First Person: Invite people to follow Jesus
by Todd Gray
LOUISVILLE, KY (BP) – Sometimes I know the best way to answer a great question about 30 minutes after the conversation is finished. That was the case recently when I was asked about an element of evangelistic preaching known as the invitation.
The invitation is a time of response to the message from God’s Word that was just proclaimed. It usually comes right at the end of the sermon. There is often a song that is sung, and people are invited to come to the front of the church to indicate they are ready to follow Jesus, be baptized, join the church, answer the call to Christian ministry or possibly pray or re-commit their life to Christ.
I am in favor of invitations and use them most every time I preach.
It is not difficult to make a biblical case for issuing a call for public response. Jesus told Matthew to follow Him. He invited others to come to Him. He told weary people to take up their cross and follow Him. When a person heard Jesus speak, they were challenged to act.
But there is another case that can be made for invitations today. In Acts 16:30 the Philippian Jailer asked Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved. They immediately answered his question and he responded.
Our Sunday morning worship services do not normally allow for a question-and-answer time at the conclusion of the sermon. However, is it not possible, and in some cases likely, that someone in the congregation is asking, “What must I do to be saved?”
If it happened in the Philippian jail it may also be happening in the pews of the church building, or the Facebook livestream, where you have been preaching.
Here are five elements of a helpful invitation:
Be Clear: Ask people to take action and tell them the action they need to take. Consider saying this: “I am going to ask you to give your life to Jesus today.” Then proceed to tell them how to trust in Christ to save them.
Be Considerate: No one wants to be embarrassed, so be sure to go out of your way not to publicly embarrass people. Invite people to pray where they are and call on Jesus to save them. Then invite them to respond during the invitation song by meeting you in front of the pulpit for prayer and further counsel, or the back, or fill out a card, or some other appropriate action given the setting of the preaching event.
Be Careful: One helpful practice for evangelistic preaching is to have invitation counselors trained and ready to counsel all who respond during the invitation. Make sure these mature men and women are trained to share the Gospel and then use them to provide spiritual counsel to those who respond during the invitation.
Be Convinced: When Paul preached to a group of ladies, as recorded in Acts 16, God moved to open Lydia’s heart to receive the message Paul spoke. God still opens hearts today. Be convinced that God opens hearts through faithful Gospel preaching.
Be Celebratory: Be prepared to celebrate every good thing God is doing when the Gospel is preached.
God can also use a simple Gospel invitation to prompt those who are hearing the Gospel to respond publicly affirming the work He is doing in their lives. When God moves and people respond the entire church celebrates and gives praise to the God who saves.
Keep inviting people to lay down their life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Todd Gray is executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.