More than one million people so far have been invited to attend a church service on Sunday, Sept. 12, as a result of this year's national "Back to Church Sunday" campaign, and more than 3,000 churches have signed on to take part.
In 2009, the inaugural year of the campaign, over 700,000 invitations were sent out and over 1,500 churches had signed up.
"Seeing the number of invitations eclipse one million encourages me to believe that God is actively using Christians to impact their communities," commented Philip Nation, the national spokesperson for "Back to Church Sunday."
"Each invitation is an opportunity for someone far from God to discover a relationship with him," added Nation, who also serves as the director of ministry development for LifeWay Research, one of the organizations supporting the campaign. "We will surely see a great response from these efforts on 'Back To Church Sunday' and beyond."
Since last year, the "Back To Church Sunday" movement has sought to reverse declining church attendance in America and encourage those who once attended to get plugged in again to a congregation.
Although 83 percent of American adults identify themselves as Christians, only about 20 percent attend church on any given Sunday, note organizers of the campaign. Yet a study by LifeWay Research and the North American Mission Board found that 67 percent of Americans say a personal invitation from a family member would be effective in getting them to visit a church. Sixty-three percent said the same regarding an invitation from a friend or neighbor.
"A church's members are its most effective outreach tools," remarked Eric Abel, vice president of marketing for Outreach, which is supporting the campaign together with LifeWay Research by providing a variety of invitations, resources, statistics and research.
"That message is penetrating the pews, generating both interest and excitement in this event," he added.
Presently, churches and church members involved in the campaign are being encouraged and equipped to send invitations to friends and family by using resources found on the "Back To Church" website, www.backtochurch.com. In addition, an interactive Facebook fan page is up and running at facebook.com/backtochurch to help spread the word and connect churchgoers to the movement.
"Surpassing the 1 million mark in invitations and the rapid increase in church participation are encouraging signs," said Abel.
A list of participating churches is available at www.backtochurch.com/roster. Last year, the hundreds of churches that participated in the campaign reported seeing an average 19 percent increase in weekend attendance.