The Bible is a book of invitations; and Baptists have become known as guardians of God’s invitation.
Evangelist Keith Fordham recently had lunch with a Methodist pastor, who said, “The one unique thing that Southern Baptists have brought to the church is the invitation. No other denomination has brought the invitation to us or practices it regularly.”
Fordham added, “Billy Graham said he had not given invitations until he became a Baptist in Florida (He grew up in a strict Scottish Presbyterian home, but attended Florida Bible Institute near Tampa, FL).
He said one of his first invitations was given at First Baptist Church in Venice, Florida. He remembered that six people came to the altar. Dr. Graham said that he was so excited by those who came forward to receive Christ, as was the entire church, he became convinced that God would have him give invitations throughout his ministry.”
To me the entire worship service should move toward the invitation. Those who prepare the worship experience should pray about the needs of the church and the people who will be in attendance for the services on Sunday and plan the the music and the message and even focus the prayers so that the people are led to respond to God’s offer of grace, forgiveness and salvation.
Ronnie Floyd, Senior Pastor of Cross Church and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, explained, “As we expound the Word of God and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are moving people towards an encounter with God. In some way, we should call for a response to God. Preaching is not intellectual gymnastics or emotional hype. Preaching is the experience of communicating God’s Word through human personality for the purpose of leading people to encounter God. Preachers preach for decision. Preaching calls people to respond to God.”
The Bible is filled with gracious invitations beginning in the Old Testament. For example, the Psalmist says, “Come and see the works of God, Who is awesome in His deeds toward the sons of men” (Psalm 66: 5-1). In Isaiah 1:18 the Lord says, “Come now, and let us reason together, though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.”
In the New Testament there were many occasions when the Lord Jesus urged people to “come” to Him. For example, he issued an invitation to his disciples, saying, “Come ye after me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:17).
To those who labored and were heavy-laden Jesus said, “Come unto me, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). To Zacchaeus, Jesus said, “Come down (from the Sycamore tree); for today I must abide at thy house” (Luke 19:5). To Lazarus, Jesus cried, “Come forth” (John 11:43), and not even the grave could keep him from responding to the Lord’s call.
The idea of the invitation is so important in God’s economy that the Bible ends with a plaintive and powerful plea in Revelation 22:17: “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
Many churches invite those who wish to respond to the call of God to come to the altar where pastors/counselors are available to pray with and assist those who respond. Other churches invite those who wish to respond to the call of God to a “decision” room where they can interact with counselors who are prepared to assist them with their questions or concerns. Some churches urge those who wish to make commitments to complete a decision card and return it to a pastor or place it in the offering plate.
However, there are few things that bring greater joy to the church than seeing God at work in the lives of those who respond to the Gospel invitation and walk the aisles of the church to publicly profess their faith in Christ.
While the method of calling for a commitment may vary, the important thing is to follow the Biblical standard of extending God’s invitation to those who need to respond to His mercy and grace.