The name Andy Stanley is quickly becoming a household name when it comes to leaders of strong and fast-growing churches today. I am privileged to have served on the Elder Board alongside Andy at North Point Church in Alpharetta, GA and can say that I learned much under his leadership.
One of the things that Andy greatly reinforced is the idea that less is more. This is a topic that could easily constitute an entire article on its own, but for now I want to connect this idea to evangelism.
Andy has taught his church to connect with and implement the simple and very effective evangelism strategy of "Invest and Invite." I remember well, as I listened to Andy's teaching for several years while Patti and I attended North Point, hearing over and over again that simple phrase "Invest and Invite." It was clear, it made sense and I found myself doing it! There was no 79-week class on apologetics to attend, no "7 easy steps" to learn, just invest and invite. That's it. Brilliant.
You may be wondering, "If this is so brilliant, then why did you change it to 'Invest, Invite & Include?'" Hey, I never said I was brilliant! The cool thing is that the concept is so powerful and transferable that it gives room for personalization. So that's what we have done at Crossroads. (By the way, Andy, if you are reading this, thanks again for all you've taught me!)
This article picks up where How Full Is Your Net left off--with a practical plan for harnessing God's power. It was my goal to make it clear that it's God's power, not our programs, that makes the difference. However, He does want us to engage. God wants us to participate. The following three-part process offers a simple plan for you to cast vision and train your congregation to live out the Great Commission in a natural way.
Investing in people begins with a heart for people. You "gotta" care or the whole concept will collapse. When I am wrapped up in my own stuff, the last thing I focus on are the people who are far from God. In those moments, truth be told, it's all about me. Thankfully, God enables me not to live there, but I confess I do go into that mode from time to time. When I'm engaged with the heart and mind of God, it's natural and almost easy to focus on others and connect with them in such a way that they know I care. This is the first step of investment. Let them connect with a tangible expression of God's love through you.
Investing in others needs to be very natural. I'm not condemning the value of door-to-door canvassing and witnessing; I've done my share of that. But I will admit that it doesn't seem to be the most effective method in this season of North American evangelism. What seems to work is simply building relationships with people who naturally fall within your circle. Neighbors, coworkers, friends from the gym, or fellow parents on the soccer field--these are people who are in your immediate sphere of influence and each one of them presents a different opportunity for you to invest in them.
What exactly are you investing? I shared this with a pastor friend who has deeply traditional roots and he asked that question. "Invest what?" I answered, "Invest yourself." Give your time, love, energy, compassion and resources. He pressed further, "What do you mean?" My response was, "Just be their friend." For some reason, that clicked for him. So let me encourage you--just be a friend. But know that this friendship will not happen by accident. You must intentionally develop relationships with people who are disenfranchised with the church. We all know that the longer we are Christians, the fewer non-Christian friends we have. I believe that a primary mark of Christian maturity is whether or not you are investing in people who are not following Christ. How are you doing? Who are you investing in?
There will come a time when it's right to invite them to your church. Don't be discouraged if they say no. And don't take it personally if they say yes and don't show. Most importantly, don't dump them as friends if they won't come to church as soon as you would like. You may need to be very patient. It may take months. You may need to ask a number of times. You will need to pray with passion that God softens them and that they will eventually accept your invitation.
I trust that your church is a strong faith-cultivating environment and that the Word is preached every Sunday. It isn't necessary to give an invitation every Sunday, but some frequency of invitation is needed so that those who have been invested in can respond to the truth of the gospel. Again, it may take many more months, even years, so be patient.
You certainly may make a one-on-one personal invitation for your friend(s) to receive Christ. Different people will come to Christ in different ways. Some will respond to a public invitation in a worship service, others may commit to Christ in a small group or a Sunday School class, others still may say yes to the claims of Christ in a one-on-one setting. Keep the options alive and invite! By the way, who is it that you have recently invited to your church?
Follow-up is critical. Make sure your church has simple and obvious passageways for people to connect to the body of believers. There are many different and creative ways to connect pre-Christians into your church. Your friendship and the friendship of others helps people connect, but a new believers class or discipleship process introduces them to the Word much more deeply.
I am encouraged when I visit churches that have a sharp, well-prepared, well-led new believers course. At Crossroads, Pastor Miles Welch and his team lead such a course. It's relationally-driven, Q & A based, and built around scriptural lessons in the basics of one's faith. It's the nursery of our Church. Can you imagine having a new baby in your family and no nursery? Unthinkable. And yet so many churches have nothing of substance or nothing at all to offer new Christians. How is your church doing? Is your process for new believers strong? Is it life-changing? Are new believers attracted to it? Once they have attended, do they stay?
Church leader, Invest, Invite & Include works. You don't need anything more complicated than this. You may wish to add a training course of some kind such as Contagious Christianity (Willow Creek), but remember, the focus is not the classroom. What counts is what you do with what you learned. So take it to the streets! When it comes to vision-casting and practical direction from the pulpit, Invest Invite & Include gets it done. It serves as a great vehicle to unleash God's power and capture a rich harvest!
This article is used by permission from Dr. Dan Reiland's free monthly e-newsletter 'The Pastor's Coach' available at www.injoy.com. I hope this is helpful to you, the next edition of The Pastor's Coach will cover the topic of ministry values.