We came across an article about “Reaching Out to Non-Believers This Holiday Season”—in particular it’s geared toward inviting friends and family to church with you. The article is by Ed Stetzer—a Calvinistic Baptist who was formerly the Executive Director of LifeWay Research and has planted 2 or 3 churches as a pastor previously. We’re sharing the meat of the article. The original full article was published in Christianity Today. We thought in a simple and clear way it may bring some focus, thoughtfulness, and intentionality as we approach the last Sunday of worship before Christmas.
As you read this, who comes to mind? Make a note, pray, and perhaps invite.
The following are excepts from the article:
Around the holiday times each year, followers of Christ have the opportunity to enter into spiritual conversations with family members and friends. Many of those conversations will likely end up at the very least touching on the subject of church in some way, shape, or form.
According to Scott McConnell, the executive director of LifeWay Research, that despite our many assumptions, the reality is that “many would welcome going to a Christmas service with someone they know.” A study performed by LifeWay Research shows that across the country, Americans are much more likely to attend church at Christmastime. When asked the question: “If someone you know invited you to attend church with them at Christmas, how likely would you be to attend?” Over half (57%) of respondents said they’d be likely to come.
But, the beauty about all this is that even though God doesn’t need us, he chooses to use us as a means through which to reveal himself to people. We are conduits of his love and grace in a broken and hurting world with the unique honor and privilege of entering into the work that he’s doing in the lives of those close to us. Just for a moment, think about how much more compelling the gospel message is coming from someone you already know and trust. Who are you more likely to listen to—a stranger on the street handing you a flier telling you to come to church or a friend who’s known you all your life and walked with you through thick and thin?
LifeWay Research did a study in cooperation with the Billy Graham Center on unbelievers’ willingness to enter into spiritual conversations with their friends. As it turns out, nearly 80% say that if a friend values his or her faith in Jesus, they are willing to talk to the friend about it even if they themselves are not believers. Scott McConnell shared his thoughts this way: “Unchurched Americans aren’t hostile to faith…They just don’t think church is for them.”
[Now, here is Stetzer’s practical advice for inviting people to church during the holiday season…]
First off, extend pressure-free invitations. The people you know and choose to invite should always feel welcome to join you without sensing a certain pressure to take you up on your initial offer. I’ve tried to, in my own personal life, make a habit of inviting my neighbors to church around Christmas and Easter each year.
I’ll let them know about the special services we’re having, and let them know that I’d love for them to join—I’d recommend that you try doing the same with your neighbors this year!
In the event that the person (or people) you invite choose to turn you down, refrain from getting frustrated, defensive, agitated, or bitter about it. Know that God asks you only to plant seeds which frees you to keep all your interactions and invitations pressure free.
Second, welcome questions. It’s quite natural that unbelievers who find themselves in church around the holiday season or any other time don’t really quite know what to believe, where to connect, or why it matters in the first place.
If someone you know and love joins you on a Sunday morning, invite them out for lunch afterwards. Offer to talk through what they’ve learned, what they liked, what they didn’t like, and what they might still have questions about.
Even if you don’t know all the answers (and you probably won’t), what matters most is maintaining a consistent posture of honesty and humility. This will help your friend feel safe, known, heard, and willing to dive into spiritual conversations.
Last, be a friend. Recognize that whoever you invite to join you at church this holiday season, that person is on a spiritual journey all their own. God alone is overseeing that process of growth—not you, not me, not your pastor, only the Lord.
You’ve been called to be a good friend to this person whether they live near you, work in your building, or are related to you by flesh and blood. You can’t save them, but you can love them, care for them, and most importantly, you can also pray for them.
Friends, we need to be asking God each day for chances to bless and encourage those around us as well as share the gospel message. These opportunities are priceless—may we take advantage of them each and every time.
If you want to dig a little deeper on the topic, the current New Horizons has a helpful article by OPC Pastor Dan Clifford (Vienna, VA) here: “Christmas Conversations.”