There’s an art to inviting without inviting: ‘We must have you over for a meal sometime.’ Just look at the sheer beauty of that sentence. It has all you want in warmth and friendliness, without, you know, ever having to actually eat with the person.
Australian Baptists are generally a warm and happy bunch. According to the NCLS1 results, Baptist churches are the place to be: 88% of us have a strong sense of belonging, 89% agree that our church is inclusive of different kinds of people, and 78% found it easy to make friends in our local church. Considering the epidemic of loneliness in Australia, our communities are some sort of dream land. But are we really as inclusive as we say?
There’s another, more troubling figure in our survey results. Those of us who ‘invited to a church service here any friends/relatives who don’t currently attend a church’ has fallen significantly – from 41% in 2006 to 27% now. For the first time, the inclination of Baptists to invite an outsider has fallen below the inclination of outsiders to accept such an invitation! 29% of non-church Australians say they are ‘Extremely likely’ or ‘Very likely’ to attend a church service if invited by a friend or family member.2
Friends, this raises serious questions that go deeper than our choices of outreach resources and evangelistic technique. Let us search our hearts with the question, ‘Do we really want people to be included, like God wants them to be included?’ I know there’s more to mission than inviting people to church, but there’s not less to mission than that.
If we still believe that well-worn myth that ‘nobody’s interested’ in church, we’re wrong! And if we lower a bowl (that’s what a bushel is) over our lamp Mt 5:15 as though to keep the light and warmth to ourselves, we’re very wrong! It doesn’t just hide the flame, it smothers it.
Let’s arrest the slide of Sunday gatherings becoming weekly quiet times, when we withdraw from the world. (We need those daily.) No, when we gather, it should be our time to shine. What better way to show people Christ, than to show them the body of Christ?
1 National Church Life Survey, 2021
2 McCrindle, The Changing Faith Landscape of Australia, 2022. A further 24% say they are ‘Somewhat likely’.
Crossover exists to Help Australian Baptists Share Jesus. Check out our new Baptism Hub on crossover.org.au/baptism
*Andrew Turner is Director of Crossover for Australian Baptist Ministries.
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus (1922 – public domain) – original music and lyrics by Helen Howarth Lemmel