He graduated High School a year ago this summer. He loves to fish. I mean, he LOVES to fish. Waking up to go fishing before the sun rises on a regular basis is no problem. If it means spending more time on the water, he’s down with it. He works a part-time job at a local grocery store, while he attends community college. Two of his favorite places to eat are: Pelicans (New Orleans style sno-cones) and McDonald’s. He also attends our church with his family every Saturday Night.
One Saturday, he went to grab lunch at his usual McDonald’s. It is his McDonald’s. Not as in he or his family owns the place, but as in it is his go-to location. Sure, he has no problem eating at a McDonald’s somewhere else if time and proximity require it. Normally, his everyday life and schedule allows him to choose this particular one.
This McDonald’s has developed into a sort of close-knit community for him. You know, one of those places where “everybody knows your name.” The kind young man that he is, he speaks to the employees on a level beyond just ordering food. He moves past the business-client relationship. He acts with genuine concern for who the employees are as persons.
When grabbing lunch on Saturday, he passes by one of the employees whom he’s come to know on a more personal level. One was coming out and one was going in, and they both stop to make small talk. He asked how she’s doing. She answers, “Oh, I am excited that I have the afternoon off. What about you? What do you have going on today?” He replays his day for her, followed up by what he plans to do next. “I’m on my way to church in alittle bit,” he tells her. “It’s a really cool church. My family and I go every Saturday Night at 6pm. You would love it. Do you go to church anywhere? If not, you should come check out our church tonight.”
After the service on the same Saturday night, I am in the lobby shaking hands with a woman who attended our church for the first. She was there because a young man who frequents the McDonald’s where she works asked her to come. Then, I am told the same story I just narrated to you. Amazing.
This young man influenced a person twice his age to go to church. I have witnessed him influence several others to do the same in the last year. He knows how to do it. From him, you (and I) can learn how to do it, too.
To influence someone to go to church, you need:
- Passion for the church you attend. If you don’t have good things to say about your church, then someone else won’t have a good reason to check it out.
- Authentic relationships in a close-knit community. There should be a place that you go to or a group of people you hang around on a regular basis. No agendas are allowed. Relationships should be built on an authentic desire to know people for who they are, and not for what they can give you or what you can give them.
- Personal faith in God. This is more than belief in doctrines or fulfilling religious practices. It is an active trust in the Holy Spirit’s leading in your life. You need to know the value of God’s transformation in your life before you will be inspired to imagine how God can use you to do the same in someone else’s life.
- Discernment of the Holy Spirit. God’s grace is working in the heart of others before you enter their life. God knows when a person is ready to take the next step toward their own faith in Jesus. The Holy Spirit will nudge you to ask when the moment is right. Discerning that nudge is up to you.
- Courage to invite. No one likes to be rejected or look stupid, including me. Not every invitation will be accepted. But, if you don’t ask you are guaranteed a “no” every time. Now, I am not advocating door to door evangelism. Of that approach, I am not a fan. But, when you can tell a person is ready to find their place in the community of God’s people, let courage be your guide.
Let me end by clarifying one thing. Influencing someone to go to church isn’t our mission. It isn’t even our primary goal. As followers of Christ, our purpose is to expand the borders of God’s kingdom on earth. We seek transformation and redemption for individuals and in our social systems. Our hope is the renewal of all things. The Church is the greatest hope of the world through which God desires to make this a reality. Influencing others to to church isn’t about church growth for numbers sake. It is about connecting people to a movement of God in our world.