I believe an invitation for people to respond to the preacher’s message should be given every time the Word is preached in a corporate gathering.
From personal observation and from what I’m reading lately, it seems to me that a growing number of pastors disagree with me. Here’s a recent blog that exemplifies this ongoing conversation. I think this is a good, healthy conversation.
To be clear, while I am advocating for consistent invitations, I’m not suggesting that pastors extend a heavy, evangelistic, “walk-the-aisle” invitation every service. Invitations can and should be about more than just conversion.
I’m also not suggesting that “come forward to the altar” invitations are the only acceptable method. Many churches use response cards effectively as a means of responding. Others invite people go to a designated area, like a welcome center or a prayer tent. Lots of churches dismiss the congregation and then have prayer counselors placed in various locations throughout the worship center to pray with people before they leave.
Many ways exist for people to respond other than the “come forward to the altar” method. But my argument is this – pastors should prepare every single public worship service and sermon with an invitation for people to receive Christ or draw closer to Him and His plan. This should be more than occasional and should certainly not be neglected or rejected. If life change is the point of our preaching and worship, then we ought to help them along on their next steps.
Here are seven reasons why I believe pastors should give consistent invitations:
- Because biblically speaking, God called people to make decisions about what to do with His word over and over in the Bible. Some messages are against sin and for God. In those moments I believe invitations are very helpful. Many messages are less dramatic, of course, but calling people to live obediently by faith and to receive His grace afresh is always a good call.
- Because the invitation is itself an opportunity for pastors to model for members how to have a humble, spiritual conversation with people. It transitions from teaching to specific application.
- Because when people respond it gives intercessors the opportunity to pray with people who need prayer now! People should be able to leave church prayed for, not just preached to.
- Because the response to the invitation gives shepherds/counselors an opportunity to care for people who need help.
- Because by preparing a message with an invitation to respond in mind, the preacher remembers to preach with clarity and for transformation.
- Because in our fast-paced, digital world people need some old-fashioned personal interaction. A call to respond in some way is a nudge in that direction.
- Lastly, because it’s rude not to give people the opportunity to taste and see that the Lord is good. For someone to come to church and hear a message about the glories of Christ and not be told how to experience His goodness is just bad form. If you invite someone over for dinner, you don’t invite them to smell, listen and look at the good food – you invite them to eat!
As a District Superintendent I am always on the lookout for ways to help leaders. Sometimes I might be able to point leaders to biblical or theological resources, and sometimes it’s purely practical. If I find something that can help leaders save time and money I’m definitely interested.
In recent years, one conversation that has taken place in church life has to do with online giving. Community EFC in Harrisburg, PA recently went through this conversation and I want to pass on to you what a pastor shared with me…
During over a decade of pastoring, not once did I consider offering online giving. But this changed a couple of years ago as God began bringing many young professionals to Community Free. I still remember the morning I was approached by one young man, from that group, who told me he wanted to make Community Free his church home, but he didn’t know how to begin giving to the church financially. Thankfully, before I began explaining the basic biblical principles of tithing and the specific place of offering during Sunday services, he added that he didn’t know how because he didn’t own a check book. For me, this was a revelation. I didn’t even know this was possible.
Over the next few months, our elders began discussing this issue and how to address it. And rather than requiring our 20-somethings to take a course on the glories of worshiping God through the writing of checks, we decided the time had come to provide congregants with an opportunity to give online. The question, then, became how to do so in a financially responsible way—a way that would divert as little of the tithe as possible away from ministry.
This is where Ladera Business Solutions and Danny Sullivan became a clear choice for us. While other companies typically ask how much they can make and still do business with churches, Ladera asks how little can we make and still do business with churches. If you’re considering providing online giving at your church or simply want to see if Ladera can save you money in comparison to your current online giving services, please don’t hesitate to contact Danny (firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you plan to attend the annual district leadership conference next week at Faith Church in Allentown, you will be able to stop by and see Danny at one of the vendor tables. Hope to see you there!
For those who have a high view of scripture and take seriously the call to preach and teach the Word, we are standing on a sure foundation. However, there are still some of what I call “preacher sins” that are way too common and MUST be avoided:
“Those of us who are preachers have an awesome and solemn responsibility to bring the Word of God to the people of God and to those who are not yet the people of God. We have to avoid laziness, cheap soundbites, pietistic truisms, living in the past and personal obsessions. Instead we must wrestle with what we and our people are experiencing and, without shying away from the hard things, we must bring the comfort and truth of the beauty of Christ to all.”
“All day long I do nothing but write letters… I preach at the monastery, I am a lector during mealtimes, I am asked daily to preach in the city church, I have to supervise the program of study… I lecture on Paul and I am still collecting material on the Psalms… See what a lazy man I am!”
“If a preacher is not first preaching to himself, better that he falls on the steps of the pulpit and breaks his neck than preaches that sermon.”
3. BORING OUR LISTENERS
“…to depart from the abstract and uncover the concrete in the difficult and sometimes treacherous realities of self, other, and world – is the most rigorous of homiletical tasks. The preacher must travel an intellectual ‘second mile’ to create illustrations that fulfill their potential. It is not a mark of intellectual capitulation to use illustrations. It may well be a sign of intellectual sloth and communication resignation not to use them.”
4. TEACHING WITHOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT’S POWER
“Above all, feed the flame with intimate fellowship with Christ…I never met with a half-hearted preacher who was much in communion with the Lord Jesus.”
“A living Christ is the warrant for preaching; an ascended Christ is the inspiration for preaching; the gospel must be the matter for preaching; the Lord co-working is the power of preaching.”
5. NOT PROVIDING CLEAR NEXT STEPS
“Observation and interpretation without application is abortion! Let the baby go full term!”
Praying for you this weekend and looking forward to our conference together!
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
This verse speaks to an important principle: leaders NEED other leaders to speak with and do life with in order to keep growing.
With that in mind, I want to invite you into two things that I believe may give you a fresh sharpening. First, a conversation. Next, a conference.
I recently read an article by Dan Reiland which asked the question, “Are Altar Calls Outdated?” It’s a topic that has been brewing in my mind for several months. From my vantage point as a DS, I would say most of our EFCA churches tend to avoid altar calls as well as any kind of immediate response to the sermon.
I spoke about this issue and the article I read from Dan Reiland with one of the cluster groups the other day and we had a really good conversation about it. From that conversation, and many others I’ve had with our district pastors, here are some things that seem to be in the minds of our pastors when it comes to why we don’t give altar calls or any kind of invitation that calls for an immediate response…
- We want to avoid the temptation of being manipulative, trying to produce results ourselves.
- We want to avoid being perceived by others as trying to manipulate.
- We are very concerned about how skeptics could process the pressure of a moment where a call to a respond is given, especially as it relates to anything that is overtly emotional.
- We don’t want to confuse people with thinking that they just need to pray a prayer or come forward or do any other thing without really understanding salvation.
- We philosophically think its better to help our listeners use the sermon as an entry into a process where they can learn how to apply their response to the sermon. Namely, we want to get people into a small group where they can think through how to apply the message to everyday life in the context of community.
- We trust the sovereignty of God with the results.
- We think that witness is best done outside the walls of the church and the gathering of believers is not a place where we need to witness.
I have mixed feelings about these reasons. Some seem legit and some seem like pure fear. I admit that my Baptist roots really show themselves when I begin thinking this through. But my intent in today’s post is not to say definitively what I think – but to ask you, what do you think about this list? What are you doing as a preacher and a witness that invites people to draw closer to Christ?
More importantly than what I think about the list above, I wonder, what does Jesus think?
If you’re open to what some widespread study has taught Dan Reiland and others, read the article for yourself.
There’s still time to come to our Eastern District Leadership Conference. We have national and district leaders who will be speaking to the men and women who are leading in our district at the conference. Check out the line-up, and then come join us for a time of sharpening!
Hope to hear from you and see you at conference!
Our EFCA mission is to multiply transformational churches among all people. That’s why I’m excited about the work God is doing with the Wilson family as they begin their new season of ministry in Roanoke, Virginia.
Charles and His wife Tranay began serving in youth ministry at their home church in South Jersey in 1999. Together they have been blessed with two amazing sons, Kyree, who is a sophomore year at Liberty University, and Charles III, who is a junior in high school. Over the years, they served their church in several capacities. In 2008, the Wilson’s relocated to Dallas, TX where Charles accepted a position as a youth pastor. Several years later, Charles was hired as the Associate Pastor of Student ministry at a church in the North Dallas area where he served for over 7 years.
In the fall 2016, the Wilsons answered the call to relocate to Roanoke VA to plant a new multiethnic, multicultural ministry called The Hill Church. This past June, Charles resigned from his staff position and made the move to Roanoke, VA to begin examining their new community.
Just a few weeks ago, on August 12, they held a prayer walk, enlisting friends from Dallas, New Jersey and Roanoke to pray with them for the new ministry, for the people in the community and to better understand why the Lord was calling them to this city. The same day, less than two hours away, we all witnessed the tragic events that took place in Charlottesville. This was confirmation why a multiethnic and multicultural church is desperately needed.
Charles and Tranay both share a passion for Christ and a heart to encourage the body of Christ. They both love working and sharing their ministry experience together, so please join them in prayer that God would use them to bless the city of Roanoke with the love and power of Jesus Christ.
In addition to working beside her husband, Tranay is a graphic and web designer who has a passion for bringing creativity to churches who need creative direction. She currently runs her own graphic and web design company called Cre8ed design.
You can learn more about The Hill Church on their website and view their church planting strategy HERE.