As long as I live, I will never forget that Sunday in June of 1954 when my father, who was also my pastor, gave the invitation at Main Street Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida. I stepped out into the aisle and walked forward to take him by the hand and say, “Daddy, I want to invite Jesus to come into my heart and to be my Savior.”
After making that commitment, one about which I had thought for some time and prayed about considerably, I felt as though I was walking on air. The Lord immediately gave me the unsurpassed joy of knowing that my sins had been forgiven by His blood shed on the cross of Calvary, and eternal life had been promised to me through the very resurrection of Jesus Christ from the tomb.
Before then, and since then, the invitation has been an unusually special moment in the hour of worship. The invitation hymns that I sung as a boy still come to my mind and in my private worship times, hymns like, “Wherever He Leads,” “O, Why Not Tonight?” “Just as I am,” “I Surrender All,” and many others. The invitation has always been a very emotional time for me.
How can we urge people to come to Christ, know that there are lost people present, and not weep when they fail to come to Christ? When you preach for souls and no one responds at the invitation, the heaviness of the moment is almost overwhelming.
During the closing session of this year’s Southern Baptist Pastor’s Conference, Greg Laurie, pastor in California and a very effective evangelist, brought a message on revival and our need to pray for another great awakening in America. He spoke of the Jesus Movement 40 years ago, a movement in which he came to what he believed was an impossible moment, the moment that he was saved. He called on Southern Baptists to pray for another Jesus Movement that would sweep the nation and bring many to faith in Christ.
In his message he spoke of the importance of giving an invitation to receive Christ following the presentation of the Gospel. I agree totally with what he said, that whenever the Gospel is declared, people need to be given an opportunity to respond to an invitation.
He said that in his church and in his revivals he invites those who want to be saved to come forward and he leads them in a prayer in which they invite Christ into their hearts as Savior. Pastor Laurie has seen tens of thousands come to faith in Christ through his evangelistic events. I am so pleased he is coming this fall to the Infinite Energy Center (The Gwinnett Arena) across from our Georgia Baptist Missions and Ministry Center for an area-wide crusade. I encourage you to make every effort to attend and to bring lost people with you so that we can see a great harvest of souls coming to faith in Christ.
Baptisms are down across the Southern Baptist Convention, but it does not have to be so. If we pray for revival, share our faith in Christ with the lost, consistently tell the Gospel story, and invite the lost to be saved, God will bring revival throughout our churches and throughout America. We need it desperately.