Every head in the crowd is bowed and every eye is closed—except yours. Curiosity has gotten the best of you. Maybe you’re wanting to see if your spiritually lost friend is going to respond, or you’re checking out the honesty of the preacher when he says, “I see that hand. I see that one, too.” And you’re thinking, “Wait, no you don’t. No one is raising their hand.”
We’ve all witnessed “response times,” “the invitation,” or “the altar call” (whatever you prefer to call it) done poorly. In fact, we’ve even suspected some manipulation at play at times. We’ve all grown weary of hearing those types of stories.
No faithful preacher, speaker, or evangelist wants to be part of giving someone a false assurance of salvation. Because of this, many of us leaders have proverbially “thrown out the baby with the bathwater” when it comes to giving Gospel invitations. Some have just stopped doing them altogether, but we don’t have to.
My hope is that we will get back to giving effective Gospel invitations and have the confidence to do them with integrity. Here are some important practices to keep in mind when giving an effective invitation with integrity.
Keep it fueled with prayer
Pray, pray, and pray some more. You desperately need the Lord to speak through you in a way that pierces the heart. In many churches or events, there are hard hearts sitting and waiting to be broken by the Spirit. Prayer is the fuel for every aspect of the preaching ministry. Only He can break those hardened hearts. Salvation is a work of God; therefore, we must go to God asking Him to save people.
Keep It biblical
All Scripture expects to be preached in light of the Gospel. Every Bible communicator should deliver the Gospel every week to those gathered. Most likely, every time you preach, there will be people listening who are spiritually lost. Tell them how they can be found. Especially in these times of hopelessness, people are looking for hope. And we know hope has a name—Jesus.
If you want your people to take seriously the charge to invite their spiritually lost friends and family to church, then you must take the call to share the Gospel seriously. Plus, if you’re going to give an effective Gospel invitation, then you must make sure you actually preached the Gospel. Otherwise, what are we even inviting people to respond to?
Keep it short
Your invitation should be concise. Get to the point of what you’re asking them to do and get there quickly. Something about giving an invitation can cause us to lose confidence. Our default as communicators is to ramble when we’re short on confidence. The longer we talk about responding, the more confusing we become.
So, to be effective, spend as much time preparing for the invitation as you do the sermon. Just like you already know where you’re going in your sermon, you need to know where you’re going in your invitation. Get there quickly. There are too many potential distractions. Every second is valuable. Use each one wisely.
Keep it understandable
Be clear about what you’re asking them to do. If your wording is confusing, then you will cause confusion in their response. Can sixth graders clearly understand what you’re asking them to do? Nothing stops people from action faster than confusion.
Not too long ago, I saw a sign at an airport that read, “Moving Propellers Rip Off Heads.” That message was clear. It caused me to respond and take caution. God is not a God of confusion, so let’s not call people to respond to Him in a confusing way.
Keep it moving to a next step
Every Gospel proclamation has three responses: surrender, rejection, or a request to hear more. You see those at the end of Acts 17. In the case of surrender or a desire for more information, you should have a biblical, short, and understandable way to move to the next step. One, tell them how to surrender to Jesus. Two, answer their questions in a clear and understanding way.
The method doesn’t matter as much as asking people to respond with faith in the Gospel message they just heard. Whatever your preference, do something, and be clear about what you’re asking them to do. It is imperative, however, that there is a plan for immediate follow-up. There are few things worse than someone surrendering to Jesus and no one following up with them.
George Whitefield famously said, “Others may preach the Gospel better than I, but no one can preach a better Gospel.” It is still true today. Others may be better at presenting the Gospel, but no one can present a better Gospel. The same Gospel that has worked for 2,000 years still works today, so stick to it and invite people to respond to it.