Used by Permission
When we preach the Bible, we are leading people to encounter God and respond to Him personally. As we work our way through the specific text we are preaching, we are leading them to encounter the God who wrote this Bible.
My Personal Testimony
I believe when a preacher of God’s Word unpacks the Scripture, revealing the Lord Jesus and His greatness, he preaches for decision. As we work our way through the text, periodically sharing illustrations that relate to the meaning of the text, then making the needed applications from the text, we are moving people to decision.
I grew up watching Billy Graham crusades on television, as well as other men like Jerry Falwell and Adrian Rogers, who would always move people to respond to God. Therefore, not only because of their influence, but the influence of many others, including my home church, 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.
What about a Public Invitation in Today’s Church?
I did not understand, years ago, when many churches quit giving a public invitation. Having thought through this for years, I now understand that the key is for the preachers of God’s Word to give people an opportunity to respond to God personally.
I understand that responding to God does not always have to be coming down in front of the church as we sing “Just As I Am.” However, what I do believe is this: In some way, whether private or public, preachers need to give people an opportunity to respond to God. This can be through a step of action, a card to complete, coming down front to talk with me, or talking with one of our pastors as they leave. Whether it is private or public, we need to provide an opportunity for people to respond to God personally.
Anyone that comes to Cross Church realizes that I am very committed to giving a public invitation. While it would be rare for us not to extend a public invitation, we are not legalistic about it. We do extend the opportunity for people to respond to God personally in some way. Again, my personal conviction is that we give them some way to respond to the Lord God we have just talked about in the Scriptures.
Each week, I am consistent in the various appeals I make to respond to God. If you visit our fellowship, you will find me extending the following appeals as I prepare to give the public invitation:
- Call to follow Christ
This is the call to respond by faith to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As I have preached the Gospel sharing about Christ’s death, His burial, and His resurrection, I believe as I herald that message, I should call people to repent of their sin, turn in faith to Jesus Christ, trusting in Him alone for their personal salvation. Unquestionably, I am faithful to always extend this Gospel call.
- Call to unite with our Cross Church Family
We believe the church is so important to our walk in Jesus Christ that each person needs a local church family. Therefore, unashamedly, we call people who know Christ to unite with our Cross Church Family. Whether they do so by joining our fellowship from another church or following Christ in believer’s baptism, we believe being a part of a local family of believers is critical to spiritual health.
- Call to surrender to God’s call to ministry or missions
For years, I have offered the call to surrender your life to God’s call to ministry or missions each week. As pastors and preachers of the Word, we need to call out those whom God is calling to the ministry of the Gospel. Whether you preach to thirty people or three thousand people, always extend the call to ministry and missions. You never know who God is working on and who is ready to abandon themselves to follow Him fully in Gospel ministry.
I believe one of the reasons we have so many people who have surrendered their lives to ministry or missions at Cross Church is that we have been faithful to talk about this unique calling God places upon people. As a teenager, I attended a small church of thirty to forty people each week, as do many still; therefore, do not neglect to extend the call to ministry, for our God may have someone there whom He is calling.
- Call to respond to God, His message today, or your life this week
At Cross Church, we call people to come to the front of our church, to kneel or stand in prayer, as God has convicted them through the message from His Word or through something going on in their life. We believe people need to respond to God, including challenges they face in their family, jobs, health, or walk with Christ. People come en masse at times, praying for themselves or over someone who has a need. Sometimes just a few may come, but the quantity is not the issue. The issue is giving people an opportunity to respond to God. There is something healthy about this kind of atmosphere that is not legalistic, but willing to permit the Spirit of God to work through the lives of people freely. Ultimately, their response is to God and no one else.
As preachers, always be faithful to give people an opportunity in some way to respond to God, either privately or publicly, always leaving it in the hands of God alone. We point people to Him, not to us. They account to Him, not to us.
We need to preach with the humility, burden, conviction, and urgency that Richard Baxter, the English Puritan church leader preached with during the 1600’s. He writes, “I preached as never sure to preach again and as a dying man to dying men.” Where is this kind of passion, burden, and urgency in preaching today?
As preachers, we need to deliver the Word of God, be faithful to extend the opportunity to respond to God, and then leave all the results up to Him alone.
[Dale Flynn and his wife, Liz, are Word of Life Local Church Ministries missionaries in Eastern MD. Dale is a Local Church Ministries curriculum editor and is the editor of this Ministering to the Minister E-Transfer national electronic Pastor’s newsletter. The Flynns make their home in Elkton, MD. Questions or comments about this article may be addressed to Dale at: DFlynn@wol.org. ]