As a preacher, I do believe in extending an invitation for response after every sermon. However, not all invitations are biblical.
I have heard preachers stand in the pulpit and have people pray a little prayer, raise their right hand and say, “now look up here at me, now stand up, walk forward, come right now while no one is looking around.” Many resemble cattle auctions rather than a simple call to follow Jesus. Others may say something like “on the count of three you come forward, ready! 1-2-3 (as they snap their fingers), come forward right now, I saw you raise your hand, I saw you look at me, don’t keep sitting there, 1-2-3 come forward right now!”
I suspect we have all heard preachers use these man-centered tactics to get people to walk the aisle. These sale barn tactics cheapen what should be a moment when we witness the Holy Spirit at work in man. The man who stands in the pulpit and tries to get people to jump through hoops to walk the aisle stands as a manipulator, not a preacher. We want to see the lost converted by God, not emotional responses as a result of the manipulation of man.
The Holy Spirit does not need our help. We simply need to preach the Word with integrity, extend the invitation with integrity and trust the Holy Spirit for the results. What we find in Scripture is a simple call to follow Jesus. When Jesus called His disciples, He said, “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). On another occasion, Jesus said, “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). The urgent appeal for the lost to be saved is clearly seen in John 7:37, here Jesus publicly proclaims, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” The very nature of the message Jesus preached called for a public response. Also, after Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, he extended a public invitation for the people to come and “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). None of the above examples justifies the man-centered manipulation tactics that are being practiced by many who fill pulpits. Again, we are to preach the Word with integrity, extend the invitation with integrity and trust the Holy Spirit for the results.
A biblical invitation should be extended for the following reasons: First, the public appeal to come virtually permeates the Scriptures (Isa. 1:18, Hosea 6:1, Matt. 4:19, 11:28, John 6:37, Acts 2:38, 3:19, Rev. 22:17).
Second, it promotes the Sovereignty of God. God works through the preached Word to regenerate the dead. An invitation demonstrates expectancy for God to move in His sovereignty among the hearers.
Third, it emphasizes the moral responsibility of man. According to Scripture, man has the responsibility to repent and believe (Acts 2:38), and confess Christ as Lord (Rom. 10:9). This is to be done publicly (Matt. 10:33).
Fourth, it demonstrates an urgent desire for men to be saved. Jesus stood up on the last day of the feast, and, with urgency, extended a public invitation for the lost to come and be saved (John 7:37). In these last days, we should have urgency in our hearts to see the lost saved. We ought to be publicly calling all who are thirsty to come and follow Jesus. Therefore, let us preach with integrity, extend the invitation with integrity and trust the Holy Spirit for the results.
Blake Gideon, is pastor of Inola, First.