SALVATION and THE PUBLIC INVITATION
By Dr. Max D. Younce, Pastor
HERITAGE BAPTIST BIBLE CHURCH
Inconsistency. When one is invited to receive Christ by faith in their home and they do so, they are saved. They are not asked to walk an aisle. At a funeral people are not asked to come to the front, only to receive Christ. In the hospital one is simply asked to believe that Christ died to pay for their sins and rose again and walking the aisle is never the issue. When listening to a radio sermon I have never heard an invitation to come forward, only believe. It would be absurd to invite people to come forward over the radio. When watching a religious broadcast on television, I have never heard a preacher or evangelist inviting the home audience to come forward to receive Christ. They are usually told to "Trust Christ right where you are." The inconsistency is this, why do not the people at the outdoor meeting or in the church have the same opportunity to receive Christ by faith alone as those listening to the radio, watching television, or in their home, or at a funeral, or in the hospital? Usually at a televised outdoor revival the speaker will ask people to come to the platform to be saved and then turn to the television audience and say "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ right where you are and be saved." If all the people who had gone would have stayed home and viewed the television program they would have had a better opportunity to be saved!
A Tradition. Independent, fundamental churches, as ourselves, frown on traditions framed and incorporated outside the word of God. In Peter 1:18 and 19, Peter wrote concerning being saved by anything outside of the blood of Christ, speaking of their traditions received from their fathers. "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation, RECEIVED BY TRADITION from your fathers. But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot."
Paul, In writing to the Colossians, said, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ."
While some have condemned others for their tradition, they themselves are guilty of practicing the traditional invitation of coming forward to be saved.
Affects the preacher and evangelist. It is so often that preachers judge their success by the amount of public professions that are made. Numbers of souls saved are recorded at the front of the church based on the number of people who come forward. Since water baptism is the Biblical commandment for public testimony, why not post the amount of baptisms which would reflect the number of people who made their profession public?
Many evangelists who send out their flyers list the amount of conversions they have had at their previous meetings. This, I take it, is to impress me of their successful meetings so I will be more eager to engage them. Whether admitted to or not, the gleanings from the public invitation have been used as a means to promote one's self as a successful pastor or evangelist. It has become a measuring line between success and failure. I could not number the amount of pastors I have talked with who became discouraged because "No one came forward." The whole success of their ministry seemed to be based upon this. I think it might be beneficial, at this point, to recognize that in preaching the Word of God there is a time of planting, a time for watering, and in due time, God will honor His Word and give the increase (1st Corinthians 3:6). Our responsibility is to faithfully present God's Word.
In 1st Corinthians 3:7,8 we are told, "So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth: BUT GOD THAT GIVETH THE INCREASE. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one; and every man shall receive his own reward." Please notice:
The Word of God will do its part. Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is quick (alive) and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
The Holy Spirit will do His part. John 16:8, "And when he (Holy Spirit) is come, he will reprove (convict) the world world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment."
God will do His part. 1st Corinthians 3:5 and 6, "I (Paul) have planted, Apollos
watered; BUT GOD GAVE THE INCREASE." "All that the Father giveth me shall come
come to me; and him that that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37).
Can we be trusted to do our part? "But speaking the truth ('Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved') in love (not getting upset and angry when there is no immediate response) . . ."in simplicity and godly sincerity. . ." (2nd Corinthians 1:12). Then depend on God to give the increase "in demonstration of the spirit and of power" (1st Corinthians 2:4). God, the Holy Spirit, and the Word of God will do their part, if the preacher and evangelist will do theirs.
More times than not, I have had those come for baptism or counseling only to find they were saved two or three weeks prior. What a tragedy it would have been to have judged that service a failure because there was no outward response. A service is never a failure as long as God's Word is proclaimed. Many a preacher looking for an immediate response has been discouraged needlessly. There is a time of planting, a time of watering, and God can be depended upon to give the increase, "My word shall not return unto me void, "saith the Lord" (Isaiah 55:11).
Allow me to illustrate with an incident I experienced some time back concerning having people forward. We had an evangelist come for meetings held from Sunday to Wednesday. Prior to the meetings he had almost insisted that he give the invitation. I related to him that I did not object to people coming forward as long as he told the congregation they could be saved without coming forward. At the Sunday morning service, he gave the invitation to come forward to be saved, but would not tell the people they could be saved right where they sat. There was no response. After the service we ate together and I, again, emphasized to him to extend the invitation to be saved to those who did not wish to come forward. Again, there was no indication on his part that would not do it. At the Sunday evening service the same thing
occurred. After three verses of hymn, interspersed with the invitation to come forward to be saved, he had not even hinted you could be saved without coming forward. The whole invitation rested upon coming forward for salvation. No one had responded. He then announced we were going to sing five more verses before closing. At that point I went to the pulpit and finished the invitation. Needless to say, he was very upset and so was I.
The next day I called him at the motel and asked him if he would come prior to the meeting and we could discuss the invitation. He refused and advised me he had been highly insulted and this was the first time anyone had ever interfered with his invitation. He informed me he would not continue the meetings. I related to him that he also was the first evangelist who refused to tell people they could be saved without coming forward. I asked him if we could discuss it personally instead of over the phone. He would not agree to that and left that night. I finished the meetings myself.
My only reason for relating this is to point out that this problem was the direct result of the traditional public invitation to walk to the front of the church.
The invitation has never changed in God's Word, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31). This excludes doing, working, or walking to obtain salvation. One must come to Christ without anything but faith and receive everything (eternal life), then the love of Christ constraineth us to do, work, and walk with Him and for Him. In 2nd Corinthians 5:14,15 we are told, "For the love of Christ constrained us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again."
The public invitation most certainly effects the evangelist and the preacher in many cases.
Since a multiplicity of churches and people have only experienced a "coming forward" to be saved, may I only emphasize that God can be trusted to save a person in church the same way one is saved in their home. I may, by some, be accused of being bigoted or narrow-minded because of infringing upon this patent tradition. Since there is only one way to Heaven and that being through the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6), I believe there can only be one Scriptural invitation ... and that being to believe in Christ ... plus nothing! May I propose that the church invitation be the same as an individual invitation at home.
At the conclusion of every Sunday service, an invitation for salvation is given in our church. No matter what the message, whether dedication, salvation, prophecy, service, or whatever . . . an invitation to receive Christ as Savior is always given.
At the conclusion of the message, the congregation is advised that in a few minutes we will bow in prayer. Salvation is then explained and the lost encouraged to receive Christ as their Savior as we bow in prayer. While their heads are bowed, I ask if any are receiving Christ at this time, if so, I would like to pray for them in the coming week and they may indicate it by raising their hand. I will explain that we are not going to embarrass them in any way and no one will come back to them to have them down front. They are also informed that raising the hand does not save them or have anything to do with their salvation. It only indicates to the pastor they are receiving Christ by faith. I may then rejoice with them and pray for them in coming weeks. I assure them I will not call out their name or draw attention to them in any way. If hands are raised, I simply acknowledge them by saying something like, "Thank you, I see that hand," and the hand is put down. As we close in prayer we simply ask God's blessing on those who trusted Christ as Savior.
In our church we usually have the closing prayer and then dismiss with the congregation standing and singing a closing hymn. Just prior to the closing hymn I encourage anyone present to contact me if they have any questions at all, or would like a home visit. They may tell me on the way out, and I will be happy to help them.
I have learned to trust the Word of God to bring those back who were saved. It is amazing the amount of people who will contact the pastor of their own free will when they are not pressured. I am never disappointed if no hands are raised, because many are saved who do not raise their hands. Many times the reason for this is, they have raised their hands before in a church service only to have someone tap them on the shoulder and try to persuade them to go to the front of the church. If the Word of God is preached and I have prepared myself with study and prayer, the service will always be a success. If I do my part, I can rest assured that God will do His.
In conclusions may I propose:
Give those in church an "equal opportunity" to be saved as those in their homes, hospital, etc.
Dispense with foolish questioning of the congregation which has no value.
Always give an invitation to trust Christ.
Never get discouraged because there is no immediate response.
Learn to trust God's Word yourself. We preach it is sharp and powerful, let's trust what we preach to others.
Study, prepare, and preach the Word, and the service will never be a failure. To think the service is a failure will be to think God's Word is a failure.
Trust God to give the increase.
Trust the Word of God to bring people back. If the people are hungry and you feed them, they will be back for more to eat.
A steady growth will last longer than the big explosion of gimics and high-pressure persuasion.
Let us recognize that water baptism is the Scriptural public profession.
Keep the service within the length of time specified. Why send someone away angry unnecessarily.
Keep the invitation simple. Remember "Profoundness is not profundity unless it is pruned in simplicity."
Remember, the practice of coming forward for salvation is as much a tradition to the independent, fundamental churches as the traditions practiced by the Roman Catholic Church.
"Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the TRADITION
of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. -Colossians 2:8
God made plan of salvation so simple that a child can understand it. We are expected to present this salvation to others as God gave it to us, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved" (acts 16:31).
"But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the SIMPLICITY that is in Christ."
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever BELIEVETH in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." -John 3:16
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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
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