The 'Invitation'

Discussion in 'Fundamental Baptist Forum' started by Rubato 1, Mar 31, 2008.

  1. Rubato 1

    Rubato 1
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    Why do we hold an 'invitation' at the end of the service, and what does it accomplish that could not be without one? Should people be asked to come forward in frront of everyone to pray or to be dealt with? Or would we be as well off allowing people to leave and deal with things in private?
    I know that, to me, it is utterly distracting to kneel at the front and try to pray about what I just heard, etc. It has nothing to do with pride or being backslidden.
    When did this tradition begin?
     
  2. 4His_glory

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    It became popular as a result of Finney´s ridiculous new measures.

    I am not big fan of the way a lot of invitations are done. I will leave it at that.
     
  3. Mexdeaf

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    Do a web search on 'history of altar calls' and you will get a ton of answers, most of which disagree. I can do 'em or do without 'em whichever the case may be.
     
  4. webdog

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    Because Christ is knocking at the door...and the handle's on our side of the door.
     
  5. Joseph M. Smith

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    I am certainly not a "sawdust trail" preacher, nor do I believe in manipulative invitations ... singing "Just as I am" over and over and over until someone comes just to shut things down. But I see the invitation as the natural conclusion to the peroration of a sermon: we seek to highlight a crisis in someone's heart and to offer the solution, there for the acceptance. I agree that much of the time people decide to receive Christ or to join the church in a private way, but I have seen people allow the work of the Spirit right there in the invitation, and make a decision that they did not intend to make when they came to church.

    I so often think about the young man who came flying down the aisle during my pastoral days -- after so much conflict, marital stress, alcohol abuse, etc., etc. It was such a powerful moment that all I could do was to hug him; I could not speak to introduce him and his decision. For many that was not necessary anyway.

    All of that to say that invitations can be manipulative or just routines, but they can also be moments for crisis to be resolved.
     
  6. John of Japan

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    Finney is usually accused by Calvinists of inventing the invitation. He may have popularized it, and you carefully make that distinction--but that's debatable as I will show by a quote from H. Leon McBeth.

    According to The Effective Invitation by R. Alan Streett (Revell, 1984), the invitation goes back much further than Finney. For example, he talks about the preaching of John Chrysostom (347-407), Patrick (390-461), etc. He documents the fact that in the 12th century Bernard of Clairvaux would ask for a show of hands after his messages.

    Again, in America the first people documented to use the public invitation were the Separate Baptists (Calvinists, folks!). H. Leon McBeth writes, "The Separates apparently helped popularize what is now known as the 'evangelistic invitation.'" He then quotes Rober I. Devin (A History of Grassy Creek Baptist Church, p. 69): "At the close of the sermon, the minister would come down from the pulpit and while singing a suitable hymn would go around among the brethren shaking hands. The hymn being sung, he would then extend an invitation to such persons as felt themselves poor guilty sinners, and were anxiously inquiring the way of salvation, to come forward and kneel near the stand." McBeth then writes, "The separates thus devised a method of encouraging on-the-spot religious decisions, to the singing of a hymn, well before the revivals of Charles G. Finney, who is often credited with inventing the invitation" (The Baptist Heritage, p. 231).

    The invitation has been misused, sure. But that's no reason to abandon it. (I don't say that you have.) An old time Baptist preacher named Faris Whitesell wrote a book in 1945, 65 Ways To Give an Evangelistic Invitation. The great R. G. Lee wrote the forward. To give you just one example, the first invitation Whitesell gives is to respond later, perhaps by making an appointment with the pastor. You have to agree, there is nothing high pressure about that. There are many spiritual, low pressure ways to give an invitation. The invitation can take many forms.

    Here in Japan, since my church is so small, I usually just ask them to pray where they are for a minute, and take it to God. That is an invitation to act on what they have just heard. However, one time a few years ago there was a man I knew needed to make a public profession of faith, ala Romans 10:9-10, so I gave a "come on down" invitation. He is now the best Christian in my church!
     
    #6 John of Japan, Mar 31, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 31, 2008
  7. John of Japan

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    One of the biggest decisions in my life, answering the call to be a missionary, was made in my seat without going forward at the invitation. If the Holy Spirit leads you to go forward, do so. If He doesn't, stay in your seat.
     
  8. 4His_glory

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    I failed to make an important distinction. There is, I believe a difference between an altar call and an invitation. An invitation can be given without an altar call. I believe that we ought, in preaching, to call people to Christ or challenge believers. The problem I have with the altar call is that in many cases it has become a sort of baptist sacrament. How many people look to the time "they walked the aisle" when questioned about their salvation? it wasn´t the 20 or 30 or however many feet they walked that saved them it was the grace of God in Christ.

    Personally I do not use an altar call. But I always give an invitation. In fact if God is working in a persons heart for salvation I would rather they trust Christ right in the middle of the message rather than at the end of the service.

    I believe it was Torrey who once said at the end of a sermon: There is no altar call, just go out and live it! (to a group of believers no doubt). Or he said something of that nature I apologize ahead of time for not finding the source and if some one knows of it please direct our attention that way.

    Anyhow the long and short of is: I believe an invitation is not only appropriate but also biblical. However the altar call- if it was developed by the Separate Baptists or Finny or whoever is a man made invention which can (note the use of can, please) be harmful to the cause of Christ.
     
  9. 4His_glory

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    Likewise for me. I was saved in my living room around the age of 6 and committed myself to missions without going forward for an altar call at 14. In fact I waited to the service was over and most of the building had cleared before I finally yielded to serve Christ abroad.
     
  10. tinytim

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    As for an altar call... where did the Altar come from.. where in the NT?
     
  11. John of Japan

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    Okay, point taken. And I note the use of "can." And I also note by your wording that the altar call can also be useful. If it is a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ, I believe that it can sometimes be useful, especially in a culture like Japan, where "shame" is a major motive for many things. If a Japanese is willing to go forward in a service, that is a huge step for him!

    But as you point out, if it is used as a "Baptist sacrament," and people think that's how you get saved, then it can be harmful.
     
  12. John of Japan

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    What, Brother Tim, you don't have an altar in your church? To offer up chickens or whatever? :smilewinkgrin:
     
  13. bapmom

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    the way I've heard it described most recently (at a major Pastor's convention in a large, midwestern, rather well-known church a couple weeks ago) is that it helps us form the image of turning to God. Obviously we can get right while staying in our seat or while in our living room, but there's a symbolism in the coming forward in response to the Holy Spirit's convicting power...as symbolism that helps us carnal, fleshly people solidify that thought in our heads. <edit - I'm not really able to do justice to his portrayal, the speaker said it better>

    I've had many moments in an invitation where God spoke to me and I got right or I made a decision that has changed my course in life.
     
  14. Steven2006

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    The church I grew up in while having invitations, didn't really have altar calls. The church I am a member of now always does. I have to admit it took a little getting used to, and I still have some mixed feelings about them at times. However one time when I was reading Peter's sermon in Acts two, and when I came to the end of the sermon it sounded a lot like an altar call to me.



    "Act 2:40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!"
    Act 2:41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. "



    Until I was in a church that regularly had altar calls I hadn't ever thought of the connection. It was after Peter had preached his sermon, and then he "Kept on exhorting them". "Be saved", he said to them, he was calling them to come, and they did.
     
  15. bapmom

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    hmmm, another thought is, having to sing many stanzas of the invitation song is to me more of a comment on the hearts of the people sitting in the pews. A church with hearts open to the message will respond without any song at all, and the invitation singing often winds up just being an accompaniment to the crowds walking forward and to lend some privacy to those needing to pray with someone else.
     
  16. David Lamb

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    If by "we" you mean "all baptists", I can assure you the we do not all hold an "invitation" at the end of the service. Having said that, I hope that we all would make much of the fact that the Jesus Christ is the only way to God, the only truth of God, and the only life from God, and only by trysting in Him can we be right with God.
     
  17. Jkdbuck76

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    Right now the invitation is becoming a point of contention at our congregation. For some time, the Pastor has been ending the invitation after one verse of music. Two people have mentioned to me that the invitation needs to be longer!
    I guess maybe if Paul had let the orchestra pit play "Just As I Am" another thousand times, maybe Felix would have converted! It was all Paul's fault!
    /end sarcasm.

    If they help, then use them. I wonder how many people "come up to receive Jesus", and how many of them come up there to inform everyone that they have ALREADY received Christ's forgiveness and have ALREADY been born again.
     
  18. sag38

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    What's sad is when no one has responded to the invitation for several weeks and the same little old lady comes forward not necessarily because she needs prayer. She just feels sorry for the pastor because no one is responding. She embarassed for him and the church.
     
  19. webdog

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    For those looking for Scripture alluding to an altar call...there isn't one. That doesn't mean they should be forsaken either. Just about everything christians do on Sunday are not found in Scripture (pass an offering plate, sit in pews, have a "worship leader", etc.) There is a freedom given us in worshipping God, but that there is the key...worship God.
     
  20. Tom Butler

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    I've told this story on the BB before. For the benefit of new posters, here it is again.

    During a mission trip to Romania, I noticed that Romanian Baptist churches never gave invitations or altar calls. I asked our host pastor about it, and he answered:

    "Part of the reason is cultural. Those who come our way are either from an Orthodox or Roman Catholic background, so there's no experience with invitations. But the larger reason is that we have come to believe that the Holy Spirit is sovereign and does not require us to create an atmosphere in which he can do his illuminating and convicting work.

    "We have also found that when the Holy Spirit is working in an individual, they will come to us on their own. We do not have to beg them to do so. We cannot keep them away."

    The Lord saved me during an invitation, so I'm hesitant to dismiss them out of hand. However, I have become acutely aware of the potential for corruption of the invitation. The inclination to use whatever means to elicit a response, any response, is very strong. This can lead to manipulation, and I have seen it happen many times.

    Its corruption has produced this mindset among many in my Southern
    Baptist culture. A visitor to our church went away very upset after the pastor ended the service wthout an altar call. She asked "How are people going to get saved without an invitation?"

    See what I mean? I wonder how people got saved before the invitation system was popularized in the mid-19th century.

    We have even invented reasons to get people to walk the aisle. Have any of you ever invited believers to "come to the altar" to pray? What altar? Where is the altar in a Baptist church? Why, down front, of course. Praying in the pew where you are simply won't do.

    My concern is less the use of an invitation than its misuse.
     

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