who-moved-my-pulpit-3d“We’ve never done it that way before.”

“That doesn’t work at our church.”

“The people in the community won’t respond to us.”

The story is true. I have modified some elements to preserve the anonymity of the pastor, but this story is based on real facts, real numbers, and real people.

The issue is common. The church was inwardly focused. The solutions were lacking. Even more tragic than the dearth of solutions was a congregation that was apathetic, disillusioned, and distrusting.

The leadership of the church had a bold vision. The church of three hundred in worship attendance would invite to church three thousand unchurched in the community in three months. The vision was simply called “3 x 3 x 3.” Every church member was encouraged to invite at least ten people during those three months. They would report their invitations digitally, and the church website would keep track of the total.

But Pastor Greg sensed the apathy. The vision was bold, but the apathy was greater. And he began to hear the excuses articulated above. He knew this vision would fail if some change did not take place.

Greg told the congregation he wanted their permission to do something smaller as a trial run. It was his version of lowhanging fruit. He called it “Invite Your One.”

Instead of a massive invasion of the community, they would ask every member to invite at least one person to church on a specific Sunday. They would have about a four-week build-up time, where each member shared the name of the person they invited. The cumulative number of invitations would be posted on the website.

Friendly contests were suggested. For example, the adult small groups pastor challenged each group to have the greatest number invited.

On the initial Sunday of the build-up, the pastor, elders, and staff shared the names of their invited guests. There was a palpable excitement when Greg shared the name of his guest: the mayor of the city.

It was really a simple concept. Everyone invite at least one person for a specific worship service. For Greg and the leadership, Invite Your One was low-hanging fruit. The commitment expected of the members was low: invite one person to church.

The buy-in was much better than the massive 3 x 3 x 3. And though the leadership still had detractors, doubters, and discouragers, Invite Your One proved to be a great success.

The church’s worship attendance increased over 50 percent on that day, from 300 to 465. And though the number settled to around 360 in subsequent Sundays, average worship attendance was still up 20 percent.

Beyond the numerical growth, something even more importantly began to take place among the members. They experienced positive responses when they invited people. They previously believed the myth that no one would come to the services if they invited them.

The congregation was moving from an inward focus to an outward focus. Momentum was in place. Doubters had been convinced or sidelined. The church was now ready for more significant change.

Who Moved My Pulpit?: Leading Change in the Church by Thom S. Rainer

I have just completed a 7 week Bible study based on this theme. It is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

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