Last time I shared with you the Biblical and practical reasons why I give a public invitation. In spite of what we hear from many in the modern church movement, be it those in hyper-contemporary churches or those who are in the extreme reformed tradition, I believe that the public invitation follows the pattern of Scripture. Far from being unbiblical, I believe it very much follows what I read in the pages of the Bible. From the woman healed of her issue of blood to a man from Gadara delivered from a legion of demons, the pattern is clear. Whenever Jesus transformed a person’s life, there was a call and a compulsion to make it public. In fact, Mark tells us that the more Jesus told them not to tell anybody what He’d done the more they talked about it (Mark 7:36).
I also believe that the public invitation fits with the person of God. How many times do we read when our God gives this word of invitation? “Come!” “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” The invitation of our God is “Come!”
I believe that the public invitation also matches the intent of the Gospel. The Gospel truly is good news! So, who wouldn’t want to share it?
Finally, I believe that it is beneficial to those who’ve heard the Word proclaimed. It gives an opportunity for individuals to respond to what they’ve heard, what the Spirit has done in their heart or even ask more questions and gain godly counsel.
Still, I know that there are those who will not accept my reasons and continue to refuse to give a public invitation of any form at the conclusion of the preaching event. Some will do this based on theological reasons. They reject what they decry as “decisional evangelism.” They don’t believe that a person has any involvement in their salvation; it was predestined in eternity and repentance is the result of regeneration, not vice versa. Though Scripture repeatedly tells us to “repent and believe” they say that those are somehow works of the flesh and that regeneration happens at the will of God, and then the recipient of God’s grace has no choice but to repent and believe. So, they teach that the preacher should preach and then leave it to their audience to figure out on their own what God has already done in their life.
I, of course, reject that notion.
In spite of the fact that a growing number of pastors and people may have theological qualms with the idea of the public invitation, I believe that many today don’t give a public invitation because they lack the confidence in how to properly and effectively extend it at the end of the preaching event. Perhaps they have tried it and seen little fruit or maybe they are afraid of being called “manipulative” by those who already have theological issues with its use. Whatever the case may be, they feel it better to forgo the use of the public invitation altogether.
So, for the increasingly rare preacher who believes that the public invitation is both biblical and beneficial to the listener how can he extend it in a way that matches ministerial integrity with evangelistic effectiveness? Let me share with you some principles that guide me at the end of the preaching event when I endeavor to extend a public invitation.
When I give a public invitation, I strive to do so in a way that is …
1. Biblical. As one who is committed to being a Bible preacher, this is foremost in my mind as pray through, prepare my message and look towards the invitation time. I seek, from the very beginning of the sermon, to present the truth of the text, trusting that real life transformation doesn’t depend on the preacher’s persuasive abilities, but the power of God’s Word. Instead of trying to be cute or just creative, I seek to be committed to proclaiming the Word of God and presenting the God of the Word.
2. Wise. Some preachers exacerbate the idea that the public invitation is a manipulative device used to play on the emotions of the listener to have more decisions. I once heard a preacher say, “If you love your grandmother, come to the altar.” I even heard about a pastor who during a VBS gospel presentation set a Barbie doll on fire over a trash can and told the children listening that’s what would happen to every one of them who didn’t accept Jesus right then. That’s the complete opposite of how I believe the preacher should give a public invitation.
The preacher should know his audience. He should know the level of their understanding. He should be aware that how you give the invitation to a group of third graders at a VBS rally is significantly different from how you do so with a group of grown men at a men’s conference. The preacher must use godly wisdom as he extends the public invitation. He should do so in a way that is not confusing or manipulative but with an understanding of the audience, he is addressing.
3. Clear. Once the preacher has exegeted his audience, he should do everything possible to be crystal clear in the presentation of the gospel, how to respond to what they sense the Holy Spirit doing in their life and how they can let the pastor or church know of their decision so there can be effective discipleship.
4. Personal. Whenever Jesus transformed a life is was a personal event. Sure, Jesus taught large crowds, and even discipled a group of twelve, but you will notice that whenever life transformation took place Jesus addressed the individual. It was a personal invitation, and the preacher should do the same.
One of the things I do as I’m extending the invitation is I try to be as personal as I can. I try my best to make them comprehend that Jesus came, died, was buried and rose from the dead for them. I use the word “you” a lot because I want them to know that salvation is a personal event and responding to what the Creator of the universe desires to do in their life is the greatest decision they could every make.
5. Passionate. I believe there ought to be an urgency as the preacher gives the invitation. It should not be a clinical conversation that presents the theological points of the message, but rather it should be like a man warning of impending judgment. The invitation shouldn’t just be personal; it ought to be pointed and persuasive. If “now is the accepted time” and “today is the day of salvation;” if we shouldn’t boast about tomorrow because we don’t know what a day may bring forth then we should be passionate as we plead for the souls of men.
6. Consistent. One of the things that I learned from my father, who is anointed and gifted by God as an evangelist is the importance of being consistent in giving a clear, passionate, biblical invitation. I know preachers who only extend the invitation occasionally. They may go weeks between times in which they clearly present the gospel and call for a personal response. This is unwise on the part of the preacher because it is ultimately unhelpful for the people.
In the church I was raised in there was a man who didn’t come to Christ until he was in his late seventies. When my father talked to him about his decision to finally follow Jesus the man mentioned how hard it was every week to come to church, listen to the message and sit through the invitation because he knew he was going to hear the same things every single week. He was going to be confronted with the fact of his sin, the reality of hell, the truth of the gospel and then be presented with a decision to accept Christ. This man said that finally he could no longer reject Jesus and gave his life to Him.
7. Glorifies God. This, of course, is the ultimate goal of all Christian living and ministry. We should live and preach and minister to people so that Christ may be exalted and God glorified. In spite of what many, today say, I believe that God receives great glory when those who are sinners respond to His love and grace, are redeemed by the blood of Jesus, and personally, respond to God’s invitation – “Come!”