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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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Our suburban parish on the border between the London Borough of Croydon and the lovely Surrey countryside and with a spacious modern Rectory, is seeking a Priest-in-Charge (Rector Designate) to lead our church as we seek to fulfil our mission to proclaim Jesus, change lives and serve our community.   We are looking for a leader who, with energy and dynamism, who will develop the vision for the church to enable the children and families work to be a priority in order to grow the church both in numbers and spiritual maturity. In addition, the new person will care and tend for the existing ageing congregation many of whom have ¬faithfully served the church for many years.   The person we are looking for should have: strong communication skills, the ability to engage and encourage people across the age ranges and to convey the church’s mission, vision and priorities; a commitment to preach the Word of God in thoughtful and stimulating ways; an energy and dynamism probably more extrovert than introvert; a pastoral heart, showing empathy and good listening skills, the ability, willingness and experience to help us to develop and enjoy a variety of worship styles, including a wider range of musical worship and a deeper corporate prayer life -whilst recognising and valuing our heritage;   For further information and to apply, please click the 'apply for this job' button below.   For an informal conversation with the Archdeacon of Croydon, please contact the Archdeacon’s PA Kathleen.bailey@southwark.anglican.org to arrange a time for a phone conversation.   Closing Date: Sunday 12 June 2022 Parish Visit for shortlisted candidates: Monday 11 July 2022 Interviews: Monday 11 July 2022   Please note we have a policy in Southwark Diocese that to be appointed to an incumbent status post, a priest must have served a title in an Anglican church in the British Isles.   This post is subject to DBS enhanced disclosure

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