the weblog of Alan Knox

What if we didn’t invite them to church?

Posted by on Jun 25, 2010 in community, discipleship, gathering | 12 comments

What if we didn’t invite them to church?

Okay… so, suppose that you meet someone. For whatever reason, this person is interested in your faith in Jesus Christ. Over the course of some time, the person decides that he or she also wants to follow Jesus Christ.

What next?

Modern wisdom says, “Invite them to your church.”

But, what if you didn’t invite them to church?

What if, instead, you continued meeting with the person, and helped that person learn to disciple others… building a new community of believers… perhaps around the new believer’s neighborhood, or workplace, or school, or whatever.

What if you also taught that new follower of Jesus Christ how to disciple others toward forming their own groups of believers?

This sounds normal to most “missionary” contexts, but it sounds weird in my context. Why?


12 Comments

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  1. 6-25-2010

    Alan,

    From a personal point of view, I would not ask “them to church”, even though I used to do that and urge the congregation to do the same.

    “What if you also taught that new follower of Jesus Christ how to disciple others toward forming their own groups of believers?”

    That would be being faithful to the Great Commission, and would reap the reward of faithfulness, the Holy Spirit adding to our numbers those who believed.

    “This sounds normal to most “missionary” contexts, but it sounds weird in my context. Why?”

    A multitude of reasons, not the least being, “We’ve never done it that way before”. Missions happen in far distant Third World countries.

    Traditional congregations haven’t been taught that God will be glorified in such behavior, in fact the very opposite. Such congregations have been led to believe that they are not qualified to “make disciples”, etc., etc.,etc.

  2. 6-25-2010

    I love the post and my husband and I were just talking about this. but what do you say if they ask what church you go to because they want to go there too?

  3. 6-25-2010

    I would love to hear an answer to this question from someone who is knowledgeable about both contexts (missional and here). I understand why people who don’t know better invite people to church. However I can’t understand for the life of me how those who know the difference come here and do not give the people here in America the same opportunity to know and follow Jesus that they give in other countries. Why would we want to make it harder for people here to know Jesus and make Him known to their friends and family? Personally I think it is hateful to the people in this country.

  4. 6-25-2010

    Alan,

    From a missionary standpoint, there are reasons for not extracting someone from their “oikos” (or network of family and friends) in order to place them into a totally new network, effectively cutting off ties with their old “oikos.” The gospel spreads best along lines of relationships, and newly converted people very often have the best opportunities for sharing their faith this way. So, we want to be careful to not artificially cut this off.

    However, I think it is also vitally important to introduce new believers to the “church” in the locality in which they live. They are, in a very real way, a part of a new family, and should be made to feel as such.

    Some missionary strategists have advocated keeping new converts from integrating into existing congregations which might be too “traditional” or have “contaminated spiritual DNA.” However, as fellow brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, I do not think we should be ashamed of those who may not approach things just like we do, or avoid identifying ourselves openly with them.

    Ideally, I think we should look for a both/and solution, not an either/or one. We should encourage and facilitate new believers in their efforts to share their new relationship with Christ with those in their “oikos.” But we should not try to “shield” them from the Body of Christ around them (including “traditional” congregations). And, we should diligently and carefully try to find the best spiritual environment we can to nurture them in their first steps of Christian discipleship. This will most always include regular contact with a group of relatively mature disciples.

  5. 6-26-2010

    Aussie John,

    Yes. Last night I talked to a group of guys about this very topic. And we all agreed that this is not something that we’ve seen in the United States either.

    Jessica,

    Actually, I want to introduce them to my brothers and sisters, because those people are my family. I know that they could help one another.

    Darrell,

    I don’t think its intentional… at least it hasn’t been intentional on my part in the past.

    David,

    I also think it’s important to introduce new believers to more mature believers. My concern here is how their concept of the church and their identity with the church develops.

    -Alan

  6. 6-26-2010

    Jessica,

    That is a question I struggled with for years after I quit attending traditional church. I still don’t probably give the same answer each time, but i usually same something along the lines of the following: “I have come to believe that the modern day expression of church is out of line with what we see in scripture, and hampers the growth of believers.” I think it is hard for those raised in “church” to walk away, and not feel guilty about it, at least on some level. That sense of guilt stayed with me for several years after I walked away. I agree with Alan. I would introduce them to my church community (friends, as Alan stated), and allow the Lord to knit them into the fabric that he’s knit us into. I personally would be protective against them being influenced by traditional christianity, until their own faith was strengthened in truth to prevent them from falling into deception.

  7. 7-9-2010

    Thanks for the post and also Jessica & Mark for your comments too. Now that we’ve “stepped away” I have such issues trying to answer people’s questions haha. I never know how much to say/how much detail to go into. And I have especially enjoyed people’s attempts to get me to ‘go to church’ again. I feel like I’m able to see things from such a different perspective now and how we as christians can come across to ‘the world’. I now feel like I made people out of the church buildings feel for a long time.

  8. 2-29-2012

    I believe this may sound weird to some, but in fact it is the model of discipleship that Jesus commanded in Matthew 28. Make Disciples. Not “invite to synagogue”.
    When we ACTIVELY live the gospel in our lives and become the “only bible they will read, the only creed they will see” (Billy Graham) then the lost are drawn to that LIFE.
    If we pass off the responsibility of “conversion” to the church, than we miss the call of God on our lives, which is to be fruitful and multiply (spiritually).
    Jesus did not tell Peter, :Feed the people to the church” He said Feed my sheep! One at a time, or in a group, we have a responsibility to pour into the lives of the lost around us, and to continue to do so when they are saved. This is what love is that a man lays down his life for a friend. Laying down our pride, fears, failings, and successes before people everyday so that they can see the Cross and the love of God in us is what Christianity is. I want to be sure that I live this way, so that people do not confuse Christ with a building or love with an offering plate.

  9. 4-17-2012

    When i meet people who want to join my church I give them the following instructions,

    before joining a church, visit the churches in your community or city at least 8 -10 . check out how they worship, how friendly they are, then get a cory if their doctrinem that tell what the church beleives in . if you feel comfortable and accepted in their worship and if you beleive in their doctrine maybe then it will help you make a decision , if you should join their church. remembre the church is made of of imperfet people so, dont’ look for perfection.

  10. 4-19-2012

    You nailed it, YES, it is spelled r-e-l-a-t-i-o-n-s-h-i-p.
    It requires LOVE, and compassion, not using an institution you can pass someone over to, so they will not discover how lame your own life really is, mostly due to church based programing.

  11. 4-20-2012

    Edgar,

    In this post, I suggested a different option than “visiting the churches in your community.” I think my option would lead to a different understand of church (one more in line with what we see in Scripture), and a healthier church. What do you think?

    -Alan

  12. 11-12-2012

    Born in the USA. . . .