The Anglican church’s five marks of mission include proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and nurturing new believers. Yet eight out of 10 Anglican parishioners are ignoring one of the easiest ways to do both of these: inviting someone to churc
Fear of failing lies at the root of this lapse, says Michael Harvey, the Manchester-based linchpin of the Back to Church Sunday movement, launched in 2004. The average Anglican is afraid to invite someone to attend a service. Why? Like an awkward teenager at his first school dance, he or she fears rejection.
“Anglicans are afraid people will say no, and that negative answer will reflect on them personally,” says Anglican inspirational speaker Michael Harvey, who travels the world on his own money giving talks and seminars on how people can grow their churches.
According to Harvey’s research, about 80 per cent of congregants do not extend invitations to others. Here are some of the reasons driving their reluctance.
1. Fear of no. Yet the possibility of rejection should not be an issue, says Harvey. “The results are God’s problem. We just need to invite and let God do the rest. It is documented that people sometimes need a few invitations to get up the courage and momentum to go to church.”
2. No one to invite. Many Christians feel they have no friends outside of the church to invite, but they ought to draw on the people they encounter in their daily routines. “Do we frequent a coffee shop, gas station, grocery store, insurance company or bank?” Harvey asks. “Have we recently dealt with a real estate agent, lawyer, floor installer, teacher, police officer, badminton or tennis partner? How have we tried to connect with people who serve us?”
3. Inviting is the clergy’s job. “That’s what we pay our pastors to do. But maybe we could think of this in another way,” says Harvey. “Just think: if we all invited one person each, we could potentially double our congregations in one week!”
4. Privacy of faith. Anglicans don’t want to intrude on people who have their own forms of religion (or none). “Why would I invite someone to my church who already adheres to some other denomination or religion?”
5. Passivity. “They know who we are. They know where to find us.” Yet very few non-churchgoers will attend a service without an invitation, Harvey says. “Unchurched people need to know that everyone is allowed to come to church. We should try to overcome the hurdles that unchurched people might have in their minds.”
6. Apathy. Many church members don’t care about God’s call to them to nurture others in their spiritual journey. “This does not give God much of a chance to touch people outside of the church. How are we locking down the growth in our churches?
According to Harvey, the whole Anglican Church needs to surmount its timidity about inviting others. “God wants his churches to thrive and serve. Are we guilty of the sin of omission?” he asks. “Christians often focus on the active sins so much that the sin of inaction is not considered. The sin of commission has had more focus than the sin of omission.”
Harvey is no stranger to growth principles. A former entrepreneur in London, he founded a company that was bought by a large insurance brokerage. He has spoken to thousands of church leaders the world over in his Unlocking the Growth seminars and has seen thousands of Christians mobilized to invite others to church, resulting in hundreds of thousands of accepted invitations. His new seminar series for 2013 is entitled Fear: The Elephant in the Room.
His book, Unlocking the Growth: You’ll be Amazed at Your Church’s Potential (Monarch Books, 2012), is available through Augsburg Fortress. $19.99, ISBN 978-0857211989