Take a look at the picture above. It is a screen-shot from my computer this afternoon. As you can see, I am on the Amazon homepage and I typed the word “church” in the search-box. Notice how Amazon looks to complete my search request – church dress, church history, church chairs, church toilet seat, church key, church shoes. Amazon is super smart and bases its auto-complete settings on the billions of searches that are done on the site. They know what people are looking for when they type in a word. They have the a good view of where a person is and what that person wants when they type in the word “church.”
In our world, we must recognize that people have an internal auto-complete as well. When you start talking about church in public, people are auto-completing in their minds – the church is old-fashioned, the church is anti-gay, the church is interested in my money, the church has hurt me, the church is confusing, etc.
Whenever we start to share about Christ or his church, we need to recognize that we are never starting with a blank slate. Everyone has preconceived ideas about the church because past experience, cultural perception, lack of knowledge or something else. So how can we connect people to Jesus and his church if many are already auto-completing in negative ways? The answer is simple – eliminate the auto-complete by adding detail.
Look at the image below. It is very similar to the one above, but this one has no auto-complete options. Why is that? It is because I have added enough detail to override the auto-complete. (I typed “church is where I serve and grow”) I am now searching on my own terms. When you invite someone to “church,” you are allowing them to auto-complete what they think that will be like. It gives them the chance to say no. However, when you invite a friend to come to the church that you love – because of the people who encourage you and the opportunities to make a difference and the practical teaching that changes your life – you better believer that there is a lot less auto-completing going on. By sharing more, in some cases just a little more, you have a much better chance of connecting this person to the church.
So what can you do? Share a little more. You might be surprised at the difference it makes. Take action by following the next four steps:
1) Make a list of three people that you would like to see connect with Christ and his church. It is okay if you have invited them to church before. This time is going to be different because you are going to move beyond the auto-complete.
2) Contact that person directly and intentionally about sharing about the church. Don’t try to work it into a conversation. Instead, make it the conversation. Call, text, email, or message these people and tell them about what the church means to you.
3) Close by telling them that the reason you shared this is because you care about them and appreciate them. You don’t want to them to have the wrong idea about what church is and you want them to have what you have.
4) Follow up. It doesn’t matter if they reply to you or not, you can follow up. Doing this is simple and not awkward. Simply ask them to come with you the next time you come to an event. For example, if you are going to Midweek say, “Hey, I’m going to Midweek on Thursday and, like I mentioned earlier, it is a great time. I’d love for you to some too. If you want I can pick you up at 6 and we can go together.” Or if you are coming to the Y on Sunday, you might say, “Hey, why don’t you come with me to the church I was telling you about. We can meet in the parking lot at the Y and go in together. It gets done before 11 and I’ll take you to lunch after.”
If twenty of us did this for three people this week, we could likely have twenty new people at church this week. That is twenty more people hearing the Gospel and connected the body of Christ.
If you are willing to do take these four steps, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let me know who you are going to reach out for. This way James and I can be praying for you!