Spontaneous Invitations

“Bring a friend with you to worship.” We regularly offer encouragement along those lines to the members of our congregations. For good reason. Experience has taught us a valuable lesson: more people show up for worship at the invitation of someone they know than as the result of a full-color postcard they received in the mail or a thought-provoking message on the church sign they read as they drove by. (I have nothing at all against full-color postcards or church signs; they have an important place in the overall outreach strategy of a congregation.)

We will always have reason to encourage God’s people to invite friends to church. The saints need to be reminded of the priesthood for which they have been anointed by God’s Spirit. It’s not just clergy who can speak in Christ’s name. We bless God’s people when we call to their minds the privilege they enjoy as the Lord’s witnesses in the world.

That is one of the obvious benefits of planning three or four special services specifically as outreach events (Christmas and Easter are the obvious ones; Mother’s Day works for many; some have a Festival of Friendship or a Fall Festival) – you get to encourage the saints to be what the Spirit has made them to be. But what about the rest of the year? How do you encourage them to work their personal mission field? While there are a number of pericopic opportunities to encourage personal witnessing, and you might profitably step outside the church year for an Evangelism Sunday, you won’t address it every week. (And you really shouldn’t, lest a person be given to believe that only those are Christians who regularly and repeatedly invite their unchurched friends and neighbors to worship.)

Wouldn’t this be the ideal? Encouraging members to invite their friends without specifically saying, “Bring a friend with you to church.” I am not suggesting that you incorporate subliminal messages in sermons or service folders, nor am I advocating the use of group hypnosis. Instead, we want worship to be excellent. We want it to be so meaningful, helpful, and encouraging that the people of God cannot help but invite others to worship. Thankful for the gospel at the heart of that worship, they will spontaneously talk to family and friends about the message they are hearing. They will speak about the comfort, encouragement, and clear instruction that they are receiving, even if they cannot quote the sermon verbatim or recall the exact lessons appointed for the day. Without ever being told to do so, they will say to friend and neighbor alike, “Sunday worship has been a great blessing for me. You should check it out.”

One might reasonably ask, “What is your definition of excellent worship that encourages members to invite friends?” That will be the topic of future blogs. For now, let this be encouragement to see excellent worship as part of your overall outreach plan. The time that you spend preparing for worship, in selecting a specific theme for the day and tying all of the hymns and readings together, in crafting a sermon that clearly proclaims the righteousness of Christ, and in selecting music that aids in the proclamation of that message, serves to encourage the members of your congregation to invite others to “come and see.” Spontaneously.

Rev. Earle Treptow

Pastor Treptow serves Zion Lutheran in Denver, CO, and serves the synod as Nebraska District President.

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