I recently read the following from an online resource regarding the invitation that is extended at the close of the sermon:
“Here it comes. The preacher is wrapping up his sermon, people are putting away their Bibles and grabbing the song book, and then the singing starts. The preacher stands at the front of the congregation scanning the crowd for any responses. You make sure not to make eye contact with him, not wanting him to confuse your errant glance as guilt. The song ends. The preacher walks disappointedly to his seat and the worship service ends with a prayer. Sound familiar? …If your church is like mine then you probably see this most Sundays…I am not saying that we should not provide people with an avenue to voice their hurts, ask for prayers, or ask to be baptized. We need to allow people to do this. My question is: Is a public invitation the best way to do this? I’m thinking no.” For the full article see https://start2finish.org/tbh-invitation-still-effective/
The writer closes his article by saying in part: “I am not saying I have all the answers or that I am even right. But I do see a problem that needs help. You might completely disagree with me and that’s fine.”
There have been others also who have said the invitation after the sermon is not needed and should not be offered. I firmly disagree.
First we need to recognize the invitation is the Lord’s invitation. This is what Jesus did. Matthew 11:28-30, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…”. The Bible closes with an invitation. Revelation 22:17, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely”.
Second we need to recognize the purpose of the invitation. The invitation is an exhortation from a servant of God for the unforgiven to receive forgiveness of sins by obeying the Gospel (Romans 10:17; John 8:24; Luke 13:3; Mathew 10:32; Mark 16:16) or an erring Christian to return to the Lord by confessing, repenting and praying (Acts 8:22). While the Lord’s invitation is always open, this may be what someone needs to hear to respond at that time or it may plant the seed to bring about obedience later.
Imagine if you will that you are one that had never heard the truth of God’s Word and one Sunday you come to worship with the Lord’s church. As you sit there you are impressed with the simplicity of the worship and the book, chapter, and verse preaching from the pulpit. Listening intently to the sermon you wonder, What must I do to be saved? The preacher concludes his sermon, steps down from the pulpit and without another word, the congregation begins to sing. There you sit without a word of how to have your sins forgiven.
Do we not recognize the importance of this time when we all pause together to encourage someone to come to the Lord; the invitation. Remember in Revelation 22:17 “the bride” says “Come”, that is the church.
How can a faithful preacher “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2) and neglect to offer an invitation to the lost that need salvation and not remind the faithful of God’s Plan of Salvation? It is always appropriate and right to exhort people to obey God.
-Jerry D. Sturgill