Each Sunday morning, at the conclusion of the sermon, I offer an invitation for people to respond to how God is working in their lives through the message they just heard. If you are a part of a church like mine, chances are your pastor does the same thing. My church calls it an invitation, your church may call it something different. I won’t recount the history of the invitation, but for years now, public invitations have been standard practice in local Baptist churches.
Unfortunately, some people determine the success of a worship service or a sermon by the number of people who respond to the invitation. On numerous occasions I have had people say to me, “I don’t understand why more people don’t come down front during the invitation.” Just so you know, I don’t get overly discouraged when there is little visible response to a public invitation on Sunday morning, and hopefully your pastor doesn’t either! I trust that God’s Word is powerful, and while people may not come down front during an invitation, God is undoubtedly at work in the lives of people. Often times, I will see the fruit of a particular message in the lives of people days or weeks after a worship service.
While the number of responses during an invitation is not the ultimate sign of an effective worship service or a sermon, I do want our time of public invitation each Sunday to be effective. I’m sure you want that as well! I do believe the public invitation is important because I believe that when people hear the Word of God people need an opportunity to respond. I also believe that each Sunday people are sitting in our congregations that are not followers of Jesus. They need an opportunity to respond to the Gospel. This Sunday, you can play a vital role in ensuring that the time of public response in your church is effective and powerful. Let me give you three ways you can help your pastor this Sunday as he offers a public invitation for people to respond to the work of God in their lives:
(1) Pray expectantly
I know many of you pray for your pastor on a regular basis, and your pastor appreciates it! If your pastor is like me, his is very aware of the power of your prayers. As you pray for your pastor and your time of congregational worship this week, would you specifically pray each for people to respond to the Gospel message this Sunday morning? I’m convinced that in most congregations, people sit in the pews each week that our lost and on their way to an eternity apart from Christ. There are people in your congregation each Sunday that need to believe the Gospel and give their lives to Jesus. Will you pray to that end? Will you pray that God will remove barriers and hindrances that are keeping unbelievers in our congregations from responding to Christ in faith? Let’s pray expectantly! Let’s pray that we would see a powerful movement of God’s Spirit every time we gather for worship! Let’s pray that each week we would see believers take their next step of faith, and let’s pray that each week unbelievers will respond to God’s grace.
(2) Listen attentively
As a pastor, I have the advantage of looking out over my congregation each Sunday, and I am excited by what I see. I see so many people with open Bibles taking notes as the Bible is preached. I am thankful for the attentiveness of people who desire to hear God’s Word so that their lives might be changed. I am fully aware that there is nothing life changing in my words, but God’s Word is absolutely life changing. If we believe that the Bible is indeed given to us supernaturally by a God who loves us and wants the best for us, why wouldn’t we listen attentively? When we listen attentively, we show people around us that what we are doing on Sunday morning really does matter.
A specific way you can help make your pastor’s invitation more effective is by not closing your Bible and packing up your belongings when he concludes his sermon. Without fail, towards the end of the sermon, I see and hear numerous Bibles closing, and I see and hear people grabbing their belongings. Honestly, when I’m in a worship service listening to someone else preach, I do the same thing. However, when we close our Bibles and gather our belongings before the sermon concludes, we’re unconsciously saying to others that the conclusion of the sermon doesn’t matter, and that’s usually when most pastors are trying their hardest to clearly articulate the Gospel and inviting unbelievers to respond! Help your pastor by keeping your Bibles open and not gathering your belongings until your pastor says the final “amen” of the sermon. I think that would be extremely helpful!
(3) Wait patiently
During the public invitation, I know God is at work in people’s hearts. People may be coming down front, or people may be remaining in their seats and praying from where they are. But in those moments, I know people are reflecting on God’s Word and responding through repenting of sins or renewing their commitment to Christ. I also know that unbelievers are being convicted of sin and looking for any excuse possible not to respond to God’s calling on their lives. During that time of public invitation, your pastor needs you to pray. Your pastor needs you to pray for people to not ignore God’s work in their lives. He needs you to pray for the unbeliever to hear God’s call to repentance and faith on their lives. During your church’s time of public invitation, will you commit to pray for people around you? Also, during your public invitation will you commit to not leaving the auditorium until the service is completed? I know that most churches try each week to be respectful of your time by only going a few minutes or so after noon. I know some Sundays go a little longer than expected, and I also know that there are some Sundays that you simply must leave to get to another engagement on time. However, excessive movement out the door during the invitation can hinder people around you from focusing on hearing what God is doing in their lives. Also, when people leave during the invitation it communicates that we don’t value that particular part of our worship service. So, if at all possible, wait patiently during the invitation, and pray for God’s work in the lives of people.
I really believe that the public invitation is an important time each Sunday, and we need to expect God to work during our time of invitation. Will you help your pastor to make the public invitation each Sunday more effective for the glory of Christ?