Bring One Friend - 3rd Reflection
The third reflection examines how the fears we might have prevent us from inviting our friends. Bishop Paul shows how this is not sinful and draws from experience and the bible to provide advice on how to overcome our fears.
Those of us who have committed ourselves to the Diocesan Rule of Life believe that we are sent by God – sent to tell, serve and give. The Bring One Friend challenge is focused on “sent to tell”, and simply asks the question: what would it take for you to invite someone you know to something you love? In other words, to bring one friend into the worshipping community of the Church.
Last week I was thinking about what we might invite people to, and I said that we need to understand and make room for the preferences of the people we are inviting – what do they like; what are they like?
And I talked about the fear we all have, that we might get it wrong. It’s this fear, and fears like it, that prevent the people of God – you and me – from being the evangelists God calls us to be.
For another year the national church statistics indicate that the number of people coming to church is declining. It’s going down, on average, at the rate of one person per congregation per year.
To turn this around, therefore, we need simply to add two people per congregation per year to the worshipping communities of the church. How hard can that be?
Well, of course, for many of us it’s really pretty hard. Because to invite your friend to accompany you to church is to risk embarrassment and rejection. And that’s enough to quench the spirit of evangelism in so many of us. And so the inner voice says: “Inviting two people a year to our church? Well, two other church members can do it. It’s not my sort of thing.”
But we are all sent by God to tell – and the challenge is that we are each to Bring One Friend. That means me. That means you!
If this is indeed the challenge, then how do we overcome the blocks and barriers in our minds that prevents us from inviting our friend to church?
I imagine that you have risen to the challenge so far. You have reflected on the practical aspects. You have got your short list of friends to invite. You have researched the Advent and Christmas offerings of your church and other churches, to see what the options are. But perhaps you still can’t quite bring yourself to make the offer, and to say the words: “Would you like to come to church with me?”. The fear of rejection gets in the way.
The first thing to note is that the fear of rejection is not a sin. It’s only natural. You are not a bad person if you’re anxious about doing what you know you could, or should.
Scripture is full of stories of great leaders who feared what God was asking them to do and found different (and often outrageous) ways to avoid the task. Look at Moses and Jonah – each trying to avoid God’s call. Those of us who did the summer reading challenge looking at the book of Jonah saw this in great detail.
Point one – don’t bash yourself up about your fears but work, or more importantly allow God to work, with them.
Point two – be honest, with yourself and with God. If you’re nervous about sharing your faith, ask your Christian friends to pray for you – not to give you a thick skin or turn you into a raving and insensitive extravert, but simply to give you the gentle courage to open up a simple subject with someone who likes you. To invite someone you know to something you love.
Look at the story of Gideon. In it we see a timid man trying to avoid what he knew he had to do. Challenging God to make the fleece wet and then I will, no keep the fleece dry and then I will do what you ask. We can learn from his natural attempts and learn more from the lesson God taught. A lesson that if we try then God will give us the strength and resources to do his work. God wants the best for us.
That’s why I am encouraging you to surround this in prayer; your own prayer for wisdom and grace, and the prayers of other for courage and love. Through prayer you are connected to the strength of God equipping you and empowering you.
Anyone who shares a deep and important thing about their lives will risk rejection. The Bring One Friend challenge is a challenge to ask, a challenge to invite. God will lead you to that point, and God will do the rest afterwards. There is no guarantee of success – only a guarantee of God’s presence in the encounter.
Evangelism opens a road, and who knows where it will end? God is a God of surprises. When I was involved with the national Back To Church Sunday team, another member of the team lived in a village. She invited her next-door neighbour to church. The neighbour was busy that weekend, and apologised that she couldn’t come. Nothing daunted, my colleague invited the same neighbour to something else a couple of months later. This time the neighbour came, and was pleased to come – but did not commit herself to come again. Then a month or two later still, a Baptist friend of hers invited the same person. This time she came – and stayed as a member of the Baptist church! My colleague was not grumpy, or annoyed. She was simply delighted that God had led her neighbour to the place that was right for her.
This is one reason why the Challenge encourages you to consider more than one person on your list. If you are not immediately successful with your first invitation, then you have other people you can look to. It may be that you are called to plant a seed with the person you thought was most likely to come, and yet (God is a God of surprises!) one of your other friends will respond immediately and will provide more immediate fruit. Or it may be that none of your friends can, or will, respond positively. If that’s the case then there is no need to be discouraged. As we used to say on Back To Church Sunday: “Success is one – one invitation extended.”
The journey to faith in Christ can be a long one, and many different people can play their part in leading a person to the harbour. By extending your invitation, you will be one of them.
So please pray all this through. And on Friday we will challenge you to step out in faith with some practical tips and challenges.
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 0
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 - 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.ResourceTotal current bookmarks 0
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 0