Hold your ammo, there, Bubba. I give an invitation every Sunday. I give people an opportunity to respond and to come talk to me about spiritual issues. No pressure or manipulation is used. But I think it is a good thing to offer people a chance to make a public profession. It is not a biblical mandate and I realize that there are other ways to accomplish the same goal. But, at my church, we close our service with a hymn and give people an opportunity to respond.
But there is one thing I don’t like about the invitation – it’s not really the invitation but the way people view it. I’ve noticed this problem in some of our pre-service prayer times. One of the dear men of God who join me to ask God’s blessing on our worship will ask God to move on the hearts of those who need to respond so that they might make the decision they need to make and move to the front.
I would never rebuke that prayer. Every time we meet, there are lost people who need to choose to respond in faith to the gospel message. There are Christians walking in the flesh who need to repent. There are people to need to make the move to join our church or to follow Christ in baptism. I am not quarreling with prayer or the motive behind it. Who would NOT want to see the lost come to Christ or the straying return?
But that prayer also surfaces the problem I have with invitations. When the word of God is preached, it is never a few people who need to respond. When the Word is brought forth, EVERY person needs to respond. The Bible doesn’t call for a response from a few people who need to be saved, or to repent, or to join the church or whatever. The Word calls each of us to respond, to bring our lives in line with its teachings and to seek to be conformed to the image of Christ (by the Spirit’s work). We worship and we confront the Word not just so one or two might walk an aisle and respond, but so that every person who is present would respond in obedience to what is preached.
This is not a problem sufficient, in my mind, to toss out the invitation at the close of the service. Calling people to a specific act of public profession has sufficient biblically and the invitation is an acceptable way of accomplishing that purpose. But it also has some drawbacks, and in my mind, the tendency to focus the service on a few who “need to respond” is one of the biggest.