Is the "Traditional" Invitation outdated?

Discussion in 'Pastoral Ministries' started by jshurley04, Mar 19, 2004.

  1. jshurley04

    jshurley04
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    It is my understanding that the traditional invitation that 95% of our churches use is only about 100 or so years old. The main purpose when it was started was for an easier accounting of the decisions so the evangelist could promote himself easier in the next town. But is this really the best way in a society that is more and more peer pressure focused? It seems to me that this has been so used that people do not respond the way they did even 20 years ago. There are already better ways to handle membership desires, why not better ways to handle the other parts of invitation?

    Your thoughts are appreciated.
     
  2. Dr. Bob

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    Won't guess if the motive for starting it was anything more/less than to assure REAL conversion. Finney (founder and hero to those enamored in the "invitation system") was anathema to Baptists.

    But within a generation, Baptists were imitating the "easy believism" and it flourished with Billy Sunday, Billy Graham and Jack Hyles.

    But the "altar call", with psychological manipulation, long drawn-out second service after the sermon, and desire for some ACTION (that can be quantified) on the part of the respondent is not biblical.

    Decisions are made in the quiet of the heart, not in a man-made setting/time and agenda of 26 verses of Just As I Am.

    (BTW, I give an invitation in EVERY sermon. But seldom give a public altar call)
     
  3. USN2Pulpit

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    Interesting statement...would you care to elaborate with some of the exact wording? I'm interested in extending this kind of invitation, too, but I'm not sure how to communicate it to the congregation.
     
  4. Jeff Weaver

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    Wow, can't believe I agree with Dr. Bob, but I do.

    In 25 years I have never given an altar call, never known of it in a Primitive Baptist church anywhere either.

    I have seen others do all sorts of manipulations as well. Went to a meeting once along time ago, where there preacher refused to close the meeting until some one "got saved." I wondered many a time if the folks who went forward just to get to go home. I thought about it. Of course at this same meeting, he decided he needed a new suit and passed the plate until he got enough money to buy one. Never went back to that church, wasn't a Primitive Baptist Church BTW, but was some flavor of Baptist.
     
  5. jshurley04

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    Maybe I am confusing an alter call with an invitation. It seems really close to me. This is one of the areas that I have been struggling with as I look toward what God has planned for me and my family in our ministry together. The whole concept just seems to smack of showmanship and look how good I am because I came to the alter today. In the church I am currently ministering in, I can almost count a set pace and name the first 3 or so people down to the alter EVERY service. If they have a genuine need then that is fine, but I just think that there must be a better way to close our services and still allow those who the Spirit is dealing with to take care of business, without the appearance of showmanship or I'm better than you.
     
  6. Dr. Bob

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    Some folks have been "trained" that the only response to a message must be in open repentance in front of the church. I pity them, but I certainly understand that need. I've known many that would not feel "forgiven" or "right with God" if not for an altar call.

    Every sermon must be built around a categorical imperative. That becomes your invitation and is driven home as you build each point of the exposition.

    After stating your premise (built, I pray, on the verse you are expositing), you MUST, you SHOULD, you OUGHT, you'd BETTER use such an imperative that demands action/response.

    That is the "categorical imperative" that makes a SERMON rather than a LECTURE.
     
  7. North Carolina Tentmaker

    North Carolina Tentmaker
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    I agree with you Dr. Bob when you say
    Every good message should present some truth and then force a decision based on that truth. Throughout the gospels every time we see Jesus work some miracle we see that the result is two fold, some people are drawn to him, others are driven away, but all are forced to make a decision.

    My problem with avoiding an alter call is that without making a public decision there is no public accountability or follow-through. Without an alter call and a public decision I doubt if I would have followed through with much in my life. That is in fact what baptism itself is, a public profession for Christ.

    When people really come to Christ they don't want to keep it a secret, they want to tell someone. When Jesus found Andrew he immediately went and got Peter. Philip went and got Nathaniel. The woman at the well told the men of her city. The Phillipian jailer told those in his household. If you are not willing to walk before the church, kneel at an alter, and make your decision public, then I don't believe you have really reached a decision yet.

    I would never close a message without some opportunity for the members of the congregation to come forward, to pray at the alter if they so choose, and to make the spirit's work in their life known, and most importantly to seek help, to seek advice, to ask questions, to have an opportunity to speak with someone else one on one about the needs in their life. Obviously some messages result in more public decisions than others and in many messages no one comes forward. I have never sung 36 verses and refused to close the service unless someone makes a decision. But I also never close a service without giving everyone the opportunity to make a decision for Christ and make that decision known.
     
  8. USN2Pulpit

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    That's the point of the question I was asking Dr Bob, and others. I see the need also for the sermon to demand a "verdict" on the part of the listener - to bring them to a point of decision. My question is this - What are the words you use? If someone is so moved, how do they communicate their decision to you without an alter call? Do you simply say "I'll be available after the service for those who...?" or is there some other procedure?
     
  9. Bethelassoc

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    My thinking on this has come down to what to do to change the mindset of the church so they don't feel like they have to appease the sermon by coming to the altar. It's all based on tradition, anyway (Thanks, Finney et others!).

    People do want that choice to come and pray, but as I've told them, "there is no power in the wood before the pulpit", but if one looks upon it as a place to find comfort to speak to the Lord, I don't see the point in changing their mind on it, either. But I will not beg them to pray.
     
  10. Loren B

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    I have been in services where, from the outset of the message, you could tell that the goal was to see how many people the preacher could get down the aisle.
    And then, at the invitation, anyone who didn't come down was ridiculed, demeaned or worse.
    It goes like this:
    Did you raise your hand? Come on down.
    Do you know someone who should have raised their hand? Come on down.
    Now we can tell who the spiritual people in the church are. Are you people in the pews dead?
    Etc., Etc.


    I'm all for public decision making but some have taken it to levels of absurdity.
     
  11. USN2Pulpit

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    There is an atmosphere here where a pastor that issues an alter call may not wish to dive in here. However, I will admit that I do give an invitation - as well as an alter call. The difference between what I do and what some people here are describing is astronimical. The invitation time is given as a time for contemplation and decision-making. If a person desires to "come forward" and make their decision public, they are welcome to do so. They are also welcome to pray in the front with me, or alone on their knees. This is all done without coercion of any kind - nor do I attempt to make people feel guilty about not "coming forward." I even go so far as to suggest that there are those who have made decision, and if they wish to talk and pray later with me, they are welcome to do that.

    I am interested in the procedure (the nuts and bolts) of issuing an invitation without an alter call. What are the exact words used - and how is a person making a decision for Christ to let anybody know? Is it word of mouth, or does a pastor just say "see me after the service," or words to that effect?
     
  12. jshurley04

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    While I agree that there are those who have taken this time of the service to inflate their own ego and get themselves bragging material, I also have been in services where standing in the pulpit, I can see the faces of those who are wrestling with making a decision for Christ and ultimately not following through. I also agree that if a sermon does not promt the hearer to action of some type or kind it is not really a sermon. I have served with one pastor who closed his sermons by opening a time of prayer and reflection in which public decisions could be made and announced. Was this an invitation/alter call with new clothes or a new look at awakward time of the service, I don't know.
     
  13. Circuitrider

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    This sounds like the invitation that is used in most IFB churches that I have attended or been a member of for the past 39 years, no coersion, no guilt-trip, just a chance for folks to make a decision based upon the "catagorical imperative." I have been in almost 100 different churches here in our area in the past 28 months and found their invitations along this line. [​IMG]

    As to making a distinction between invitation and alter call....got me by the tail. :confused:
     

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