You’re invited. . . When we read those words—when we receive an invitation—my hunch is that we feel overwhelmingly positive emotions. Happiness that someone thought enough of us to include us in something important. Anticipation about the upcoming special event—whatever it is. Excitement that we’ll get to experience it with people we know and love.
All of which means that we’re grateful to receive invitations. We appreciate them. We view them as a natural part of the important and significant relationships in our lives. We understand them as extensions of the love and care we have for those who are doing the inviting.
So if that’s all true—if people who receive invitations appreciate getting them—why is it that when it comes to church we are often reluctant to extend invitations? What makes us balk at saying to someone: “Would you like to join me for something that is important to me that I think you might also appreciate and enjoy?”
A few reasons come to mind:
– Maybe we’re concerned that we’re “imposing”
our beliefs on someone else.
– Maybe we’re worried about rejection if the
person we invite says they aren’t interested.
– Maybe we’re afraid we’ll get questions we can’t answer after we extend the invitation.
– Maybe bringing up issues of faith makes us feel
too vulnerable and exposed—we worry we’ll appear unsophisticated in a world that is largely cynical and suspicious when it comes to matters of faith.
These are all real, genuine and honest barriers to extending an invitation to church. But none of them override the first and primary point here, which is this: If you extend an invitation—to anything, even church—people will generally be honored and grateful that you asked. That’s true even if they ultimately say “no thanks.”
All of these concerns and barriers are addressed nicely by the first chapter of the Gospel of John. When Jesus is asked a question by some people curious about him, his response is simply: “Come and see.” His own disciples use the same phrase later when they are asked a question about Jesus.
They don’t say: Let me impose my beliefs on you. And they don’t say: Let me answer every question you’ve ever had about faith. And there isn’t any pressure or passive aggressiveness. They don’t say: If you don’t come I’ll be very hurt and embarrassed.
Instead, they simply make an invitation. “Come, and see.” Decide for yourself. See if there’s something here that may speak to your deepest needs and wants and desires. See if you might better understand yourself and the world through participation in this community. Find out if there is meaning for you here.
It’s their choice. Maybe they’ll come and see. Maybe they won’t. But at least they know they’ve been invited. And for that, I promise
you, they’ll be grateful.