Why I Stopped Inviting People to Church

Audio Version

I know this will sound strange, but I have come to the point where I have stopped inviting people to church. I should make it clear I still invite people to go with me to worship services and events where the Gospel will be presented. I continue to urge church members to bring their neighbors with them to Sunday services and special events, such as revivals and evangelistic services.  However, I have stopped using the word church when extending these invitations.

So, why have I stopped inviting people to church?  The simple reason is that inviting people to church communicates something extremely unbiblical about the nature of the Church.  The problem is not with the invitation, but rather with our choice of words – how we communicate the invitation.

This is more than just semantics.  The truth is, our choice of words and the manner in which we use them not only reflects our theology, it also shapes it.  This is particularly true in the way we have used the word church.  Understanding what it means to be the Church as the Body of Christ, is foundational to fulfilling our mission as God’s people in the world.  It is critical in the task of making disciples.  Most of all, it is indispensable in understanding the nature of worship.

The Bible makes it clear. The church is not a building or an institution.  Nor is it just a gathering of Christians. When we call these things church, we diminish the true meaning of the Church as the Body of Christ.   The Church is made up of followers of Jesus who gather for worship, and then  go out to minister.  We know all of this.  So, why do we keep talking about going to church as if it is a place to go?  Why do we continue to refer to the building as the Church?

There is nothing wrong with inviting people to join you in going to a gathering of God’s people.  Most of us grew up hearing pastors tell us how important it was to invite our neighbors and friends to events at the church building.   The Church however, is much more than a gathering of people. The Church does gather, but the gathering is not what defines the Church.  The Living Christ defines the Church, not the gathering.  We are His Body.  We reflect Him, not just when we meet together in a building, but most importantly, as we live in the world.

Why is this so wrong?

First, it is bad theology.  The Church as Jesus described it, and as the New Testament teaches, is not a place to go; it is a people, called out and sent out, to be the Body of Christ!  God did not intend His church to be “housed” in a building, rather, to be unleashed in the world.

Second, the church is not an organization or institution!  Jesus started a missionary movement made up of people committed to follow Him, and to make disciples of all people groups throughout the world.  When we reduce the Church to an institution, it loses the essence of being a divine movement.  Jesus did not call people to “join” his band of disciples, rather to “take up their cross” and follow Him. To be sure, there are institutional aspects in how the people of God choose to organize ourselves, but we must never lose touch with the organic nature of what it means to follow Christ.

Biblically, we know being the church is not just going to events and programs at a building, one or two days a week.  We know it is important to strive to “be” the Church twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

If this is what we believe about the nature of the Church, our language should reflect these beliefs.

Published by Larry Doyle

Dr. Larry Doyle served as the Director of Missions for the Piedmont Baptist Association from September 1, 2003, to May 31, 2016. Since retiring from the Piedmont Baptist Association in 2016, Dr. Doyle has served as interim pastor and pulpit supply for several churches in the Piedmont Triad area. He served the Pinecroft Baptist Church from August 2018 to October 2020. His ministry began in the pastorate in Kentucky, his native state. He served as pastor of three churches while completing his undergraduate, graduate and post graduate degrees. (1968–1979) He and his wife Becky, a native of Greensboro, served as missionaries with the International Mission Board in Ecuador from 1980 to 1992. They returned to North Carolina where Larry pastored the Union Cross Hispanic Baptist Church in Kernersville from 1992 to 2000. In January 2001 he and Becky moved Honduras where they served as the On-site Coordinator for Disaster Relief with the North Carolina Baptist Men, coordinating volunteer teams in rebuilding houses and churches after the destruction of Hurricane Mitch. Upon returning from Honduras in January 2002, Larry served as the International Ministries Director for Baptist Metrolina Ministries in Charlotte, NC, a position he held until answering the call to become the Director of Missions for the Piedmont Baptist Association in Greensboro, NC in September 2003. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Western Kentucky University, and received a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Today Larry enjoys “Strengths Coaching” and mentoring pastors and church leaders. He also enjoys finding, refinishing and repurposing old, discarded furniture. Larry and Becky have two sons, Steve and Tim, and are the proud grandparents of five.

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