Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The invitation (cont)

Yesterday's post was the most read post I've done and it generated the largest number of comments on my Facebook page.  All of the comments agreed with the post and many of them explained the various ways they give an invitation in their churches.  If you didn't read yesterday's post it focused on the importance of explaining how one can have a personal relationship with Christ and giving people an opportunity to do that through an invitation at the end of the service.  As critical as that is, that is not the only decision people can be encouraged to make.

Growing up I remember several elements of most invitations in the small churches I attended.  In addition to the invitation to salvation, there was an invitation for those who wanted to rededicate their lives to Christ, an invitation to persons who wanted to transfer their membership from another church, and an invitation to those considering a call to "full-time Christian service."  Occasionally, I hear the first three elements in churches today, but I seldom hear the invitation to those who feel called to the ministry.  We need to recapture that.  Of course, I believe that invitation should also include those who feel called to bivocational ministry.

I am in the ministry today because a pastor asked if I had ever considered that God might be calling me into the ministry.  I admitted that I had often felt that call, even as a child, but had never acted on it.  I've often wondered if I would be in the ministry today if that pastor had not challenged me to pray about it and encouraged me by saying he saw ministry gifts at work in my life.  Most ministers who read this blog probably had someone give you a similar challenge, but who are we challenging?  One of the roles of a leader is to raise up other leaders, but I don't see many pastors today raising up those leaders.  Is it possible that one can be in the ministry for a lifetime and never recognize a call of God on another person's life?

We cannot call a person into the ministry.  That is God's work, but we can be an instrument He uses to issue that call.  We can let people know we see certain gifts in their lives that could be used for ministry and ask them if they have ever felt God might be calling them to do so.  We can pray for them and be willing to answer any questions they might have.  We can look for ways to help them explore the possibility of that call.  A few days after that initial conversation with that pastor he handed me a key to his study and told me to feel free to use it and his library any time I wished.  I spent hours looking through his commentaries and ministry-related books, and the time I spent there helped confirm God's call on my life.  He offered to talk to my wife and me about ministry and helped answer some of our questions.  At no time did I ever feel he was pushing me to become a minister, but there is no question that God used him to help me process that call on my life.  You and I can do the same in other's lives.

The church is in desperate need of quality leaders, especially smaller churches.  Studies have found that many seminary graduates will not serve in smaller churches.  Unless we raise up leaders for these churches they will be forced to close.  Due to the difficulty they have in finding a pastor some churches settle for almost anyone when they look for a new pastor and pay a terrible price.  In my three decades of ministry I have met some very dysfunctional ministers who have left a trail of destruction in every church they've served.  Our churches deserve better, but until we raise up good leaders they will continue to call the poor ones.  Identifying persons God has called to ministry and helping them process that call must become a priority for us already in ministry.

Begin to share messages on God's call on people's lives with your congregation.  Identify some persons in your church you believe have spiritual gifts that would qualify them for ministry and meet with them to ask if they've ever felt such a call on their lives.  During the invitation give people an opportunity to make a public declaration of God's call on their lives.  Let us work hard at raising up a new generation of ministry leaders to serve our churches in the future.

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