Extending a public invitation to follow Christ at the conclusion of the preaching experience is no longer a part of local church worship. Why is this, and what can pastors do about it?
Extending a public invitation at the conclusion of the preaching experience is no longer a normal part of local church worship.
My goal is not to debate this issue; however, I strongly believe it is obvious in the New Testament that people were given some kind of opportunity to respond to God. My goal today is to share four helpful things to keep in mind when you give a public invitation, asking others to respond to God.
1. Keep the invitation in mind from the beginning.
When you are planning your preaching and order of worship, keep the invitation in mind from the beginning. In reality, a message built on the Word of God and centered on the gospel should be an ongoing invitation to follow Jesus Christ.
The worship order does not need to be crammed from beginning to end, but should provide both flexibility and latitude. An invitation is not the pastor’s invite to follow Christ, but the Spirit’s invitation to respond to God. We need the flexibility and latitude to follow His leadership; therefore, time needs to be allocated.
2. Clarity in the invitation is imperative.
Oftentimes the public response during the invitation is limited due to the lack of clarity from the preacher in extending it. People may be wondering, “What does he want me to do?” When the preacher is unclear on his invitation, frustration can be experienced not only by the preacher, but by those present.
As a preacher, you need to ask yourself while preparing the sermon, “What do I want to lead them to do as a response to God?” This response may be public or it may be private. It may be something while they are still in the worship experience or something they should do upon their departure. Regardless preacher, clarity is imperative.
3. Consistency in the invitation is helpful.
As a pastor of a local church, I think consistency in the invitation is helpful. People come to your church who are not genuine followers of Jesus Christ. It takes time to understand certain matters; therefore, consistency is helpful toward the response you desire. Laypeople who bring others with them find it helpful to know how the pastor leads in all aspects of the service, especially the invitation.
Each Sunday at Cross Church, where I have pastored for twenty-nine years, I have called people to one of these four calls for many years:
- Call people to follow Christ
- Call people to unite with our church family
- Call people to surrender their life to God’s call
- Call people to respond to God, His message today, or what God is doing in their life this week
You may wonder if I really emphasize these for things every week. Yes! Consistency is helpful.
4. Offer the invitation in a compelling manner.
Pastor, we are not therapists, but preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we preach the claims of Christ, we must preach and lead people to a decision in a compelling manner.
We need to recapture the passion and urgency of men like Richard Baxter when he stated, “I preach as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.”
We need to preach like each sermon is our last, offer each invitation to follow Christ like it is our last time to offer it, and perhaps someone’s last opportunity to respond to Christ. We need to offer each invitation in a compelling manner.
A Final Few Words
May God create or awaken in the heart of each pastor and preacher of the gospel the conviction to extend in his preaching an invitation to follow Christ. And when he does, do it like it is his last opportunity.