Bring One Friend - 4th reflection
Bishop Paul offers his final reflection on the Bring One Friend challenge,
Our Rule of Life says that God is sending us to tell, but it also says that God is calling us to pray, and through our prayer I believe that we will receive the confidence and wisdom to be ministers of the Gospel – something that applies to all of us, and not just to authorised lay leaders or to the ordained.
Pray, then, for the joy and strength to engage with our challenge. And in this season the challenge is – will you Bring One Friend into the community of Christians, so that they might meet Jesus Christ and accept Him as their Saviour?
In response to this challenge you’ve already prayed about which of your friends to invite, you’ve considered what to invite them to, and hopefully you’ve actually done the deed, conquered your fears and stepped out in faith to invite a friend to an Advent or Christmas service this year.
Now what? Simply sit back and wait for them to find their own way to church? That would be easy, but success would be unlikely. There are still things to do if your care for your friend is to produce fruit.
I have talked before about the need for persistence in prayer and in friendship. A single invitation may not be sufficient. It is easy to forget how challenging accepting this might be for your friend – they trust you but you may well be inviting them to step out of their comfort zone.
Going to church may seem as familiar as getting up in the morning to you. But for your friend the prospect may be a world of anxiety – what do they wear, how do they behave, will they be judged? They can build up so many reasons and anxieties that may prevent them from coming. Not least they might not want to let you down by not finding a visit as fulfilling as you do.
All these anxieties can be overcome if you yourself are relaxed and human.
Get alongside your friend. Journey with them. Answer their questions. All this could be the start of their discipleship journey, especially if they are at point in their lives when seeking meaning – seeking God – has come to the fore.
So make it easy for them. Get alongside them, meet them beforehand, bring them with you to church, and if they are completely new to things, explain in advance some of the quirks and foibles that make up a Church of England service. Share the things you love, and – be honest! – share the things you might not like so much. All this is familiar to you but may be completely alien to your friend. Journeying with them will help them understand church and get to know Jesus.
It’s the model we get from Jesus. As he gathered the disciples he started with the call: “follow me”. He invited his first followers to gather round him. And we can see from the gospel story that some of his first followers also invited others. They brought a friend! But Jesus’s invitation was to go on a journey with him as he travelled with his disciples.
On that journey he taught them all about what it means to be a follower. About how to make a bigger difference in the lives of people, especially those in need; and about how to be a bigger church. In a small way you can mirror that with your friend – because we hope that this invitation is not simply a one-off; we hope that for them it is the beginning of a long term relationship with Jesus.
This is my final reflection for this challenge – but over the next few weeks we will be emailing a series of encouragements to you to sustain you in your ministry, as you keep inviting people. Then in January we will be asking how well this went. When we do, please respond honestly so that we can all be helped. We’re not aiming to put people on the spot but to gather some facts that will help and encourage us all.
And while all this continues we will be asking all our churches to link to the national Follow the Star campaign, which encourages everyone to come to a service over Advent and Christmas whether or not they have a friend to invite them. This is the annual evangelistic initiative from the Church of England, a national initiative that works best with your individual efforts, and sets them in the context of One Big Church.
We live in a world where Christmas seems swamped by commercialism and dominated by the pressure that this puts on people to spend and consume. In that world it is vital that the invitation to follow Jesus, to hear his story and to start to know him is essential. In making this contribution to the flourishing of our society, and to introducing people to life eternal, we stand together. Together, we are disciples.
Finally, then, I want to thank you for your prayerful engagement with this challenge. And I want to thank you more generally for all you are doing to build a bigger church and to make a bigger difference.
This comes with every blessing and with assurance of my prayers for the ministry we share,
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
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