Make Someone Happy: Invite Them to Church

Want to improve someone’s mood? A Gallup survey showed a strong correlation between church attendance and positive emotions, even when controlling for variables like age, education, and income. People who come to church regularly are, on average, happier than people who don’t.

That could mean trouble for Alaska. In a Pew Center survey of the importance of religion in people’s lives, Alaska ranked in the bottom five states in nearly every category, and was last the category of “Worship Attendance.” If you run into someone who’s unhappy, it might not just be the lack of sunlight in our short winter days that’s got them down.

Why not invite them to church? Maybe it will perk them up!

Sometimes, Christians get confused about evangelism. They think it’s their responsibility to make converts or even to make sure their friends get into heaven. That’s not true. Only Jesus can do those things. Evangelism is just sharing good news. (Look it up, that’s what the word means.) Evangelism is just telling people what you’ve found and inviting them to check it out for themselves. (See John 1:39–51 for an example.)

People won’t think you’re weird for inviting them to church. (Unless you’re weird some other way.) Researcher Thom Rainer writes, “82 percent of the unchurched are at least ‘somewhat likely’ to attend church if they are invited. …to restate it: More than eight out of ten of the unchurched said they would come to church if they were invited.” (The Unchurched Next Door)

On top of that, Easter is the #1 most likely time for unchurched people to come to church. So invite a friend or neighbor to church next week. You might make them happy!

Here’s some things to avoid:

Kirsten Powers’ Conversion Story

Via Donald Miller, the fascinating story of Kirsten Powers’ conversion to Christianity:

I sometimes hear Christians talk about how terrible life must be for atheists. But our lives were not terrible. Life actually seemed pretty wonderful, filled with opportunity and good conversation and privilege. I know now that it was not as wonderful as it could have been. But you don’t know what you don’t know. How could I have missed something I didn’t think existed?

Read the whole thing. There’s even a Presbyterian connection. (Cross-posted from my other blog.)

What Can Churches Do?

We are frequently reminded that the church must change, if it wants to meet the needs of a society that has changed more rapidly than the church. One of those changes is that so few young people can be found in churches.

Beginning with the baby boomers, and continuing through Generation X and the Millenial generation, people are staying away from churches in droves.

It’s disappointing to think that our church might not outlast us. But it’s a tragedy to know there are people who never experience what the church has given us: worship that lifts us into God’s presence, a community that loves and encourages us, and spiritual formation that helps us become better people.

If you like your church, that’s probably a disturbing thought. But there is a role for the church. Ed Stetzer surveyed younger unchurched people in the U.S. to find out, among other things, their openness to different kinds of outreach. Here’s are three results that may surprise you, but should certainly encourage you:

  • 63% of young, unchurched people agreed with the statement: “If a church presented truth to me in an understandable way that relates to my life now, I would attend.”
  • 58% agreed with the statement: “If people at church cared about me as a person, I would be more likely to attend.”
  • 46% agreed with the statement: “I would be willing to join a small group of people to learn more about the Bible and Jesus.”

There’s no good reason we in the church can’t do all those things. Smaller churches often don’t have small groups, and may not need them as urgently as larger churches do, but the first two items should be important at every church. Think about that: your church is already attractive to over half the people you meet! (Or it ought to be!)

(Stetzer’s data is from Lost and Found, p. 38. Interestingly, Stetzer also asked about worship style, and found that less than a third agreed with the statement: “if music at church sounded similar to my favorite type of music, I would be more likely to attend.” People aren’t stupid: they can get all the music they want “for a song.” What they want, and have trouble finding outside the church, is authentic community and truth that relates to their life.)

Willimon Quote from General Convention

I’m trying to learn more about Methodism by following the General Convention. Here’s a tweet of something Will Willimon observed there:

Wow. The goal is to make one disciple per year, and half of UMC congregations aren’t doing it.

Acts 8 – Study Questions

(Pastor Luke will preach from Acts 8 on Sunday, May 6. These questions may be useful if you’d like to study that passage in more depth. You may also download them in printable form.)

1. If you ever received an inheritance, who was it from? Do you have a will? When did (or when will) you make a will?

2. Leviticus 21 lists some qualifications of priests. Today we would make a distinction between the first group (vv. 1–15) and the second (vv. 16–24). (Hint: compare the first few words of vv. 4 and 18.) What is that distinction? How does Acts 8 help to establish that distinction?

3. How is Philip’s behavior “missional?” (See Acts 8: 1, 5, 14, 26.)

4. Read Isaiah 53, which the Ethiopian eunuch was reading. Why would he be reading that passage? How does your Bible translate verse 8?

5. How might the eunuch expect Philip to answer his question (v. 36)? Why? How does Philip’s action in v. 38 answer it?

6. How does Philip approach the eunuch (v. 29)? How does he begin the conversation (v. 30)? When does he bring up Jesus? Why?

7. What can we learn from the way Philip encounters the eunuch and then introduces him to Jesus? How can you apply those lessons?

Online-only BONUS question: does your Bible include Acts 8:37? If there is a footnote, what does it say? Is it enough to show that Philip eventually baptized the eunuch, or should the writer have included Philip’s answer to the qquestion?