Today’s blog is part of a series on WHAT’S REALLY IMPORTANT? So far we’ve looked at the importance of the CHURCH, the importance of PREACHING, the importance of BAPTISM and the importance of THE LORD’S SUPPER.
Today’s blog answers the question, IS THE INVITATION REALLY THAT IMPORTANT?
Bruce Larson, in his book, WHAT GOD WANTS TO KNOW, shares the following story:
"When Abraham Lincoln was president, on Wednesdays he often enjoyed walking to the New York Presbyterian Church to hear Dr. Phineas Gurley speak at the Wednesday night service. Lincoln didn’t like to create a scene, so if Dr. Gurley knew the president was coming, he would open the door to his study and Lincoln would come in the side of the church, crack open the door of the study into the auditorium and hear Dr. Gurley without disturbing the service. One evening after walking back, his aide said, 'Mr. President, what did you think of Dr. Gurley’s lesson tonight?’ President Lincoln said, 'Well, his content was excellent. He spoke with great eloquence. You could tell he worked very hard on his lesson.’
And the aide said, 'So, you thought it was an outstanding sermon?’ Lincoln said, ‘No, I didn’t say that.'
And the aide said, 'But Mr. President you said the content was good. He was very eloquent and it was obvious he had worked very hard on it.’ Lincoln said, ’Yes, that’s all true. But Dr. Gurley left out the most important thing. He forgot to ask us to do something great.’” 1
In too many churches today, pastors forget to ask people to do something great. After an inspirational worship service and a motivating message, too often people are thanked for coming, but not asked to do anything. So they leave the way they came and the hope is they’ll come back next week.
My conviction is we ought to invite people to “do something great” every time we get together. And the greatest thing we can ask people to do is to give their lives to JESUS.
Dr. Ronnie Floyd said, “I have believed all these years that when we preach God’s Word, we are moving people to a moment of decision. I also believe the words recorded in God’s Word in 2 Corinthians 5:11, ’Therefore, because we know the fear of the Lord, we seek to persuade men.’ God’s Word cannot be ignored.” 2
Here at Crossroads we extend the invitation Paul talked about in 2 Corinthians 5:19-21, “… in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” The word implore pictures urgency and passion.
“The only proper reason to give an invitation is that God calls people to decision. From Moses (‘Who is on the Lord’s side?’) through Elijah ('How long will you waver between two opinions?’) to Peter (‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you’) and Paul (‘I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds’) – the scriptural tradition is crisis preaching that calls for a decision. It has been noted that almost everyone Jesus called, he called publicly. Picture him directing James and John to leave their boats … Zacchaeus to climb down from the tree … the cripple to rise and walk.” 3
The invitation to full blown, wholehearted discipleship was issued by the Lord, Himself, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
German Lutheran pastor and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book The Cost of Discipleship, made the invitation clear, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
Greg Laurie put it this way, “Jesus said, ‘You’re either for me or against me,’ and this is an either/or proposition. It’s yes or no. And to be undecided is to be decided.’ So, I make it very clear to people that to not accept Christ is to reject Christ, effectively … Now in the invitation, in a crusade, I will invite them to come forward publicly. I will usually repeat before the invitation, ‘I’m going to ask you to get up out of your seat and walk down this aisle, stand down here in front of this platform. Why do I ask you to do that? Because everyone that Jesus called, he called publicly. And he said, ‘If you acknowledge me before people, I will acknowledge you before my Father who is in heaven. But if you deny me before people, I’ll deny you before my Father in heaven.’ And then I’ll say, ’This is a way to do that.’ (I’m not saying this is the way, because I recognize that people have made commitments to Christ in their seats. Others have made commitments to Christ in the parking lot afterwards, because I’ve heard their stories, or a week later, so I don’t want to imply that going down an aisle makes you a Christian. But, this is a way to put feet to your faith and publicly demonstrate your desire to follow Christ.” 4
Several years ago, Max Lucado shared these words in the Oak Hills newsletter: “The most incredible invitations are not found in envelopes or fortune cookies, they are found in your Bible. You can’t read about God without finding Him inviting. He invited Eve to marry Adam, the animals to enter the ark, David to be king, Israel to leave bondage, Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem. God is an inviting God. He invited Mary to birth His Son, the disciples to fish for men, the adulteress woman to start over and Thomas to touch His wounds. God is the King Who prepares the palace, sets the table and invites his subjects to come in. In fact, it seems that his favorite word is ‘Come.' Listen to His invitations.
“Come let us talk about these things. Though your sins are like scarlet, they can be made white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18)
“All you who are thirsty, come and drink.” (Isaiah 55:1)
“Come to me and listen; listen to me so you may live.” (Isaiah 55:3)
“Come to me, all you who are tired and have heavy loads and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
“Come to the wedding banquet.” (Matthew 22:4)
“Come follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” (Mark 1:17)
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.” (John 7:37)
“Come everything is ready.” (Luke 14:17)
“The Spirit and the Bride say ‘Come!’ Let the one who hears this say, ‘Come!’ Let whoever is thirsty come; whoever wishes may have the water of life as a free gift.” (Revelation 22:17)
God is a God Who invites. God is a God Who calls. God is a God Who opens the door and waves His hand, pointing pilgrims to a full table. His invitation is not just for a meal, however, it is for a life. An invitation to come into His kingdom and take up residence in a tearless, graveless, painless world. Who can come? Whoever wishes can come. The invitation is at once universal and personal. It is given to all but can be accepted only by you.”
“Every time we get together we ought to invite people to do something great for God.”
Every time we have a decision time at our church, and we extend the invitation, we do it with a sense of reverence because of Who we represent and urgency because the Bible warns we “do not know what tomorrow will bring.” (James 4:14) Eternal destinies hang in the balance. Marriages are on the verge of making it or breaking up. People have come to a crossroads (no pun intended) and need to decide what they are going to do with their life. So we offer the invitation for people to come to Christ and be baptized. We also encourage believers to have a church home. (Not just having their name on a role, but serving as a faithful soldier on the front lines of ministry for JESUS.) We encourage people to repent of sin and recommit themselves to JESUS and we also encourage people who need someone to pray with them to come. And we do it without apology … every week.
The story is told of a Sunday night service where Dwight L. Moody preached. But that night, instead of extending a public invitation, he told the people to take a week and think about what he had said. The service was dismissed. The people left and that night was the beginning of the great Chicago Fire. “The fire burned from October 8 to October 10, 1871, and destroyed thousands of buildings, killed an estimated 300 people and caused an estimated $200 million in damages.”
Later, Moody shared with regret, “What a mistake! I have never dared to give an audience a week to think of their salvation since … I would rather have that right hand cut off than to give an audience now a week to decide what to do with Jesus.” 5
If you’re a part of a church that regularly and passionately extends the invitation, thank God and pray every week for Him to move mightily in your midst … and for people to respond.
Let’s make sure every time we get together we’re asking everyone, including ourselves, to do something great for God!
© 2017. Barry L. Cameron
1 Larson, Bruce. What God Wants to Know: Finding Your Answers in God's Vital Questions. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1994. Print.
2 "Preachers: Give People an Opportunity to Respond to God." Pastors.com. N.p., 07 July 2014. Web. 14 July 2017. http://pastors.com/preachers-give-people-opportunity-respond-god/
3 Ford, Leighton. "HOW TO GIVE AN HONEST INVITATION." CT Pastors. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 July 2017. http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/1984/spring/84l2105.html
4 "Greg Laurie on Giving Effective Invitations to Christ." SermonCentral.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 July 2017.5. http://www.history.com/topics/great-chicago-firehttps://www.sermoncentral.com/content/a-Greg_Laurie_1_22_07#
5 History.com Staff. "Chicago Fire of 1871." History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2010. Web. 14 July 2017. http://www.history.com/topics/great-chicago-fire
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Today, more than 8,000 people call Crossroads their church home. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.