“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you..”
-Matthew 28:19-20aOn Pentecost, I issued a challenge to you in my sermon. It was a challenge for you and for all of us as a church. The challenge I issued and gauntlet that I threw down was to see how many of our members we could get in church, how many visitors we could get in church, and how many members we could get in Bible Class between now and Advent (which begins in December). We will be keeping track of these numbers each week in our bulletin as the percent of members in worship, the number of visitors in worship, and the percent of members in Bible Class. The idea is to get as many different people, both members and visitors, in Hope’s door at least once during this Season of the Church.
The goal of this challenge is twofold. First, the obvious reason, is for the sake of our neighbor: that they would come to church. If they are members here, then they ought to be here and you serve them not by beating them with the Law, but inviting them with the Gospel to come and receive the gifts they have been promised by God. If they have a church home somewhere else, that is fine, invite them to come with you, here, even if it is just once. If they do not already have a church home somewhere, that is even more reason to invite them, that they might hear the Word of God proclaimed through Law and Gospel and the Holy Spirit would work in them faith.
While I have no doubt that the Word of God does not return void and without doing the work God intended for it to do, I am also realistic and understand that many of these people may not come back. Of course, we pray that they do, but if they do not, God’s Word proclaimed through our liturgy, hymnody, and preaching will do and fulfill God’s purpose for which He sends it out, however and whatever that might be or look like. That is God’s work, the work of the Holy Spirit, and we trust in Him to do what He will. This means that we don’t have to propose a change in church membership or huge commitment to come every Sunday for the rest of the Season, but that they come once and that God will do and work with His Word what He will do.
That is why my challenge for Bible Class is not a final total number (though perhaps another year it will be), but the number of different people because I believe God’s Word will do its work on every different individual who comes. Ultimately, it is not my challenge, but God’s Word which will work to retain these people and keep them coming back whether it is in worship or Bible Class.
The other purpose that I issued this challenge for is for you. It is to get you (and me) into a more frequent habit and more comfortable with inviting people to church. It is a hard and scary thing to do if it is not something we do regularly (perhaps like attending Bible Class may be), but with practice, with failure and success, it will become less scary, more comfortable, and more habitual when God puts before us a person He has chosen to come and remain in faith.
So for you, for your neighbor, and for service to God and church, I encourage you to take up this challenge. Make it a challenge between you and the every Sunday member next to you to see who can bring more people. Make the mission and work of God your own personal mission as you are God’s own.
In the mission of Christ,