The church’s greatest (missed) opportunity

A while ago I called my friend J John and he said, ‘Hey I was just talking about you! I’m here with Michael Harvey – do you know him? You should connect!’

We did, and it was very enlightening, so much so I had him address our team this morning. He  co-founded Back To Church Sunday and I urge you to check out his site. He’ll join us as a guest at Launch 2018 and I’d love to hear more from him in 2019 too as I believe his message is vital for the church to grab hold of and implement. Here are my notes from his presentation. 

How does invitation play a role in how people find their way back to God?

How would you rate yourself as a church in welcoming?

How would you rate yourself as a church in inviting?

A lot of the time we have been intentional about the first, but not the second.

We can make invitation around certain points of the year

Christmas… Easter…

And what about the Sunday after?

It can sound like, ‘These are events you can invite to…’

The question he has asked around the world;

‘Is there somebody God is nudging you to invite?’ – PAUSE and let people think and pray…

70% of members over 870 focus groups in multiple denominations and streams have the name of somebody

This is the church’s greatest missed opportunity!

Because when you follow that up you find 80 to 95% have no intention of inviting anyone.

Yes, there are always serial inviters. And your church may seem a bit better.

But there are lots of people who’d like to – but have no intention of doing it.


What are the reasons Christians don’t invite?

The reasons they say they don’t invite are always the same, ‘Fear of failure, rejection, lack of confidence, the quality of worship, I might lose a friendship, it could be cringy…’ But if you look into those answers, they’re not really the reasons.

The assumption we have is they’re going to say no. We say their no for them. As if we pushed God right out, and made it all about me.

What’s the dominant emotion around inviting to church then? 

The dominant emotion here is fear.

And you know what? That’s…okay – because with every authentic call of God, there is a lot of fear! Look at the burning bush. Moses says, ‘I’m wanted in Egypt! I can’t talk!’ God uses him anyway. We (like Moses) catastrophise it. We think of the worst possible scenario. But faith is best used, in the face of fear.

We have separated mission and discipleship. We have made discipleship what happens in a class on a Wednesday night, rather than incarnating it. These things need to be DONE to become part of who we are.

Often churches find that new people are inviters at first but then ‘they calm down like all the rest of us.’ Becoming an invitational church is all about discipleship.

But we have made it all about their yes and no, whereas the apostle Paul talks about planting and nurturing and God giving the increase.

We often think, ‘Oh I have to develop a relationship first etc’, but the question is, ‘What has God prompted us to do?’

Three ways to think differently about this:

  • Success is… one person inviting one person – and leaving the result to God.

NOT – ‘and that person saying yes.’ Leave the result to God. Can we do that? We have ingested a success philosophy and ejected a philosophy called faithfulness.

  • We must be as interested in the inviter as the invited person

Most of our bible stories are really about God calling an individual into mission. And getting it wrong as they go, and grow. God is not just interested in the person being reached, but in the one reaching out.

  • God is leading the invitation – the mission is his!

God is an unpaid staff member of your team! We often pray for our neighbours. And God may be leading us to specific ones. Can we talk together about ‘How does God prompt and nudge you?’


What’s the context of the Great Commission? The eleven disciples worshiping Jesus, some of them had doubts. So he sends them anyway. And they grow as they go. Facing their fears. Fear is the boundary edge of the kingdom. We stay on the wrong side of the Jordan!

Slow method of getting this in culture = Michael mentors people. Get in touch.

Quick method of embedding this in culture = ACORN

Ask when gathered,‘Is there someone God’s nudging you to? If there is – great, if not, that’s okay too, put your name and theirs on post-it. Or a question mark that God can change as he speaks it. Get it out of their mind, onto a piece of paper. Get people to talk and share it too. Accountability.

Call – Pin it on the cross. Come down and do it. Carry that person and place them here as an act of worship.

Obey – encourage the actual ask

Report – say, ‘We are going to report back on this ahead of that date.’ Get some stories on the platform. ‘John said no.’ What’s God actually doing? Get the stories out. How did it feel to invite him? What was your heart pounding like? Normalise the fear.

Numinous – Even if someone said ‘Over my dead body!’ can you see that God might be doing in that? The no is not as bad as it sounds when you know He is at work.