A pastor called on a young couple off-and-on for five years. They were always pleasant and said they planned to attend church, but never did. In the fifth year, a layperson who knew the husband invited him to play in the church praise band. He was an excellent guitarist, and the team enjoyed having him. A few weeks later, the family attended church. Within a short period of time, they had all become involved in various groups and made the decision to become followers of Jesus Christ.
There you have it: a dedicated, faithful, theologically trained, evangelistically oriented pastor visited for five years -- nothing. An untrained, friendly layperson who spotted a good guitarist extended an invitation -- success!
A small bank in a little town had only two employees, the manager and a teller. One day, no one came into the bank at all. Finally, at 4:30 p.m., the manager told the teller to lock the front door. Minutes later she returned and said sheepishly, "It is locked. We forgot to open it this morning!"
Invitations are the way Imagine Church opens its doors. In the ministry of attracting first-time worship visitors, we should not worry about drawing a square on a map around Gordon-Conwell Seminary and "serving our neighborhood." There are virtually no "neighborhood churches" left in America today. When people started driving cars, they began picking churches relationally, not geographically. According to a new member study by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), only 12.3% of new members are influenced to join by a church's location. If Imagine Church is within 25-30 minutes driving distance of people's homes (the travel comfort zone for American church attendees), then they are in our field of mission.
How do you choose your friends? By drawing squares on a map? People choose their churches the same way they choose their friends -- because of the relationship they have with someone who invites them to attend. Let's make sure that Imagine Church is always an inviting place. See you on Sunday -- and make sure to invite a friend!
In the name of the One who can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
Bruce Jones, Pastor and Co-Creator,
Imagine Church of the Carolinas