Regarding Invitations

October 21, 2007 at 3:25 pm (Church) (, , , , , )

The following was written in order to give our church plant understanding regarding our (my co-pastor and I) choice not to use traditional invitations. Maybe you will find it helpful.

Today, it is the regular practice of most Evangelical churches and the vast majority of Southern Baptist Churches in our nation to give an invitation at the end of the worship service. What typically is the invitation? It is an opportunity for those present in a worship service to respond to the prompting of God’s Holy Spirit. For this reason, we do not make a blanket rule that says, “We will not give an invitation at the conclusion of the worship service.” But, we do want to ask, “Is the invitation system the best way to encourage others to respond to the Lord’s leading in their lives?” We believe the answer is “No, the invitation system is not the best practice for our church.” Here is why:

The invitation system often distracts the majority of the body from thinking through the application of God’s preached word to their own lives or the life of the church. Of course, after God’s word is preached each Sunday, we want to create an atmosphere that encourages our response to God’s truth. Though a formal invitation may do this for a few, there are other ways to do this for the many. Such as, a moment of reflection after the sermon to meditate on the sermon and its application to our hearts. Such as singing songs, not as background music in hopes that hearts would be prompted to respond, but as a response itself. Such as giving to the church (consequently, this is why our offering is always after the sermon, not before). All of these are geared to help us respond to the morning sermon by helping us to live out the message of the sermon in our lives as we go to our homes, schools, and workplaces. It is in these places that our real response to God happens. And it is in these places that we truly worship God. This is why Paul said that our spiritual worship is to offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1). So, we do want to invite a response, but not a limited, narrow response such as, “Walk the aisle to: pray a prayer, be prayed for, accept Jesus into your heart, recommit your life to Christ, or join the church.” We do not want to give the idea that these are the only acceptable responses to every sermon. The Scriptures are much more profitable than that (see 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Sermons are for every hearer to respond to, not just those who feel they should walk aisles.

Often, the issues dealt with at the traditional invitation are better dealt with at other times. Matters of salvation, church membership, one’s personal walk with Christ, and other spiritual issues needing counsel and prayer often require much discussion, study, thinking, and prayer. These things simply cannot be done in the time it takes to sing one or two verses of a song while sleepy-eyed, impatient onlookers’ bellies are rumbling. Though we could give an invitation and immediately take those who respond to a separate room where these types of things can take place, we prefer to do it at other times than during an invitation for the preceding reason.

Often, the invitation time is seen as an evangelical confessional with the preacher as the priest. We want to discourage members from thinking that there is only one place to confess your sins and that there is a requirement to confess your sins to a vocational minister. We prefer to encourage others to go to their great High Priest (Heb. 4:14-16) and to confess sins to one another as the Lord leads (James 5:16).

The church did fine without an invitation system for 1800 years. It is only in the last 150 years with the revival movements led by Charles Finney, that the invitation system came about. The thought was that a certain mood needed to be set (often through music and lighting) in order to prompt a response. We believe that as ministers of the Gospel, we do not need to set a mood, but freely to invite all to follow Christ and trust that a sovereign God will so move in the hearts of his people, that they will choose to respond, regardless of a lack of opportunity in the worship service.

We trust that you see our hearts in this. We are trying to be wise enough to lead others in genuine, God-honoring worship as well as doing damage to Satan’s stronghold of those in this nation with false assurance due to many sloppy invitations. Of course, we are always available after the worship service, as well as most any time to help others work through many of the spiritual issues often discussed during a traditional invitation.

In as much as we follow Christ, come with us as we seek to respond to one of our Lord’s invitations, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

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