Five ways to give an evangelistic invitation

By Ted Traylor

I have a confession to make.

While it is rare that I preach a sermon without having some kind of invitation, I am always nervous about it. I do not have the gift of the evangelist. Pressing the appeal is something I must work at prayerfully.

Fifteen years ago, I developed a habit that has been very helpful in giving the invitation. O.S. Hawkins’ book Drawing the Net offers a practical application for the pastor making the appeal in each of its 30 chapters. That book was a power surge for me. I placed it on the nightstand next to my bed, and my habit was to read a chapter each Saturday night before going to bed. That helped focus me for the next day’s invitation.

Here are five ways I extend this invitation:

Traditional. At the conclusion of my message, I speak to the people and make plain what is about to happen in the appeal. I often have a prayer to lead them in and then invite them to come forward. Several years ago at Olive, I stopped dealing with people on the front pews and created a group of trained people to take the responders to a nearby room for quiet dialogue and prayer. We call this our “encourager room,” and the counselors are referred to as “encouragers.” We train these people how to deal with people for salvation and other types of decisions. When the people come forward, I hand them off to an encourager. This system has been very fruitful for us for many years.

Next Step. Recently, we developed another team and avenue for the invitation. We do this in our church foyer. I joke that it is a “go out” invitation, rather than a “come forward” invitation. In this format, I encourage people to walk up to one of the Next Step tables and talk with one of our trained people. In this relaxed atmosphere, we are finding people more comfortable to talk and open their lives to Jesus.

Cards. On special occasions like Christmas Eve, I have cards in the pews for people to fill out. I lead the decision time in the sermon and direct them to respond by filling out the special card in the pew rack. I ask them to hand it to an usher at the door as they exit. I make it very clear that we will follow up with them.

Discovering Olive. Each quarter, I invite people to a Sunday evening dinner. The target group includes new members and recent prospects. Here, we have a host couple at every table of eight to 10. After dinner, it is my job to present the church and the gospel. I lead in a prayer and invite them to be saved at the table. We ask them to fill out a card and bring it to the response table at the conclusion of the evening. The table hosts are key people in helping those making a decision.

Vacation Bible school. I was saved on a Thursday in VBS as a 10-year-old boy. I take this day seriously as an evangelistic season. I share the gospel and my story. I strive to make it clear. I also try to make it hard. This is a favorite day of mine each summer. I just do not miss it!

I cannot encourage you enough to read Drawing The Net. This collection of thirty practical principles for leading others to Christ is designed to equip you to extend the invitation of the good news publicly, as well as personally. If you take seriously drawing the net after you preach, you will want to get that book. Pray for God to make you bold and creative in your context as you draw the net.

Published April 19, 2018

Ted Traylor

Since 1990 Dr. Ted Traylor is the pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida. His weekly radio and television ministry, At the Heart of Things, reaches thousands of homes along the Gulf Coast and through weekly podcasts and streaming. Dr. Traylor’s bold and practical preaching brings people to a fresh understanding of God’s Word and challenges them to become bondservants for Christ. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Religion from Samford University in 1997 and a Master of Divinity (1981) and Doctor of Ministry (1986) degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to serving as First Vice-President of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000 and President of the Florida Baptist Convention in 1995, Dr. Traylor was President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2004 Pastors’ Conference, 2010 Pensacola Bay Baptist Association moderator, and was part of the 2010 Great Commission Resurgence Task force team. Currently Dr. Traylor is proud to serve on the Fellowship of Christian Athletes board for the University of Alabama (Roll Tide!).