Yesterday we worshiped at the Duvall Church outside of Seattle, WA. (My son is the worship minister there.) I really enjoyed the service. (Although anytime I am able to be away from my regular pulpit, is usually refreshing for me). But they are without a senior minister & the associate who is generally filling in takes (deserved) breaks into which others step. Yesterday a young man who worships with them and recently graduated from Northwest University preached. (I think it is an Assembly of God school). He was about 30, his first time to preach and one of his academic emphases was New Testament Greek. It could have been a recipe for disaster. His content was actually pretty good. And with some practice, he will have a good delivery style. I’ve certainly seen worse preaching in folks who have preached more than he has.
But what I wanted to mention was his invitation. It was superb. It was well thought out, it combined both emotion and logic. It was delivered with a passion that was overshadowed in the rest of his sermon by his fear & insecurity. But what stood out to me was “That was a great invitation.”
Afterwards, Loretta (my wife) and I were talking about it and she stated what I recognize as true and others have pointed out as well. The invitations are the weak part of my preaching. I am more of a teacher than an evangelist, but that is not an acceptable excuse for poor or missing invitations. Now, I am not convinced that every sermon should have an invitation. That is more a vestige of the revivalism of the 1800’s. But there ought to be regular invitations. (Again I was reminded a week ago in my post about the Holy Spirit moving at the end of our youth missions presentation). And the invitations ought to be good and well thought out. Through the years I have had seasons when I have paid special attention to invitations. When I give them the attention they deserve, they are much better. But usually it is the last part of the sermon I write and I just throw something on (to be bluntly honest!)
In thinking through these things I came across a list of suggestions on giving invitations that I think came from that wonderful preacher and mentor for preachers Ben Merold. (formerly of Fullerton, CA & most recently of the St. Louis, MO area).
Here are notes from a lecture I heard him give some time ago:
HOW TO GIVE AN EVANGELISTIC INVITATION
1. Give it with authority and without apology. What we mention from the pulpit is considered important. What is not mentioned is not considered important. Most preachers don’t give invitations that are too strong. You have the authority of the gospel behind you.
2. Be definite – never suppose that they know what you want them to do. Be specific.
3. Prepare the invitation -KNOW THE HYMN NUMBER or the song that will be sung, if any!! Have prearranged signal for organ/pianist to play soft mood music during invitation. Often church don’t have congregation sing invitation hymn. Choir, special, etc. Successful invitations are carefully prepared (*) Use scriptures that refer to decision in the invitation. (*)
4. Prayer in the invitation -Merold leads into invitation with prayer. Some pray in the middle of it. Have a number of people praying intercessorily for the invitation.
5. Variety -II Tim. 4:2. Have someone else come up to give the invitation. Have the people sit down, preach a little more and offer invitation again.
6. Give it for Different Decisions -Importance of a trained counseling room.
- After sermon on profanity –invitation to quit swearing.
- Inv. to pray for the lost.
- Inv. to talk to someone about Christ.
7. Take time for the invitation -90% of converts come after last verse of inv. hymn –John Bisagno (So. Baptist preacher) **Let’s have shorter sermons & longer invitations.
8. Deal properly with those who respond. Counseling room. Specially trained counselors. Unhurried approach. Stay around front where people can come and talk with you.
9. Teach others how to give the invitation. Teach SS teachers, BS leaders how to extend the invitation.