Are you aware that many have “given up” on public invitations? I mean that in two ways. Many of my preacher friends have stopped having them and many believers have stopped responding to them. Reasons abound. Some have stopped having them because “they no longer work” or “no one responds to them anyways.” Many have stopped responding to them because they either “see no need to do so” or because perhaps they “are so spiritual they have no need to do so” (a bit of sarcasm intended!). Should we give up on them? Are there steps we could take to improve this part of our services? I personally believe we should not give up on them but rather improve them. So here are some random thoughts.
- Preach clearly and in such a way that you are teaching people the importance of hearing the word of God, seeing themselves in its truths, and responding to it in obedience. Then invite them to get started by praying about it! I encourage my audience to kneel if possible. It is not an essential, of course, but kneeling is definitely a special posture for prayer!
- Pray fervently that God will use your message to draw people to salvation, repentance, obedience, and sanctification. Ask God to use you. Ask God to speak to hearts. Ask God to draw sinners to himself. Ask the Spirit to convict of “sin, righteousness, and judgment to come” (John 16:8).
- Teach the people in your congregation about the invitation.
I suggest these five:
1. Teach them to make it a time for prayer. Jesus did say that his house should be called a house of prayer. So close every service with by inviting people to pray about their needs and burdens. Invite them to pray with someone (who is prepared in advance and ready to do so). Jesus also said that if two of us agree on earth as touching anything we shall ask that our Father will hear and answer that prayer. Invite them to come to you for prayer. Invite them to kneel at an altar for prayer (and maybe consider building one in your church). Invite them to be seated and pray or to kneel at their seat and make an altar themselves. The invitation is a time for prayer.
2. Teach them to make it a time to make things right with God. Kneel. Pray. God hears and forgives and restores.
3. Teach them to make it a time to make commitments and to seek God for His help regarding those commitments.
4. Teach them to make it a time to seek counsel. Have men and women who are carefully trained to love, pray, and help during the closing of the service! One of my friends calls them “encouragers” and they wear lapel ribbons identifying them as such. Another has a “prayer room” where several Godly people are available to pray with and help regarding spiritual needs. Some just have people ready to help at the front of the auditorium during the prayer time.None of these people are available by accident. Each person is trained and resources are available and they know exactly what to do and how to best help regarding a variety of needs.
5. Teach your people to make it a time to see souls saved. Preach the gospel and invite sinners to trust in Jesus and his death and resurrection to save them from sin and judgment. Invite sinners to be saved. Carefully explain the gospel and just as carefully explain how to respond to it. I have a pastor friend who told his audience that his staff were available at the back of the auditorium to help them if they needed it. When I glanced back, some people were exiting the auditorium and some ushers were standing around near the back and it was unclear as to who were the staff and to whom you would even speak if you wanted someone to pray with you about being saved! So make it very clear and take nothing for granted. Teach your people to bring unbelievers to the service and to have gospel conversations with them before the service. Teach your people to pray with them if they respond and to continue having conversations if they don’t!
I don’t believe at all that there is only one way to have an invitation. I know our forefathers had “inquiry rooms” and used a variety of methods. I know that invitations have been abused and misused. I still believe they can be used profitably today, and should be!
Thanks for reading.
Your sincere friend,
4 thoughts on “Regarding the Invitation”
I look at invitations (at least as an evangelism tool) as “extra biblical”, meaning they are not seen in the New Testament church, but I supposed could be helpful. I was saved in a secular college through the faithful witness of Christian friends. By the time I first really understood the gospel as an underclassman, God worked on me for three years before I surrendered my life to Christ – there was no invitation involved. During the time of God drawing me, I visited several churches where they used invitations. As an unsaved person, right or wrong, I perceived them as emotional manipulation to get people to “make a decision”. I saw several of my friends “walk the aisle” with no change in their life. After salvation I remember witnessing to my boss who was brought up Baptist. I asked him if he was saved, his response was, “I walked the aisle like everyone else”. Also after salvation I attended several Baptist churches who used invitations *(mostly when a travelling evangelist was there for revival week); I went forward a few times because I thought that was how good Christians behaved if they wanted to repent or have God work in their life – but I observed that that was no substitute for true repentance and crying out to God wherever you are. I don’t know if someone would label me a Calvinist or not, but I do know that my salvation or sanctification does not lie in whether I respond to an invitation or not; God is more sovereign than that. I am not saying invitations are wrong – I believe a preacher should always invite sinners to get saved and Christians to grow, I’m just not sure its needs to take the form of what we typically see at the end of a service where the organist plays 5 verses of “Almost Persuaded”.
Hello Jack: thanks for writing such a long comment. I don’t know you so would like to be careful how I answer you. First, the invitation is not an evangelism “tool,” as you referred to it in your comment. It is the point of preaching. Preaching is to persuade people in the power of the Spirit to hear, receive, respond, and obey. Asking people to pray about what they heard is not wrong! That is what happened in the early church in Acts 2 (everything was pretty public – they heard, talked out loud, gladly received, publicly responded in baptism, and then went on to obedience). So, public response was pretty common in the early church in Acts 2 and the book is filled with preaching and responding. So, I would say that it isn’t necessarily new to preach and invite people to respond to it! The gospel “issues” you raise are worth discussing. In the first place, one is saved only by grace through faith in Jesus and his death and resurrection. I mentioned that briefly, but believe it firmly. It is not changing our lives that saves us. It is not walking an aisle, getting baptized, going to church, changing your life, or improving your life. It is trusting in Jesus Christ and his work! Nothing else will save. Nothing in my article is about using an “emotional manipulation” to get a decision or to get someone to “walk an aisle”. The invitation, as I pointed out in my article is a time for prayer and for counsel as a result of the teaching and preaching of the Word of God. It is a time for encouraging people to receive God’s Word and obey it and to begin that obedience by making it a matter of prayer. Maybe I didn’t make that as clear as I had hoped because you seem to have missed the point of what I said in my article. For the record, I am ok with a person praying “where they are” and I encourage that in every service. Pray at your seat. Pray in the aisle. Pray at the front or the back. But respond! That is what I mean by the invitation. And no, I don’t think your salvation or sanctification lies in whether or not you respond to an invitation, unless by response you mean that you are trusting Jesus Christ to rescue you from sin and hell. They that would be salvation! Or unless you mean that you are praying for him to forgive and fill and lead and guide you and help you are take steps of obedience to His word. That would be part of the sanctification process. So, just like you said at the end, I believe in invitations and wrote to encourage preachers to call people to prayer and obedience. Preaching demands a response. For me, the invitation is a good place to get started. I hope that makes sense! Blessings, Dave
Hi Dave. Thanks for sharing this helpful and needful article. It is good to hear from someone who hasn’t given up on the invitation. I heard that we are to preach expecting decisions. Though I have been discouraged at times when people don’t respond, I am encouraged when I get among the people during the week and hear how the sermon touched them. Again thanks for the article.
Hello Pastor. Blessings to you my friend.