(Photo: National Back To Church Sunday/InChrist Communications)
Since its inception, participants in the National Back To Church Sunday movement have invited over 3.5 million people to either discover or rediscover their local church. Today, they continue to do so through the “power of personal invitation” as they gear up for this year's big event on Sept. 18.
Over 7,300 churches from 34 different denominations are participating in the third annual event, which will take place this Sunday. In order to accomplish their goals, many participating churches are inviting the unchurched through Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, electronic invitations and more.
“This cross-denominational outreach is about reigniting the power of personal invitation,” said Philip Nation, national spokesperson for National Back To Church Sunday, in a statement. “We’re delighted to see the number of churches participating has nearly doubled compared with last year. We anticipate more Americans than ever will rediscover the joy of churchgoing through this grassroots movement.”
A study by LifeWay Research and the North American Mission Board found that out of 15,000 Americans surveyed, 67 percent of them said that receiving a personal invitation from a family member would be an effective way of getting them to visit church.
To make each visitor's attendance this Sunday even more memorable, many churches are staging extra events such as picnics, concerts and carnivals.
“We cancelled services to have CHURCH!” posted one Facebook user, whose church will still offer the weekly message on Sunday but will also take time for fun activities like playing games and jumping in “bounce houses.”
Some churches are taking the opportunity provided by the campaign to hold additional Sunday services. They are doing so in the hope that many people will attend, and that those who typically cannot make it to normal service times will take advantage of others.
Chris Aiken, senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., created a video for his church promoting the event. In the video he describes churches that have multiple services as being like a fisherman who uses multiple rods at the same time.
“If I asked you the question, 'Who's most prepared to catch the largest harvest?' You would say, without any doubt, the man with two or more poles in the water seems most prepared to harvest,” he said.
Around 83 percent of American adults describe themselves as Christians, but only 20 percent actually attend services on any given Sunday, according to organizers. The National Back To Church Sunday event is being held with the hope that seekers would get plugged in to a local church, and would there find a relationship with Christ.
"The National Back To Church Sunday is important because it gives members of the church a rallying point. It's a place on the calendar for them to point their attention to see ... what God can do on a particular day if we just simply offered an invitation,” said Nation, in an interview with The Christian Post.
According to Eric Abel, the campaign's director, churches that participated in the 2010 campaign, on average, saw a 26 percent increase in weekend attendance afterward.
“When members reach out to others, it makes a dramatic impact,” Abel said.
Churches and individuals that are interested in participating in the event can learn more by visiting backtochurch.com.