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12 January 2015

Is fear paralysing mission?

Is fear paralysing mission?

Michael Harvey

Fear of rejection or of losing friends is stopping Christians from asking people to come to church, new research shows.

A fresh project is looking into reasons why people may not invite friends or family to church.

Early findings of the project, being undertaken by Christian Research, suggests that fears of rejection, losing a friend or damaging a relationship prevent many from asking people to church or beginning a simple conversation about God.

The findings will be unveiled by Michael Harvey in a presentation entitled developing a culture of invitation at Cranmer Hall, Durham University on 21 January.

"What we have discovered so far is that sublimated fears, perhaps related to previous rejections, are projected onto the Church, with would-be inviters seeing it as unattractive, not 'fit for purpose' and unwelcoming," said Michael Harvey, who developed Back to Church Sunday.

Michael Harvey's research into building a culture of invitation has led him to write a book to be published in May. The key themes centre around the paralysing anxiety felt by Christians at the thought of rejection by friends if they invited them to church, and the number of Christians who do not recognise the Gospel imperative of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19).

Over the past 11 years Harvey has carried out more than 700 focus groups, and 60 training sessions around the UK in the past 12 months.

"I added a question –what is wrong with getting a "no"? I started to get answers revealing significant psychological reasons. It became clear that many people were still dealing with previous rejection, not necessarily connected with church but life in general.

"We often see mission in terms of initiatives but unless we start to address that visceral fear we can do as many initiatives as we like and people will still be afraid.

"I have found that more than two in every three people have someone in mind to invite," he added. "We need to better support the inviter and pairs of people working together to become invitational, is one area to develop. After all Jesus sent out the disciples in pairs, and let's face it, some of those had doubts."

Developing a Culture of Invitation takes place at Cranmer Hall, Durham University on Wednesday 21 January. Find out more about Season on Invitation and Back to Church Sunday