A New Year’s Resolution That Could Make an Eternal Difference

I preached this morning at Compassion Christian Church in Savannah, Georgia. It’s a vibrant megachurch where Cam Huxford, a long-time friend, has served as minister for over thirty years. I spoke about “The Urgency of Evangelism” from Luke 14:15-24 and encouraged those in attendance to make a much-needed New Year’s Resolution. It’s a resolution I’d like to challenge every reader to accept because it could make an eternal difference in the life of someone who doesn’t yet know the Lord. Following is a segment of that message:

Studies show the vast majority of people come to Christ primarily because someone invited them to visit a church service. In spite of all the current discussion about “missional” churches verses “attractional” churches, the bottom line is that most people come to know the Lord because a friend invited them to church. They came, they heard the gospel preached, they liked the experience enough to return, and they eventually gave their life to Christ and were baptized.

Studies also show that the longer we are a Christian, the less evangelistic we are. One survey revealed that less than 2% of invitations to attend church are extended by people who have been Christians for six years or more. I see little evidence that we’re doing much better at inviting non-believers to participate in home groups. We stay in our comfort zone and bend over backward not to offend anyone by bringing up anything “religious.” That’s pathetic! That’s cowardice! That’s an indication that we don’t really believe Jesus’ promise, ‘Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

So I’d like to challenge you on the eve of 2018 to make a simple but significant New Year’s resolution. It’s a resolution that could make an eternal difference in the lives of scores of people who are now without God and without hope in the world. Resolve that once a month you will invite at least one person to attend church with you. I’m tempted to say once a week, but I’m making this as easy as possible, the absolute minimum effort for 2018 ought to be that we invite at least one person a month to go to church with us.

To be honest, most people we invite will not respond affirmatively. The best salesmen expect many more rejections than orders. But they make a living off the affirmatives. In the parable of the banquet feast, the first invitations were flippantly dismissed with shallow excuses. But the Lord commanded the servants, “Go out into the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house may be full” (Luke 14:23).

If just one out of ten people you invite agrees to visit a worship service with you, then that’s cause for celebration. The Apostle Paul was the world’s greatest evangelist, and yet the book of Acts reports that some scoffed at him, others said, “We want to think about it,” but “a few believed.” A few believed! That’s our goal.

If you become serious about issuing invitations, then I’d recommend you take the next step and go out of your way to make friends with people you invite by serving them. People will be much more likely to be responsive to your invitation if you show a genuine interest in them and help them along the way.

A month ago I attended my grandson’s football game in Florida. I couldn’t get over how much my son Rusty was involved in the local high school football program. Four of the football coaches have recently started attending the church where he preaches. A number of the players call him by name. He was asked to be a volunteer weight-lifting coach for the Junior Varsity players.

I asked, “Rusty, How did you get so involved in this program? You never played a game of football in your life!” He said, “It was pretty easy, Dad. I just went to the coach and asked what I could do to help him. I discovered he was personally laundering all the football uniforms every Saturday. We said, “We’ll do that for you.”

“So now, after every game, I go in the locker room, pick up about forty uniforms throw them into sacks, lug them to the car, take them home and pile them in the entryway of our house. We have to fumigate the house! A couple of other families from church come and take a share. We each launder the uniforms, and then I take them back to school on Monday.”

After the game, Rusty said, “Dad, come into the locker room with me and give me a hand.” In two minutes, I’m picking up sweaty, rank football jersey’s and lugging them to the car. When we went back for the second load, the head coach walked by the door and yelled, “Thanks a lot, Pastor Rusty…see you in church Sunday!”

It’s amazing how much influence you can have if, like Jesus, you humble yourself and wash feet or…. or wash jerseys. Then when you invite people to come to the Lord’s house with you, they’re more likely to join you.

Resolved: (1) “Once a month I will invite at least one person who doesn’t currently attend church anywhere to visit a church service with me.”

Resolved (2) “I will seek an opportunity to befriend that person by finding ways to serve them.”

Have a happy…and evangelistic New Year!

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