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
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
"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