SALVATION and

THE PUBLIC INVITATION

By Dr. Max D. Younce, Pastor

HERITAGE BAPTIST BIBLE CHURCH
P.O. Box 573| Walnut Grove, MN 56180 | Telephone (507) 859-2519


   III. THE INVITATION

  1. The Procedure.  The invitation at the conclusion of a service may vary somewhat, but most generally it follows this procedure.

  1. The pastor or evangelist will ask the congregation to bow their heads at the conclusion of the sermon.
     

  2. The congregation is addressed with the question, "Is anyone today interested in their soul?  If so, would you let me see your hand so that I can pray for you.
     

  3. A prayer is then given.  It may go something like this, "Lord, we pray for those who raised their hands.  Help them to make that decision by slipping out of their seats and receiving Christ here at the front of the church (or altar).  Amen.
     

  4. The congregation is then asked to stand and sing and an invitation song.  Another plea is usually given,  "Now that you have raised your hands step out on the first verse.  When you take that first step the Lord will be with you the rest of the way.  The pastor of personal workers will be waiting to meet you."  Sometimes you will hear, "It wasn't easy for Christ and it won't be easy for you."
     

  5. The length may run from 3 to 25 minutes, depending the pastor/evangelist or how many come.
     

  6. In assuming someone may come for salvation, they are then introduced to a personal worker who shows them the "Romans Road to Salvation" as many Baptists put it. (The Romans Road is Romans 3:23; 6:23; 10:9,10)
     

  7. After receiving Christ as Saviour, they are then asked to stand before the congregation for their public profession.  The pastor then asks the individual if they believe that Jesus Christ died to pay for their sins.  The answer, of course, is "I do." Pastor: "And so you want to follow in believer's baptism?" "I do."
     

  8. The person remains standing and after the closing prayer the congregation files by and gives them a handshake and a word of encouragement.
     

  9. If someone comes, inevitably, the pastor will have the congregation sing another verse, and another verse, and another...as long as long as people are coming.

           I would like to analyze this type of invitation:

  1. Does anyone care about their soul?  When the congregation is asked, "Is anyone interested in their soul please raise your hand so I may pray for you," my question is... "Why would one ask the congregation a question like that when their presence is already the answer?  In other words, why would they be there if they were not interested?  The question accomplishes absolutely nothing, so why ask it?

As an example, allow me to relate an incident that happened some years back. A revival was being held in a large fundamental Baptist church.  My wife and I had invited several people to come, and most did.  At the conclusion of the service the evangelist asked the congregation with their heads bowed, "If any here was interested in their soul."  There were probably 350 to 400 in attendance and no one raised their hand.  The same and only question was repeated 4 or 5 times...still with no hands raised.  Abruptly the evangelist stated, "The meeting is dismissed."  When I raised my head and looked at the evangelist, it was apparent he was mad and disgusted.  There was no invitation given at all.

The pastor seemed shocked at the abrupt ending.  He thanked the people for coming and invited them back the next night.  The next night we returned with about the same amount of people as the first night.  The exact same thing happened the second night.  Because no one raised their hand to indicate they were concerned for their soul, he would not proceed to give the invitation.

Let us continue our analysis:

  1. The lack of hands being raised seemed to indicate to him that his sermon was ineffective.
     

  2. It was apparent that he was angry.
     

  3. To ask a congregation to indicate by the raised hand if they are interested in their salvation is applying a traditional procedure which is supported nowhere in the Bible.  This is a procedure he had incorporated.
     

  4. I would think that the presence of the person in church would indicate they were interested in their soul or they would not be there.
     

  5. Evidently, since no hands were raised, this was taken as an insult to the evangelist concerning his message, otherwise, why would it anger him to the point of open disgust to the audience?
     

  6. In following an unscriptural procedure, the results motivated the preacher to actually go against God's Word.  What right did the evangelist have to refuse to invite people to trust Christ as Saviour...just because they did not react the way he wanted them to?  Did he not also betray the trust of others who had invited the lost in full confidence, that he surely would invite them to trust Christ as their Saviour.
     

  7. Whenever we begin to put ourselves into the picture and start acting on the authority of our feeling instead of the authority of God's Word, we will rob people of the right to trust Christ but may still think we are doing God's will (John 3:30).
     

  8. Since God so loved the world (John 3:16), should we not then tell the world at every opportunity of his love.  If we will "Preach the word, be instant in season, out of season..." (2nd Timothy 4:2).  Action on obedience and not by feeling, we can always trust the Word, which is sharper than any two-edged sword, to accomplish that which It is sent forth to do (Hebrews 4:12; Isaiah 55:11).
     

  9. His attitude put a dampening effect throughout the congregation.
     

  10. In conclusion, we need to get back to the basics of expounding the Word of God and when we are finished, invite people to trust Christ...period!  We need to dispense with all the foolish questions that amount to nothing and actually bind the invitation.  Let us just plainly invite people to trust Christ.

We did not return to hear him again, nor did many others.  It was sad to see this evangelist get upset over nothing and then refuse to give an invitation because of his hurt feelings.  His invitation, not God's, had repercussions not only on the congregation, but also upon himself.

  1. Can you be saved in your seat?  When people are asked to leave their seat and receive Christ at the front of the church my question is, "Why cannot Christ be received where they sit?"  The only reason is, they are not told this. Many people have been saved by hearing the Gospel over the radio.  Did they walk down the aisle?  No.  Many have been saved by seeing and hearing the Gospel over television.  Many are led to Christ at their home, at work, or in a hospital and walking the aisle of a church was never mentioned.  Then, cannot a person in church be saved in the same way?  Of course they can.  One does not doubt the salvation of a person saved in these various situations, but when we are in church a person's salvation is questioned if they do not come forward.  The paradox is this--if a person was led to Christ in their home and the next door neighbor came to church the next Sunday, the one who came to church would not receive the same invitation to receive Christ as his neighbor did.  Since he is in church, he must come to the front of the church to be saved.  If he is at home, all he would have to do is receive Christ as his Saviour.  The Bible invitation has never changed.  No matter what location you are in, it is also the same, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved..."  In Romans 10:17 we are told "faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God." If a person can be saved hundreds of miles away by hearing the Gospel over the radio, then a person can be saved 30 feet away, from the pulpit to the pew, if given the same opportunity.
     

  2. Believer's Baptism.  After the individual has publicly confessed Christ, they are almost always asked if they want to follow in "believer's baptism" and the answer is always, "Yes."  I, personally, have never heard a "No" answer except maybe from small children who are not sure what their parents would say.  My only point of thought concerning this
    is, it is as automatic as putting your shoes on before leaving the house.  I believe a new Christian should have baptism explained and be shown from Scripture exactly what it represents (a testimony) and that it has no saving power.  I believe a person should understand about baptism and the time allotment is usually not sufficient at the conclusion of the service to discuss these things.  Remember, the time from coming forward to standing before the congregation is usually a few minutes, hardly enough time to cover salvation, let alone anything else.  I believe a home visit is much more beneficial to explain and answer questions than trying to do it on the front pew or counseling room in five or ten minutes.

People have many questions concerning salvation, growth, the Lord's will in their life, inerrancy of Scripture, prophecy, etc.  To answer these questions, a home visit, with plenty of time and no interruptions or distractions, produces the best results.

  1. Length of service a hindrance.  Should the church service begin and end on time?  The reason I am discussing this is, in talking to literally hundreds of church attendees, their displeasure in the length of invitation has been expressed.  I am a firm believer in starting our services on time.  We do not want our organ and piano players, Sunday School teachers or people to be late.  It is an example to all of our preparedness.  We can hardly ask anyone else to be on time if we do not start our services on time.  It is just as important to conclude our services on time or as close to the expected time as possible.  If people are told the services conclude at noon, then it ought to conclude at noon. When the coming forward invitation is extended one more verse, then one more verse, and so on until time approaches 12:30 or 12:45...does one wonder why people get upset or angry?  I personally believe they have a right to.  The excuse given by the pastor is usually that the people who complain are not really spiritual and do not have a sincere desire to see souls saved.  Why not arrange the service to conclude on time with the invitation included.  When people are invited to trust Christ in their seats, the invitation would take only a few minutes.

If visitors leave the church angry, then the whole purpose of the church is defeated.  It is very unlikely the person who is "turned off" because they are kept an unexpected 20 to 30 minutes will return very soon.  Many times it is hard to get people to come to church the first time, so why drive them away with an unscriptural practice?  I have had some tell me they heard two sermons--one before the invitation, and one with the invitation.  If the power is in the first sermon, there will be no need for a successive sermon of 20 minutes or more to persuade people to come forward.  It is important to start and conclude the service on time.  After all, the purpose is to motivate people to want to return next Sunday.

  1. Lordship Salvation. Another variation of this invitation when inviting people forward mixes faith and dedication for salvation.  This is known as "Lordship salvation."  The phrase most commonly used goes something like this, "Make Christ Lord of your life, for if He is not Lord of all (means completely controlling your life); He is not Lord at all."  In essence this means "if one is not entirely surrendered to the Lord's will, then they are not really saved," for then He is not Lord at all.

This invitation includes phrases like:

  1. Come and lay all upon the altar.

  2. Come and give your life to Jesus.

  3. Come and surrender all to Jesus and be saved.

  4. Come, make Him Lord of your life and be saved.

  5. And so on!

     Many have responded to this type of invitation sincerely desiring to surrender all, make Him Lord, give their life, and lay all upon the altar.  Then, after Sunday comes Monday, and soon they realize they have fallen short of fulfilling their promise of complete surrender made last Sunday!  What now!  In talking to many who have experienced this, almost unanimously, two things come to their mind.

The first is, "Was I really saved?"  The second is, "If I was really saved, how could I have failed the Lord so soon?"  If not counseled soon, this person very often does not come back to church.  The reason is, they are embarrassed over not fulfilling their promises and commitments to the Lord, and they do not want people to think they are hypocrites.  The sad thing is, they were misled to believe they had to make promises and commitments to Christ in order to be saved.  This is some of the damage that is done by this type of invitation.  The person is led to believe that they must give something to Christ in order to be saved, little realizing salvation is all of the Lord.  It is receiving what Christ did for eternal life, not offering what we can do to deserve it.

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Dr. Max D. Younce, Pastor

HERITAGE BAPTIST BIBLE CHURCH
P.O. Box 573
Walnut Grove, MN 56180
Telephone (507) 859-2519

Web: www.heritagebbc.com

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