I think a good way to spark, or re-spark, the thought of inviting friends and neighbors to church is to reflect on how we ended up connected to our home churches. Obviously it's all through God, so we need to remember how He used people in our lives to get us to where we are. How can we be more open to be used by Him to connect others? Yes, some people come to church because they are looking for one, or they feel obligated, but I know what's gotten me to stick, and I would argue most people to stick, is community within the church, and the friends who invited us here in the first place. I too often forget that my involvement in any Christian group usually started with an invite from a friend, not a poster, not a creative ad. I'm not saying those things are bad or that they don't work, because at times they do, but it's more often than not, through relationships that people come to church. I need to be more aware of this and be way more intentional about talking to my friends and neighbors. How can go forth and make disciples of all the nations if we forget or refuse to go forth?
I guess one has to ask what the goal of "church attendance" is. Are we talking about people who are already believers and they don't have a home church? You bet I'll be inviting them to my church. But what if we are instead talking about unbelievers? I try to evangelize most of my unbelieving friends, but I rarely if ever invite them to church before I begin to see some sort of light turn on from our conversations. If they get little-to-nothing from the discussions we have about God, Jesus, and the Bible outside of church, why on earth would they want to come to church, and what would we expect them to get out of it? I think this sort of question (and the mere thought of polling Americans on church attendance) arises from certain denominations that have made evangelism their entire goal of the church service. I believe that goal is misplaced, and the result has become the very thing we heard about in Andy's last message on Jude: impure churches, because if the Word isn't preached in church in order to disciple believers, they will not grow much, and the church will stagnate in its purity.Of course, we also have the trend of people believing they can be growing Christians without being part of a church: I know, I was one. Those people I would also invite to church, after sharing with them why I believe the Word says we ought to, and how the Lord has blessed me once I started attending regularly.
I have to agree with Gal. Could it be that attendance at churches is declining because many churches, in an attempt to be relevant, have made themselves ineffective at building the body of Christ? The statistics on percent of young people who leave the church after high school is staggering, and says something about our effectiveness in bringing up the next generation. The more the church looks like the world, the less people feel the need or desire to come to church and be in but not of the world.
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