By Arkansas Baptist News

[Perspective] What has happened in the area of evangelism?

By Arkansas Baptist News

By Don Moore, retired executive director, ABSC

This is a question on the minds of many.  For more than a decade our churches have declined steadily in the number of people won to Christ.  We could easily list five or six factors.  My objective in this piece is to focus on only one, the public invitation.  For a number of years there was a battle over the Gospel, the Word of God.  Most assumed that if we got the message right a harvest of souls would soon be seen.  In general, that has not happened.  It should not be easy for an unsaved person to walk off feeling good about going to church when the verdict upon his destiny is that he is “condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”  John 3:18 

In many churches there is no appeal for a person to act upon the Gospel message they may have heard. In other churches, the lost are encouraged to do the seeking.  If they want to make a decision, they are encouraged to come talk to someone after the service is dismissed.  It seems that we have forsaken the Jesus model in Luke 19:10 (ESV) “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  His highways and hedges see little traffic of believers seeking the lost.  This has carried over into public worship.  Since so little is done during the week to get lost people to church, most pastors have to assume there will be no lost people in the congregation.  Having no knowledge of any unsaved people in the congregation it is difficult to give a genuine, personal invitation to hypothetical people.  The absence of passion in the appeal seems contradictory to the benefits offered in the Gospel.  How convincing is it that salvation is essential if there is not a corresponding call for the lost to respond, now? 

Jesus said in John 16:8-9, “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me.” If we believe the Holy Spirit is faithful to do His work, why would we not assume that there will be those being drawn at any given time to receive His gift of salvation? 

Why do we struggle with the invitation?  Pastors may feel inadequate, uncertain, awkward, and redundant since they will have given the same invitation to the same congregation over and over.  Second, our enemy, Satan, does not care that people have knowledge, as long as they are kept from making a decision to receive and follow Jesus.  With the arrival of Covid and the necessity of not getting close to anyone, public invitations were mostly discontinued.  This gave Satan an opportunity to convince people that you could have church without confronting people with the Gospel.   Taking the easy way out, we do not press the issue of personal responsibility regarding their destiny. 

It may appear of less relevance, but the music used during a call for commitment is critical. The worship leader needs to feel, along with the pastor, that we are making our appeal on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God.  “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” 2 Corinthians 5:20 (ESV) We implore (beg you) you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  Modern music has produced few songs that would tug at a person’s heartstrings.  The Gospel appeal in the lyrics should linger in the hearts of the saved and lost alike. Some traditional songs, such as Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling, will more likely drive that appeal.  The final song in a worship service should not be to collect your things, put on your coat and make a break for the exit. 

People unwilling to pay the price of public identification with Christ break with Jesus’ clear teaching.  “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 10:32 (ESV) When public decisions are not made, the church body is robbed of sharing in the joy.  The new convert is robbed of the glorious moments when their brothers and sisters embrace them and welcome them into the family.   

In a recent worship service, the pastor declared that he was very sure there were people present that needed and wanted to accept Christ that day. After great participation in worship and a brief message, the pastor announced that he was going to count 1, 2, 3 and on the count of three those who wanted to give their lives to Christ and receive salvation to stand. Fourteen adults stood and shortly thereafter walked forward declaring their decision to follow Christ.  A professional football player and former Razorback seated a few rows in front of me was one of the first.  Scripture says there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels over one sinner that repents.  The same happens in our churches when the combined prayers, witness, and encouragement of the church result in getting another sinner across the threshold of salvation. 

Therapeutic messages that deal with every conceivable emotional and relational hang-up may be personally helpful and even necessary, but when weighed against Revelation 21:8 (ESV), their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death,” they seem pretty shallow.  The one who warned about hell is the same who repeatedly said, “Behold, I come quickly.”  He was urging quick action about critical matters.  Can we do less? 

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10 Responses

  1. You are right on brother Don… There is a time for asking for immediate decisions in a public way… Satan has convinced us that if the Holy Spirit is working, they will come to him in their own time… We are employed to compel people to come to the savior before it’s too late… I fear that we don’t believe in hell anymore

  2. “Choose TODAY whom you will serve”. Very insightful and well thought out presentation (as usual).

  3. I don’t consider myself an old fuddy duddy, But Danny and I have recently been talking about how much we miss the alter calls and the old hymns! It’s sad that even though our grandchildren all attend church regularly, they don’t know any of the old hymns!
    We Love Bro. Don too…. he’s one of the Great Ones! ❤️

  4. Amen, Brother Don!! One of my favorite songs for the invitation makes it all so clear…”Don’t Go Away Without Jesus”.

    “Oh, don’t go away without Jesus,
    Oh don’t go away without him.
    You know he is willing to save you,
    And cleanse from your heart every sin.
    Oh, yield to his offer of mercy,
    Oh, take of the grace he imparts;
    And don’t go away without Jesus in your heart.”

  5. I, too, believe we are missing so much because we hid the hymnals. Those beautiful old songs were full of conviction & invitations to come to God. Thank you, Bro Don! Love you & miss you!

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