WHY DO WE HAVE A PUBLIC INVITATION?
By: Keith Phemister
I was talking to a man whom I pastored, and while we were talking, he made a statement that took me aback. He said that in our Baptist churches we do many things that are not biblical. “For instance,” he said, “we have invitations and nowhere in the Bible does it say for a church to have an invitation. If it isn’t biblical, then I will not move during the invitation.”
Well, since we are on the subject, where in the Bible does it say we should have pews? Offertories? Organs? Pianos? How about Ushers? May I just say that because the Bible is silent on an issue does not mean it is wrong! In fact, just because the Bible does not address the issue of a public invitation does not mean that we are wrong in conducting an invitation.
I would even go further and put that notion on the defensive. How about this; if it is not in the Bible, then why don’t you show me where it violates Biblical principles?
Charles G. Finney was held as the pioneer of the “public invitation.” For the first time in his preaching career at Evans Mill, New York, in 1825, Finney conducted an invitation and asked anyone who would like to give his heart to God to come forward and take the front seat. On his first attempt, Finney was successful.
Now Finney was not a Baptist, he was a Presbyterian. I say that because of the belief I have that what he did was biblical because it stood based on biblical principles.
The reason for conducting an invitation can rest in the need for recognizing the saved so that the next step can be easily pushed. How can we really know whom to baptize as part of the “Great Commission” if there is not an identification of the saved?
A person does not need to be saved in a church building. There are numerous instances of people in the Bible being saved in places other than the church.
If you look in Acts 2, Peter is preaching the very first sermon after our Lord’s Ascension. These Jews were pricked in their heart at the preaching of God’s Word, and demanded, “What must we do?” Folks who are under conviction should be told by the preacher what to do.
An invitation is the answer to meet the need. The answer in this case was: Repent and be baptized! I have a simple question to ask all of us. How did they know whom to baptize that day unless they identified themselves?
The Bible says that about 3,000 were baptized. Before baptism, there was salvation. Identification was necessary. Therein lies a very good reason for an invitation. Whenever there is preaching, real Bible preaching – there rests a demand for a decision. I have always been taught that preaching is teaching with authority, persuading with the intent to make a decision. We have gotten away from Biblical preaching and become teachers exclusively with the intent to not “run off the crowd.”
The Biblical principle of an invitation is evident in the Old Testament as well as the New. In Exodus 32:19-29, Moses came back from the mount, only to find the people having made the golden calf. There was ungodly music and the people were found naked.
Exodus 32:26 says, “Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD'S side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.” Would that not be an invitation to the people of God? Absolutely!
An Old Testament example of the invitation is found in Deuteronomy 30:15-19, 15“See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil: 16In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. 17But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt no hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; 18I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall jnot prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. 19I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and they seed may life:”
There is ample biblical principle for an invitation. See also Joshua 24:15 and I Kings 18:17-21.
The simple truth of the matter is that preaching demands a decision. There is a difference between preaching and teaching. In our church, I desire a balance amongst our people. I want them to get the fire and zeal that preaching gives, but I also want them to get the knowledge that teaching brings. We need to also be aware that biblical preaching will include teaching.
When I think of preaching, I think of II Timothy 4:2 that says, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” Doctrine means teaching. Biblical preaching involves reproving, rebuking, and exhorting. What does that mean? Here it is broken down for us.
1. Reprove – to charge with a fault, to excite a sense of guilt
2. Rebuke – to restrain, to calm, to check
3. Exhort – to call for, to encourage to obey
So, in conclusion, we see a preacher is to identify sin, present the need to change, and finally urge one to make a decision. No wonder our Lord said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”
We are to press them for a decision. One of the most critical points in presenting the Gospel is what is called, “Drawing the Net.” For the soul winner it is the invitation. It is the time after preaching where we invite the sinner to “receive the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Saviour.”
We must not bow to the liberal’s way of doing things. The neo-evangelical crowd, emergent church philosophy or even the seeker sensitive agenda must never cloud our minds. Just stay with the old paths. We must stay the course and have an invitation.
The liberals blast confrontational soul winning in the same way that invitations are blasted. All because we are pressing the appeal to make a decision! 2 Corinthians 6:2 “…now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
The same people who claim that the invitation is unbiblical are much of the same crowd who are consumed with pride. Pride will keep one from going to the altar to do business with God.
In no way, shape or form do I believe one must go down an aisle to be saved. It is belief in Christ death, burial, and resurrection that saves, not walking an aisle. Sadly, there may be some who think that walking an aisle is what saves them. Confession does not save. Confession is for man.
When we confess Christ, we show man our belief and God is glorified. Romans 10:10 states, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness (God sees it) and with the mouth confession is made (man sees it) unto salvation.”
Nowhere in the Bible does it say that confession is necessary for salvation. When Paul addressed the Jew in Romans 10, he said to them that confessing Christ was essential to note salvation from man’s point of view.
To the Jew, confessing that Christ was Lord and not a man would mean a loss of friends, respect, position and even life (witness Stephen and the Apostles). Even Paul himself, in Acts 9:1, persecuted those Jews who had confessed Christ.
Yes, according to biblical principles a public invitation is desired and needed. We will continue to give an invitation as long as we continue to preach. God give us strength and wisdom to continue to carry on what we have been taught and never waver.