In a lonely city such as London, getting people into our homes and welcoming them is countercultural, but as you open your home and your heart to people, it will lead to opportunities.
“Would you like to come to church?”
This is one of those questions that I think we can have huge fear in asking. We think, “They’d never want to come” or “They wouldn’t understand what we’re doing.” I’ve become convinced that people are more ready to listen than we are to speak. I recognize that, with all the challenges of various situations, it can feel laborious, but we do believe that as the people of God gather to worship, God promises to be with us in a special way.
The Bible describes the church as the household of God and says that God lives in the midst of His disciples through the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:22). So, as we invite people to church, we’re inviting them to meet with God.
Our prayer as we gather for worship is that as “an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you” (1 Cor 14:24–25).
Of course, this is God’s work, and I can’t make this happen in people’s lives. But our job is to be the friendliest we can be in church, welcoming those who are new, being interested in those who’ve brought along friends or neighbors, looking out for those who are outsiders. We mustn’t underestimate how attractive the fellowship of God’s people is. The people of God being the people of God will be blessed by God.
“Would you like to read the Bible?”
This last question I recognize is really foreign to many of us, but I think it’s helpful. Many people dismiss the Bible without ever having read it, but most people haven’t dismissed it but have just never thought of it as relevant.
The issue of people’s not understanding everything that goes on in church is a fair and right one. The outsider cannot understand everything—their eyes are darkened spiritually—and so there is a need to be able to sit down with them and hear their questions and comments, to seek to engage them with the words of life.
Someone helped me recently when they told me to stop thinking of reading the Bible with people like a Bible study but to consider it more as a book club where people discuss what they’ve read.
We are used to Bible studies with questions and answers, but that is completely foreign in the main to people who are not Christians. In reading a chapter of a gospel, it’s better to ask these kinds of questions: “What did you think?” “What struck you?” “What do you think the author is trying to get across?” “What do you think this shows us about Jesus?” I expect you’ll be amazed at how easily the conversation can flow.
I often like to read Mark with people. I find anything more than fifteen to twenty minutes too much. I also keep having to tell myself to stop preaching, but that might not be such a big issue to you. Don’t let it be a monologue, and also don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” It may be that you’d like training on how to do this. If so, ask an experienced leader in your church.
I don’t want to lay heavy burdens on you, and I don’t want you to feel a wrong guilt. But these three questions have helped me think about my friendships and neighbors and have stirred me to pray.
There are different seasons in church life—and we are in a strange one at the moment—but let us pray that this would be a time when we see the Lord adding to our fellowships and bringing new life.