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‘Fear prevents churchgoers from inviting friends’

30 January 2015

CHRISTIAN RESEARCH

A "CULTURE of fear" is preventing many churchgoers from inviting friends or relatives to services, a co-founder of the Back to Church Sunday campaign, Michael Harvey, says.

Worshippers are frightened that an approach could lead to rejection, a lost friendship, or a damaged relationship, Mr Harvey says. He is the business consultant who, in 2004, helped launch the campaign, which has since expanded into the Season of Invitation.

The survey group Christian Research found that 52 per cent of 1153 members of its Resonate panel showed "a deep-seated reluctance or resistance" to inviting people to church.

Disclosing early findings last week at Durham University, in a presentation, "Developing a Culture of Invitation", Mr Harvey said: "Tellingly, although the question invited people to suggest what their church could do to help them invite people, most comments cited critical reasons why they would not invite anyone to their church.

"What we have discovered so far is that sublimated fears, perhaps related to previous rejections, are projected on to the church, with would-be inviters seeing it as unattractive, not 'fit for purpose' and unwelcoming".

Two themes emerge from the research: the anxiety felt by Christians at the thought of rejection by friends if they invited them to church; and the number of Christians who do not recognise the Gospel imperative to "Go then and make disciples of all the nations" (Matthew 28.19).

Mr Harvey said that they were not prepared to invite "until their fellow congregational members and church were perfect. . . Perfectionism is riven through the Church, and this cannot be right. The Bible says where two or three are gathered in my name, I will be present. It does not say where two or three are gathered in my name, doing it perfectly well, I will be present. The Church is never going to be perfect. . .

"The respondents imply that they are waiting for the perfect moment . . . to invite. . . The name of the game is safety, and not the risk of faith.

"Unless we start to address that visceral fear, we can do as many initiatives as we like and people will still be afraid."

He concluded: "I have found that more than two in every three people have someone in mind to invite. We need to better support the inviter."

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