‘And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”‘ — Matthew 4:19 (ESV)
Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James and John to leave their nets and follow Him, promising that He would make them “fishers of men.” Jesus is still calling people to follow Him that He might make them fishers of men. With this call of Christ in mind, we have cast a vision for our church that we desire to make disciples who have a heart for our world marked by being intentionally evangelistic. We also desire to see our church grow a more invitational culture, so that its members are always inviting people to Jesus and into His church. We have given everyone a challenge that they invite at least one person to church by Easter weekend.
We’re constantly working to train our members on how to share their faith and how to invite people to church. The truth is, no matter how we spend on social media and advertising, over 80% of our first-time guests still indicate that they were invited personally by a friend or relative. I don’t think this will ever change. Jesus invited His disciples personally and so must we.
We have several tools that you might use to invite people to church., but recently we’ve been offering a unique invite card for every new sermon series. These business-size cards are easy to carry and easy to use. We’re encouraging every church member to keep a supply in your wallet, purse, and in your car. We even have postcard sized generic invite cards at our Guest Services table that you can pick up and keep with you to invite people to church.
As a pastor, I spend most of my days around church people, working to help them follow Jesus more fully. As a result, I have to be intentional about “fishing” for people that don’t follow Jesus. That’s why I’ve developed a habit of eating at the same restaurants, shopping at the same stores, getting a haircut at the same barbershop. Not just because I like the food or the haircut (I do), but because I want to build relationships with the waitresses, cooks, clerks, owners and barbers. I call these places my “fishing holes.” They are my favorite places to go where I learn all the employees and owners names, I learn about their families, and I discover their needs, so I can pray for them and perhaps lead them to Jesus and into His church.
I keep a stack of invite cards in my truck, my backpack and in my wallet. I carry a stack with me and place them at the checkout of my favorite fishing holes. I no longer even have to ask permission because of my ongoing relationship with most of them.
I usually just say, “Hey _____ (I call them by name), I’m putting some new invite cards at your checkout. I hope you’ll come visit and tell your customers about it too.”
They usually smile and say, “Thank you Pastor Gary.”
I’ve even had some of them, like my Muslim friend, Rafael, dump out his own business cards from a special holder on his counter and put my invite cards in their place.
“You don’t have to do that, my friend.” I said.
“Yes I do. You’re doing good work in our city.” He replied.
Last week, at one of my favorite restaurant fishing holes, I recognized my waitress as one that had been there a few years ago, but had not been working there for some time.
“Where have you been?” I asked. “I remember you used to work here. What was your name again?”
“Jessica.” She replied with a smile. “I took off because I had a baby. But now she’s old enough for me to return part-time.”
“How is your baby and what’s her name? I’d love to see a photo of her.” I said.
She told me her name, but then her lower lip started trembling. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
“She’s just getting over an earache, and earlier today I had to take her to get shots, so now she’s really fussy…”
“And now, Mommy is at work worrying about her baby?” I interrupted.
“Yes.” She whispered with a tear in her eye.
“Let’s pray for her right now.” I said, while she stood at my table bowing her head with me.
“Thank you.” She said when I had finished praying.
A week later, I took my wife, Robin, out to eat at the same restaurant. I scanned the dining area looking to see if Jessica was there. She was. I introduced my wife to her and asked, “How’s your daughter? Is she doing better after the shots?”
“Oh yes. Thanks for praying for her.” She answered with a big smile. “But would you keep praying for her and for me. I think she’s teething now.”
Both Robin and I agreed to pray for her and the baby. And of course, we had to offer a few tips on teething babies.
I love fishing in my favorite fishing holes. Do you have one?
So, don’t forget the invite challenge: Every member invite one person to church by Easter weekend.