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