By Michael Ireland
ASSIST News Service

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO (ANS)Since the initiative began in 2009, National Back to Church Sunday has become a nationwide movement, with church members inviting more than 3.5 million family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers to special services.

In 2011, more than 7,600 churches – double the number of the prior year – representing 34 denominations participated in the nationwide effort to reach out to their communities, inviting millions of people to attend.

As a result, participating churches opened their doors to an estimated 250,000 visitors. The churches welcomed an average of 34 new visitors and experienced an average 25 percent increase in attendance.

Now, as part of a growing national movement to ignite spiritual awakening in America, more than 14,000 churches are expected to invite people to come back to church on National Back To Church Sunday (NBTCS), Sept. 16.

Although 83 percent of American adults identify themselves as Christians, only about 20 percent attend church on any given Sunday.

Some people have tried church, had a falling out, and never came back. Other people went to church in the past, moved or had a change in life circumstances. While others went to church in their youth, they drifted away. Some have just never been to church.

Regardless of the reasons, research shows about two-thirds of people would attend church if someone simply invited them.

A study by LifeWay Research and the North American Mission Board of more than 15,000 Americans found 67 percent say a personal invitation from a family member would be effective in getting them to visit a church. Sixty-three percent say an invitation from a friend or neighbor would likely move them to respond.

“Many people are waiting for an invitation to be healed from the hurt previously experienced in church,” said Pastor Ralph A. Martino of First Church of Christ Holiness in Washington, D.C. “They want to know they are welcome and encouraged to come back to church.”

In response, thousands of churches representing a cross-section of denominations are encouraging members to invite family, friends, neighbors and co-workers to attend church as part of the 4th annual National Back to Church Sunday on Sept. 16 in an effort to ignite the next Great Awakening.

“This is the single largest annual community outreach in the nation, sharing the simple message and mission of inviting everyone in America back to church,” said spokesman Philip Nation of LifeWay Research. “This year we are praying for churches to band together and bring spiritual renewal to their communities through National Back to Church Sunday.”

A list of participating churches is available at . As churches register their participation, their names and locations are added to the roster, allowing people to easily find a church to attend on that special Sunday.

National Back to Church Sunday is the single largest annual community outreach in the nation, sharing the simple message and mission of inviting everyone in America Back To Church. The campaign empowers churches and church members with the tools they need to welcome their neighbors, friends and loved ones back to church, while providing the unchurched with an easy way to find a welcoming church in their community.

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