Cornerstone Baptist Church, 4930 Old Lohman Rd., Jefferson City, Missouri, 65109

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Reason for Extending an "Invitation" in Worship Services

There are times I have been asked by people why we give an "invitation" to close each of our services. This is not the case in every church or denomination. In fact, it is a growing trend among some Southern Baptist Churches to not give an invitation after the sermon. Some opt instead for just inviting people to contact the pastor or church office personally, or once every few months provide a day people can come to an appointed room to discuss becoming a member of the church.

But I believe there is still, and always will be, very strong justification for extending an "invitation" at the close of each service to call people to respond to what God has said to them during the service. God's Word never returns void. It always works in the hearts of those who receive it. But God's Word is not just for hearing, it is for obeying.

Jerry Drace expresses well the need for extending an "invitation" to respond at the end of worship services:
Sometime ago I was invited to preach in a church that emphasizes relationships. The individual who called made it clear that their pastor does not give an invitation at the conclusion of his message. “We don't want to put people on the spot” was the way he phrased it. Politely I informed the gentleman that my entire sermon was an invitation. As Spurgeon once said, “He succeeds best who expects conversion every time he preaches.”

I cannot imagine proclaiming the Good News and not giving the listeners an opportunity to respond to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. So, I accepted the invitation to preach in this relational church with the understanding that a public invitation would be part of the message. That morning three adults came making their professions of faith. One was a lady in her early 30’s who told me after the service, “I have been coming here for six weeks and each Sunday I felt the need to make this decision. Thank you for allowing me to do publicly what my heart has done inwardly.”

When the apostle Paul instructed the young pastor, Timothy, to “Preach the word” he also added, “[and] do the work of the evangelist” (II Timothy 4:2,5). What is the work of an evangelist? It is to invite people to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. The pastor/evangelist proclaims the message. The Holy Spirit prepares the heart. The invitation is extended. The lost who are obedient respond.

When we proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ we also assume the role of ambassador. We are called, “ambassadors for Christ” (II Corinthians 5:20). The only responsibility of an ambassador is to represent his supreme ruler and share word for word what has been entrusted to him.

Just as Jesus came preaching and inviting we are to do the same. He seldom permitted people who sought blessing from Him to leave without confessing Him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Step forward” (Mark 3:3). He responded to the woman with the issue of blood by saying, “Your faith has made you well” only after she declared in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched the hem of his garment (Luke 8: 43-48). He told Zaccheus to, “Come down” in front of all the citizens in Jericho, (Luke 19:1-10). The rich young ruler was told by Jesus so all could hear, “Sell what you have . . . and come, follow me” (Luke 18:22). The first sermons of Jesus, John the Baptist, and Peter called for repentance which demanded a public response. Moses, Joshua, and Elijah drew the lines in the sand and issued an invitation.

The invitation is the, “Now what?” after you have said, “And in conclusion,” for the third time. Now that the audience has heard the proclamation, what is expected of them?
God calls us to follow Him and to obey His Word. The "invitation" is the time to do that, either publicly or privately, as God would lead. To some it may seem "old-fashioned" to extend the call to publicly respond to Jesus Christ. But to us, it is the natural thing to do in response to the Word of God as it works in our hearts.