Our Hope for Visitor Day
Our Hope for Visitor Day
Twice this year, we intend to advertise and host a “Visitor Day.” The first is scheduled for Sunday morning, January 29, 2023. Let me explain what we are trying to accomplish.
Surveys taken by multiple agencies across the denominational spectrum over the last few decades (see, for example, https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/july/inviting- friends-church-lifeway-research.html or https://www.ncls.org.au/articles/would-friends-and- family-go-to-church-at-easter-if-invited/) show that a solid fraction of our friends and neighbors are curious about faith in Jesus (though they might think of it as “church” or “religion”) and would attend a worship service if asked by a trusted friend or acquaintance. Somewhere around 80% of people who are recent members of a congregation first came because of an invitation to attend a worship service.
Simply due to our more suspicious and stranger-phobic society, these same people are far less likely to agree to an up-front personal Bible study, whether in their home or at the church building. This is not to say that the church should give up on door knocking, pamphleting, and advertising, but the likelihood of success through these efforts is less than it was just a few decades ago. Most people need to already know the person who initiates the discussion. So, be ready “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2) for the surprise opportunities God provides at restaurants, ball games, airplanes, and break rooms, and take advantage of them! But consider now the potential to introduce to the gospel people we already know.
Now, I am not a proponent of “friendship evangelism,” which suggests that we need to build relationships for the purpose of broaching the subject of the gospel. First of all, this is disingenuous. You know that neighbor who was being overly nice to you and invited you to dinner, only to begin an Amway sales pitch? Most of us feel duped by such ploys and are forever turned off to that person and his message. Paul says, “our exhortation does not come by way of ... deceit ... for we never came with flattering speech” (1 Thessalonians 2:3-5). Preaching the gospel by such bait and switch tactics is not the approach of Christ.
Second, the Apostle Paul didn’t have time to play tennis with every person to whom he wished to preach the gospel. It amazes me what he accomplished in Thessalonica in just three weeks (Acts 17:1-9)! Preach the truth and dust off your feet (Matthew 10:14).
But I certainly AM a proponent of evangelizing our friends and neighbors and co-workers and family members and acquaintances. In this modern age, in this community, we will likely have our greatest opportunity to save souls by inviting folks we know to attend a worship service, hear a basic gospel lesson, use their contact information to invite them back and pursue a study.
Why do we need a Visitor Day at all? Why don’t we invite our acquaintances all the time? We should. But, in the first place, a special event is a good reason to make this effort a priority in our minds again. May an occasional Visitor Day be the kick-off to all of us being more willing
to extend invitations all the time.
Second, a Visitor Day is an occasion you can be sure that you need not worry what will happen. We have all had the experience of finally convincing a dear friend to attend a worship service, after much praying and gentle cajoling, only to suffer the blow of a lethargic song service, or a long rambling prayer, or the preacher deciding that’s the day to preach on “Plants of the Old Testament” or worse, on money. We have to say, “Please come back, it’s not usually like this!” Let me tell you, I’ve been there on more than one occasion. Oh, do I have some horror stories! For Visitor Day, our worship leaders will be very sensitive to the needs of our many visitors. We will choose songs we sing well, pray mindfully, greet warmly, offer up the best pews, and carefully explain the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. The preacher will speak on a subject chosen especially for unbelievers.
Now, a worship service can be tricky. It’s impossible to expect an unbeliever to know the rules and procedures of offering worship to God, or for a person who is outside of Christ even to be able to offer worship acceptable to God through Jesus. Nevertheless, a worship service can be an excellent opportunity for evangelism. Paul encouraged the Corinthians to conduct their worship in a well-ordered fashion, so that when “an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you” (1 Corinthians 14:24-25). May our worship be an opportunity for people to hear who God is, see how His people love and behave, and yearn to come to know Him. From that experience watching Biblical worship, some people will agree to take the next step, to study the life-saving message of the gospel.
So, here’s what we ask. Make a list of five to ten people you will invite in the next few weeks. Pray for them. Hand each of them a flyer and warmly invite them to attend. Remind them once more the Friday or Saturday before the 29th. Keep praying. Arrive early so that your familiar face will be there to welcome them to a strange place. Be prepared to help us arrange follow-up studies. May God bless these efforts!