It’s hard to believe, but Easter 2013 is nearly here. We are gearing up for a great Easter weekend, and we hope you’ll make it a special time to consider the sacrifice Christ made for all of us. Our Easter services will be a time of celebration of worshipping together through music and an inspiring and relevant message that God will use to change lives.

We have been praying for and planning for this weekend for a long time and or good reason. It is one of two opportunities (Christmas the other) where people will come to church that normally do not attend. This is a witness to the truth that the Easter story has real meaning and continues to capture people’s imagination. It is an opportunity to reach people who are far from the heart of God to hear the gospel preached and let God work in their lives.  So we want every parking space filled, every chair occupied. We want people in very crevice of every campus we have. Many will find it pretty incredible to be experiencing church again. Many will find Jesus. Many will become regular church attenders.

But, only if we invite them. If studies are correct, then over 80% of your friends who are not Christians or do not attend church are at least open to and likely to respond favorably to your invitation to church for Easter. It’s easy to get a little tentative or even skeptical, but let’s think for a moment what the person you want to invite is thinking or feeling. It’s not the same in every case, but I believe many people are probably thinking something along these lines as you debate whether to invite them to church. We will start with a typical friend we will call Mason.

“Don’t worry about inviting me to church this weekend if you are nervous. Or if talking about your faith makes you uncomfortable. It’s not like I’m a serial killer. I believe in God. There are a lot of things I don’t know, but I do know that I want my life to matter. I’d actually like to understand the Bible if it would help me be a better parent, improve my marriage, provide me opportunities to help others. I need friends. I need my life connected to something significant. And if there is a Heaven and a Hell, I want to know which one I’m going to. But I guess you probably have concluded I am not a poster child for Christianity. I’ve got some baggage. I’ve got questions. I don’t want to experience a full-court press for my money. I listen to Coldplay. I have tattoos that show. But you know all that because you know me. So don’t worry about trying to invite me to church.  Unless, by chance, you think I have this all wrong, then for God’s sake, invite me.” 

Next is another hypothetical person we will call Isabella.

“Northstar will be full. It will be full of people like me, full of people who haven’t been to church for a while or at all. Full of people who think they may be critiqued, or analyzed, or judged unfairly.  Full of people who don’t have God in their lives, and aren’t exactly sure how to get Him into their lives. But before I walk through the door, I need you as my friend to do something that is probably a big deal for you. You’re probably going to see me sometime this week and I need you not to walk past me. I need you to work through your fear because I am working through mine.  I just need you to invite me.  If I act like I’m not interested in going to church with you, I still need you to ask me to come.  I need you to help me see God.  Because at the end of the day God said He loved me enough to die for me. That is the claim right?  I just need you to invite me, that’s all. Nothing more and nothing less. Nothing complicated.  And nothing driven by guilt. Just invite me. I need you to. I really do.” 

I know what you may be thinking.  That is not all that realistic, but even if it is, what if they say no, what if they punch me in the face, what if they ridicule me to others, what if inviting them hurts our friendship, what if…

Let me encourage you to push out of your comfort zones and fight through the doubts to invite your neighbors and friends to our Easter services. Your invitation just might pave the way for God to change their lives. If you had tickets for choice seats to the Alabama and LSU football game, you would have no problem inviting people to join you. This is really no different, except for what Jesus has done is exponentially more important than blocking or defensive schemes.

The point is this: This is God’s story, not our story. We get to play a small part by simply inviting someone to come to church. Most of the time, we have no idea what God’s doing in people’s hearts. All we need to do is love that person enough to get through a potentially uncomfortable conversation.

Inviting someone to church is important, but whatever the outcome, it’s only one step of loving our neighbor. Jesus tells us in Luke 15:7, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” 

Let’s love people enough to endure some awkwardness, embarrass ourselves a little (or a lot), and even risk offending someone for the sake of the Gospel. Remember that 100 percent of the people you don’t invite will not attend. God can use your invitation to radically transform a life.

I’m praying for you as you invite your friends and people you cross paths with this week. And, I am praying that the people we invite will hear and respond to the gospel on Easter.