Dennis Nunn, founder and president of Every Believer a Witness Ministries, shared the following story communicated to him by Jeremy Atwood, a pastor in Kentucky who had hosted a “Pastor Equipping Conference” in his church.
Nunn explained, “Jeannie Krebs, age 47, walked down the aisle in response to the pastor’s invitation at New Harvest Baptist Church in Caneyville, Kentucky on Sunday morning, April 30, and gave her heart to Jesus. At first, Cara, the pastor’s wife counseled with her and indicated that Jeannie prayed a beautiful and heart-felt sinner’s prayer.
“Cara told Jeannie she needed to share her salvation testimony with the pastor. Jeremy heard Jeannie’s testimony and he asked her how she felt after experiencing Christ’s forgiveness. With the burden of sin lifted and the peace of God flooding her soul, she stated, ‘I feel so wonderful.’”
James Krebs, Jeannie’s brother also made a profession of faith that day and was baptized three weeks later on May 21. However, Jeannie’s profession of faith was followed by an horrifying moment that will be etched in the memory of those present for the rest of their lives.
Following the invitation, the church was going to observe the Lord’s Supper and as Atwood faced the congregation, his wife screamed. The pastor immediately turned around and discovered that Jeannie Krebs had collapsed. The pastor and others attempted to perform CPR, but the woman was unresponsive. She was taken to Twin Lakes Regional Hospital and pronounced dead.
She trusted Jesus as her Savior and shortly thereafter (Atwood suggested two minutes later) she was with Him in heaven. This story of Jeannie Krebs illustrates the urgency of trusting Christ and the importance of the invitation.
When I prepare a sermon I start with the invitation. I ask the Lord, “What kind of invitation do you want me to extend to the congregation in the upcoming worship service?”
Sometimes the invitation has been a call to service. On occasions it has been a call to surrender. From time to time the Lord urges me to extend an invitation to call the worshippers to pray for revival; and sometimes the invitation is to call people to be more faithful witnesses. Several times a year I have issued a call for couples to devote their marriages or families to be more fully committed to Christ. However, in every worship service I have extended an invitation for lost people to be saved.
What if your community was afflicted with some kind of terrible plague that would result in widespread death if not properly treated? Suppose you had been diagnosed with the plagues, but you managed to find a doctor who had the cure and you experienced an immediate restoration to health?
On your way home from the doctor’s office you met a man who had the same life-threatening plague. You tell him that your symptoms were similar to his symptoms, but that you found a doctor who had a miracle cure requiring only one inoculation. After the shot you immediately began to feel better and the disease was no longer causing you pain or suffering. You had been gloriously healed.
So, you have seen a dying man. You have told him that you suffered just like he was suffering, but you found a doctor able to provide the cure to his illness. And, this physician is able to rescue him from certain death and provide the cure, but you go away without telling him where he can find this remarkably effective physician.
Each time the church assembles, whether on Sundays, Wednesdays, or during any Gospel meeting, the faithful Gospel preachers who stand before their congregations have an obligation to conclude their sermons with an invitation and appeal for the lost to be saved.
The invitation is not a “church ritual” or “an old fashioned tradition,” but a scriptural and appropriate way to conclude a message from God’s Word.
Consider Christ’s invitation in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me: for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Georgia Baptist evangelist Keith Fordham called to tell me about a conversation Ray Deeter, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Evansville, IN, had with a fellow pastor in his association. I called Deeter to get a first-hand report on what he told Fordham and thought the conversation interesting enough to share.
A younger pastor happened to see Deeter and said to him, “You church is always a leader in baptisms in our association. How do you manage to have so many new converts to baptism?”
Deeter responded by asking, “How often do you give a Gospel invitation in your church?”
The young pastor said, “Oh, I suppose we average giving an invitation about every six weeks.”
Then the younger pastor turned the tables on Deeter and asked, “How often do you give a Gospel invitation?”
The Grace pastor, answered, “I give a Gospel invitation every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening. We give an invitation at church musical programs (cantatas) and children’s programs. Our purpose as a church is to exalt the Savior, equip the saints, and evangelize the lost.”
About three weeks later the two pastors met again and the younger pastor said to Deeter, “I have been giving an invitation as you suggested and in the past two weeks we have had ten people saved and baptized.”
Deeter, who has been Grace’s pastor 12 years, stated, “The lost are not likely to be saved if they are not given the opportunity. I guess I am old fashioned, but as we continue to baptize new converts our church is getting younger every year.”
If you need an example of a compelling invitation consider the following sermon on Psalm 2:12 by Charles H. Spurgeon, preached on July 3, 1859 at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens in London, England.
“And I conclude now by noticing that this is an open salvation. Every soul in the world that feels its need of a Saviour, and that longs to be saved, may come to Christ. If God hath convinced thee of sin, and brought thee to know thy need to come, come away, come, come away, come now; trust now in Christ, and thou shalt now find that blessed are all they that trust in Him. The door of mercy does not stand just ajar; it is wide open.
“The gates of heaven are not merely hanging on the latch, but they are wide open both night and day. Come, let us go together to that blessed house of mercy, and drive our wants away. The grace of Christ is like our street drinking fountains, open to every thirsty wanderer. There is the cup, the cup of faith. Come and hold it here while the water freely flows and drink. There is no one who can come up and say it is not made for you; for you can say, ‘Oh, yes it is, I am a thirsty soul; it is meant for me.
“’Nay,’ says the devil, ‘you are too wicked.’
“It does not say over the fountain, ‘No thieves to drink here.’ All that is wanted at the drinking fountain is simply that you should be willing to drink, that you should be thirsty and desire. Come, then,
“Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness he requireth,
Is to feel your need of Him.”
“He has given you this: come and drink, drink freely. “The Spirit and the bride say come; and let him that heareth say come; and whosoever is athirst, let him come and take the water of life freely.”