More than once in my church experience have I heard someone say something along these lines: “If I can just get my friend into church to hear the preacher, maybe they can get saved and I would have done what I was called to do.” This idea came up in conversation with my wife and she relayed a similar experience at a former church. Parents would often come to the pastor and say, “My child is ready to accept Christ, so we want you to talk to her.” Thankfully the pastor would give them a sideways look and reply, “Then you do it.”
In many church cultures, it seems a common notion that only a certain few (usually a pastor) can introduce someone to Christ, that the pastor is somehow specially ordained to perform such sanctified tasks while us common folk are not. At least that’s the uber-spiritual answer. How it actually plays out is more like this: I’m too lazy to study scripture for myself to learn the basics of my faith, much less take the time to share that faith with those around me. Besides, that’s what we pay the pastor for anyway, so let him do it.
I don’t want to minimize the initiative of inviting someone to church. It’s a good, biblical thing to love and invest in someone enough to want them to hear the good news of Christ. But let’s nail down a couple of basic truths. First, and most shockingly, those who don’t go to church don’t want to go to church. That’s why they don’t go. So don’t be surprised by their lack of enthusiasm, or equate it with a lack of obedience or performance on your part. And that leads to the second truth, which is what your role is not. Neither you nor the pastor saves anyone. Only the Spirit can do that. So “getting them saved”, bringing someone to faith, is not your job, nor is it even in your control.
With that said, your role is very well defined in scripture. Jesus’ command to believers in Matthew 28 to “make disciples” is both universally applied and widely misunderstood. Too many of us see that as a command to bring unbelievers to faith. In truth, making disciples is much less “spiritual” and much more “practical” than that. I put those in quotes because, really, it’s all part of spiritual development. But our first step should be to allow the Spirit to do his work (which we can’t do anyway), thereby freeing us to do our work.
And what is that work? It’s not the one-time act of getting someone to pray the sinners prayer, as if you’ve accomplished a goal. (I’ve heard too many people who use this as a pseudo score-keeping system.) But do realize that, if you are blessed with that opportunity, you, or someone else before you, have invested in that person to bring them to that point. Now you must invest in that person moving forward. “Invest” is my current buzzword because I like how it forces us to realize the time and energy required to actually make a disciple. It’s a life-long process, one that you are still undergoing yourself. Have you ever considered that your friend is coming to church with you not because of the program or the preacher, but because it’s you? So make the most of that opportunity. Hang out with them. Talk with them. Set up accountability with them. Develop a true relationship with them. It’s long, dirty, exhausting, exhilarating work. It’s your work.