invite?
Once you know that, then your prayer can move to the next question – “how do I approach the moment of invitation?”
May God bless you as you follow the steps of this challenge, and become even more fully a person sent to tell – that is, an evangelist.
Bring One Friend - 1st challenge
Our first challenge helps you think around who you are going to invite.ResourceTotal current bookmarks 0
Bring One Friend - 1st reflection
Inviting people is both easy and terrifying. Easy because all we have to do is ask. Terrifying because we have a natural fear of rejection. So as we start to think about Bringing One Friend to a service or event this advent and Christmas we need to reflect on what is stopping us. Invitation is the royal road to church growth. Clever flyers, or videos, or talks on the radio – all these have their place, but research has shown that most people come to church, and then come to faith, because of a friend's invitation. In the first of his reflections, Bishop Paul looks at the power of invitation and tackles some of the fears that prevent us from making that invitation.ResourceTotal current bookmarks 2
Our Bring One Friend Challenge
This year we are challenging every member of every congregation to Bring One Friend to an advent, Christmas or epiphany service. This course helps you go step by step through the challenge as together we build a bigger church by bringing one friend.Course 7 PartsTotal current bookmarks 1