I never invite you to church because I’m a lazy coward.
I mean, you’re always welcome at my church. Every Christmas I invite my readers to join me at our Christmas Eve service, I even mention what service we’ll be at and that I’d love to see you.
But in real life, I can’t tell you the last time I’ve invited someone to church.
I have lots of really good reasons why. The main one being I write about faith and church on the internet. PEOPLE KNOW I GO TO CHURCH. If they want to come, won’t they just mention it? I tell people all the time about Jesus, why do I have to mention it specifically to you? Also, what if you have a problem saying no? What if you really don’t want to attend, but you feel guilty if I ask so you say yes and I bullied you into a church service? I don’t want to bully people.
Another reason is what if you don’t like my church? I love my church. I love our preachers, I love our music, I love our children’s programming, I love (most of) the members. I’ve attended my church for over twenty years. I’m protective of my church.
A few weeks ago, my six year old invited a friend to church. She didn’t worry about whether or not her people knew she already went to church and left it up to them to ask. It didn’t cross her mind her friend might say no. She didn’t hold on protectively to her church experience in case someone told her it wasn’t for them.
All she did was pick up a pastel Easter egg from church, open it up to view the little invitation, declare she was inviting Vivi to church and then went on with her busy, important life.
She just said it out loud and assumed it would become reality. Being six is wonderful because you can just make declarations and believe they will happen. But your mom has to do all the inviting and texting. Minor detail.
If one of my children had voiced the concerns above while wanting to ask someone to church, here’s what I would have said:
None of those things matter. None. Of course your friends know you go to church, but doesn’t it feel wonderful to be invited somewhere? Doesn’t it feel great to be included and called out to do something? It makes my heart swell when someone says, ‘I want to include you,’ and I think that’s pretty much a universal truth. If someone tells you ‘no, thank you’ it’s not the end of the world. It’s just not. But it doesn’t hurt to ask. You ask for candy for dinner at least once a week and while I keep saying no, you don’t seem to be bothered by it. Let’s have that attitude when we ask someone something they might not agree to. You ask it with joy even though you expect me to say no. I like your attitude. But also, I’m never letting you just eat candy for dinner.
Please don’t be afraid someone won’t like your church. That’s completely out of your control. And let’s just get it out of the way now because not everyone will like your church. Some people will say the music is too loud. Some people will say the preaching is a style they don’t enjoy. Some people will say it’s too big. Some people will say they don’t like how communion is served. Some people will feel lost and overwhelmed at your church.
AND ALL OF THOSE THINGS ARE OKAY. For some people, those things might be true. What’s so great about the Church (capital C–the bride of Christ) is there is a church service and a church experience for everyone. I know some people like to say churches are all the same, but they are definitely not. You can attend thirty different churches and see thirty different styles of church. None of them are wrong or better, it’s just personal preference. (Some people will tell you that your church experience is wrong. Tell them to shut up. In a Jesus way, of course.) It’s pretty normal to visit a church and decide it’s not for you and try a different one. Just keep searching. Although, I will say if you visit thirty churches and find major fault in all of them, it’s probably a heart issue and not a church issue that needs some attention.
What’s ironic about all my excuses for not inviting someone to church is not one of them had anything to do with Jesus. They all focused on ME, I, ME, ME, ME. Red flag, Mary Graham. Red flag.
When you invite someone to church, IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. You’re not in control of it. You’re not there to impress anyone. That’s not your job. Get out of the way. If you acknowledge God is for you, life-giving, and cares deeply about you, you also have to acknowledge He feels the same way for everyone else including that friend you want to bring to church. So He’ll do his miraculous job and you just need to stop making things more difficult.
What I mean by “miraculous job”: the person visiting your church might find some answers; the person might walk away with lots of questions; your friend might go home and sit on their experience for a week, a month, or a year; the person might decide this church is for them; the person might decide this church is most definitely not for them; your friend might feel confident to visit a different church; your friend might just say “thanks for the invite” and that’s the end of it.
All of those things are okay.
The invitation is my job, but the moving, the prompting, the heart change is not mine. After I realized I don’t really invite people to church, I’ve wrestled a lot with why not. Why am I not doing that simple, easy thing?
And of course, for me, it comes down to control.
I can’t control what happens once a person steps foot inside my church. I don’t really like that revelation about myself. I don’t like that people I love and care for are missing an experience because I’m afraid of what I can’t do about it.
Here’s what God has repeated to me many times after this confession:
STAY IN YOUR LANE, MARY GRAHAM.
This is not your job.
Not your monkey, not your circus.
Not your job.
(Isn’t it weird how God talks exactly like you do?)
I was driving down the interstate last week trying to process Harper’s friend and her mom coming to church. The dynamics, the history, their hurt is ever-present and tricky. I don’t know what to say or think or do about it.
And literally while I was driving, God told me to stay in my lane. Not physically, I wasn’t wandering around the interstate weaving in and out of lanes, but He was reminding me to keep going with my business and He’ll keep going with His.
He’s in the business of changing people. He’s in the business of knowing needs and filling them. I’m in the business of trying to love people like Jesus loves, and I don’t have to do much other than that.
Love the people and He’ll do the rest.
So come to my church. Sit in my pew. Listen to me sing off-key. Hear the message. I’ll invite you. I’ll encourage you to come. I’ll come pick you up.
But I’m going to try really hard to stay in my lane. It’s not about me. It’s not my job. It’s not my lane. I’ve got to let God do His work, and I’ll just stick to mine.