Q: I keep inviting my neighbors to church but they don't want to attend. What are some other ways I can share the Good News with them?
A. This is a very common scenario in our postmodern culture. Fifty years ago, simply inviting someone to church worked great as an evangelistic tool. Today, not so much.
Now, many people are uninterested in attending church. Poll after poll tells us that people are becoming less likely to attend church. A variety of reasons exist for this trend, including but not limited to, difficult and hurtful histories in the church, a sense of the church's impotence in light of its mission, a disinterest in claiming a specific spirituality, hectic schedules, and simply a habit of non-attendance. Because of these things and more, it is becoming less likely that simply inviting folks to church will provide a meaningful outcome.
Thankfully, inviting someone to church is not the same as sharing the Good News.
The good news of Jesus Christ will not be contained by a building and cannot help but spring forth from us if we are connected to it in an intimate way.
Since the beginning of time, God has been drawing His children to himself and He will not allow church-going trends to stop the movement of the Holy Spirit. We live in exciting times because God is moving us in a new direction. In big and small ways we get to practice the Good News and watch how God moves us"as individuals and the church"to new avenues of community, worship, and evangelism.
The foremost thing you can do to share the Good News with your neighbors is live in God's love. Pray. Practice spiritual disciplines. Serve others. Give with a generous heart to those around you. Read the Word and allow it to move you. Worship. Receive the gifts of the sacraments. Help to make your local church a place where-when invitations to visit are accepted-guests feel welcomed.
As you do these things, you will naturally be able to see your neighbors in a new light and they will see in you the Light. As you love God with your entire heart, your heart will grow even larger for your neighbors. You may feel led to help them with a project that they are working on in the backyard or invite them to dinner. You might share the cookies you baked with them or remember their birthdays with a card. Be a trustworthy listener. Make sure you know them and their children (and pets) by name. Offer to keep an eye on their house or pets while they are on vacation, or save their newspapers from their automated sprinkler system.
Any small thing you do is laced with the Good News.
These relationship-building tools will allow you to be a part of your neighbors' lives and to share God's love in more specific ways when opportunities arise. The Good News will speak through your life.
But don't give up on helping them connect to God and the faith community by inviting them to church!
Bethany Hull Somers is an ordained elder on the Washington Pacific District. She works part time as a chaplain and full time as mother to Nyah.
In each issue, a forum of pastors, laity, theologians, and church leaders respond to your questions on subjects such as doctrine, theology, Christian living, and the church. Send your questions to Holiness Today, Church of the Nazarene Global Ministry Center, 17001 Prairie Star Parkway, Lenexa, KS 66220. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The editor regrets that all questions cannot be printed, acknowledged, or answered.
Holiness Today, May/June 2011