The old quip goes: “Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children. Now I have six children – and no theories.” The point being made is that every child is an individual. A good parent listens, and then considers the right response to that child and their questions. There is no one system or approach.
It's much the same with guests – that is, friends who want to come to church with us, perhaps those who are asking questions about faith, or Jesus, or see themselves as ‘spiritual seekers’ – or just want to come and check us out! A good friend listens, and then considers the right response to that guest and their questions. There is no one system or approach.
Consider Jesus, and his interactions with non-disciples. Some he healed. Some he taught. Others he challenged, for example about their personal wealth, or whether they would choose him, if necessary over their natural family. For some people there seems to be a momentary encounter; while for others he spent time journeying with them helping them explore their questions (notably, the Emmaus Road).
Consider too the early church, and its interactions with those who weren't following Jesus. They also saw healings which led people to faith, as well as more unusual incidents, notably prisons escapes and Philip's ‘prophetic encounter’ with the Ethiopean Eunuch. As well as these 'wackier' encounters, they taught and reasoned with people, as well as living such good lives that people wanted to join their communities.
So, when our guests ask if they can “come to church” with us, or we want to invite them to something, it helps to take a moment to think about where they are at in their exploration of faith, church and Jesus:
Sunday services are great for being anonymous in the crowd, while seeing what a modern church is like, as we gather with people from many walks of life across the city. Sundays are designed to connect with a wide range of people. Preaching topics are published on the website so you can see what is 'on the menu' before inviting someone to a specific week.
Student lunches after Sunday services or the Pub after student night are excellent for friends to connect to the student community in an informal setting, and for your guest to meet people like themselves. Whether in a park or a home, lunches are open, inclusive and give opportunity for great conversations!
Alpha Courses are really good for people inquisitive about faith. The vibe of Alpha is to “create a space, online or in person, where people are excited to bring their friends for a conversation about faith, life and God.” In Alpha, any question is OK, and you get to explore answers with other people asking questions!
Student Nights are designed for current university students seeking to follow Jesus. In community with others, we ask 'deep discipleship' questions and challenge each other in our pursuit of God. Guests may well find the 'full-on' vibe just a bit full on, so you will serve them better by introducing them to Sunday church or student lunches first.