Thursday, August 18, 2016

Church Invitations

A few weeks ago I preached in a nearby church. As people were leaving several made the usual comments about how much they enjoyed the sermon. I'm often amused by this when some who mentioned how much they enjoyed the message wasn't awake long enough to hear most of it! However, one person's comment caught my attention. She added, "And thank you for giving an invitation. We haven't heard that much lately."

Their former pastor was a student at a nearby seminary so I was surprised that she indicated he did not normally end the service with an invitation. However, I was not surprised at the statement because it's one I hear too frequently when I'm asked to preach somewhere.

Some pastors have stopped giving an invitation at the close of the message. I've sat in a few of those services when visiting churches and always felt like something was missing when the service ended. I'm not sure why there has been a movement away from giving an invitation. Perhaps it's felt like doing so isn't "seeker friendly." Some may feel that it is putting pressure on people to respond. Certainly, no one wants to sit through 27 versus of "Just As I Am" while the minister begs people to come forward, but that's no reason to stop giving invitations.

While I appreciate some of the changes we see in many churches, this is one change that I think is a mistake. Every sermon should challenge people to make some type of decision in their lives, and they should have the opportunity to make that decision public while it's fresh.

I challenge people to make several decisions.

  • The decision to invite Jesus Christ into their lives for the first time.
  • The decision to rededicate their lives to Christ.
  • The decision to move their membership to this church.
  • A life decision in response to a specific challenge in the message.
  • In addition, I offer to pray for anyone about any issue going in their lives. I also invite people to come to the altar to pray to God without talking to me.
I believe in keeping the invitation brief. I announce to the congregation that we will sing just the first two versus of the invitational hymn, and if no one responds we will close the service. I feel that if someone is going to come forward it will happen quickly if they know we are not going to prolong the invitation.

If you've stopped issuing an invitation at the close of the worship service, I invite you to reconsider. Give people the opportunity to respond publicly to whatever God may be doing in their lives.

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