As stated in our last article, “Why Have A Sunday Night Service,” there are two types of traditions in the New Testament:
- Traditions that keep men from the truth of God’s Word. These traditions are to be avoided (Gal. 1:14; Matthew 15:3; etc).
- Traditions that keep men in the truth of God’s Word. These traditions are to be advanced (2 Thess 2:15; 3:6).
The problem is that we sometimes forget WHY some traditions were started in the first place, and what purpose they serve. Today, many short-sighted men are selling sound traditions at garage sale prices. Like Samson when he tossed aside the jawbone of the donkey, they think that these have served their purpose and are no longer needed (see Judges 15:14-19). Little do they realize that there is still a great deal of potential in some of those old “jawbones.” When thirsty Samson returned to that old castaway jawbone, he found life-sustaining water sent directly from God.
Many in our Baptist churches do not know why we do some things that we do. In recent days I have been more conscious of the need to EXPLAIN some of the why’s of Baptist church life. This is especially important for new members and new converts, many of whom have no church background (I can relate, having never stepped into a church until I was 15 years old).
A distinctive mark of traditional Baptist church services has been the “invitation” or “altar call.” The purpose of this invitational time was primarily to see the unsaved come to Christ. It is also the time in which many present themselves for baptism, church membership, or other public decisions, or simply to take a moment to pray. Many a prodigal has “hit the aisle” under Holy Ghost conviction to get things right with God. Many Baptist churches had “mourner’s benches” of some type or another where people would pray; most churches now use the platform steps as a place to kneel. The fact that many modern Baptists go to church to “worship God” without ever bowing their knees before Him publicly (Ps. 96:6) should give us pause for consideration (obvious health restrictions noted).
The enemies of evangelism have always mocked the “invitation” and continue to do so. Upon examination, such almost always have a perverted gospel in which people cannot really get saved simply and immediately in a church service. Upon further examination, you will find that such rarely, if ever, see anyone saved or baptized, and no wonder.
Allow me to give you ten thoughts to consider concerning church invitations:
- A church invitation is in line with our scriptural obligation to invite sinners to “Come.” Revelation 22:17 – “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” The Holy Spirit does not say, “Wait.” He says to the sinner, “Come.” The church is told to say, “Come.” This is an invitation! If someone is sitting there thirsty for the water of life, let him “come!” If someone wants to be saved NOW, tell him to “Come… take the water of life freely.”
- A church invitation is in line with God’s invitation for sinners to come NOW. Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Are you sinful? Come NOW. Are your sins red like crimson? Come NOW. God’s invitation is urgent and immediate – something to take care of TODAY – 2 Corinthians 6:2 “(For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)”
- A church invitation impresses the lost with the urgency of salvation. James 4:14 “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” Someone sitting in the church auditorium Sunday may not live to the next Sunday. At least give him an opportunity to get it settled before he leaves the building.
- It is obvious that some sort of invitation was given on Pentecost. Acts 2:37-38 “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? (38) Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” These men wanted to get the issue settled then. Peter told them what to do, and to do it NOW. And they did. Acts 2:41 “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” How did this happen? How did 3000 souls receive the word? How did these 3000 souls get baptized without “coming forward” to do so? There were tens of thousands of people present on Pentecost. Many heard Peter’s message; some separated from the crowds to make an IMMEDIATE DECISION. Is this really so different than what happens on a smaller scale in many Baptist churches all across America every Sunday, when the preacher preaches the gospel and some sinner comes forward, in essence saying, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
- A church invitation puts the lost person “on the spot” and demands an immediate decision. At the very least, an impression is made.
- A church invitation is not the only way that sinners can come to Christ, but it is a way. Many churches have gone wrong in thinking that the only time sinners can be saved is during a church service at the invitation time. This is entirely unscriptural. Others think that people can’t possibly get saved in a church service but must be dealt with for hours or even several days at home. This is also unscriptural. A church invitation is one more method we have of winning souls to Christ – but it is not the only way. Many times I have seen people raise their hands, but were unwilling to come forward. In talking to them privately, I found that they earnestly wanted to be saved but were afraid. Others have come forward and been saved during the service. The important thing is that people have an opportunity – whether the invitation is given in church or outside of church.
- A church invitation allows us to deal with people while they are obviously under Holy Spirit conviction. In other words, strike while the iron is hot.
- A church invitation must be worked carefully and properly. My father, at age 16, walked forward in a Baptist church during a revival and was taken immediately back and baptized, without ever showing him a verse of the Bible. He went another 30 years on a false belief that he was saved because they told him that he was, and he had been baptized. Thank God, he is saved now. Every church needs well-trained soul-winners as altar workers – there and ready to help people immediately when they come forward. Each person needs to be dealt with individually. I believe it is dangerous to have 1 person trying to deal with groups of people, especially children. It is not hard to understand salvation, but we must be careful to present it clearly and concisely.
- A church invitation is also an opportunity for Christians to respond immediately to the message preached.
- A church invitation has proven itself in most, if not all, of the great soul-winning Baptist churches for several generations. Whether some like it or not, people respond to them and get saved.
Many make fun of church invitations. They laugh at “every head bowed, every eye closed,” etc. Yet many of them were saved directly or indirectly through a church invitation. They or their parents or someone likely responded to an invitation at some point. I’ll take the old-fashioned, scriptural invitation. It’s not the only method we use to reach the lost, but it is one we use, and will continue to use.
Thank you for taking the time to read this somewhat lengthy article. Much more could be said. Please, if you are going to preach the gospel, give an invitation – whether you present the gospel to 1000 in an auditorium, or to 1 on their door step. Give people the opportunity to “come now.” God bless.