The Gospel from the Pulpit: Information AND Invitation
It was refreshing. In fact, as an evangelist, it was hard to contain my excitement.
A pastor was giving a message encouraging believers to draw close to God. He was emphasizing the need to grow as believers. But recognizing that one cannot draw close to God until he/she knows God, the pastor took a moment to give a clear presentation of the gospel. He knew that in his audience, there were more than likely those who did not know the Lord.
But he did not stop with just the information of the gospel. He continued by inviting those who did not have the certainty of eternal life to come see him or one of the church leaders after the service. In a warm and caring way, he made it clear that today, he wanted to help them settle the matter of their eternal destiny. Had I not known the Lord, I assure you that I would have seriously considered his invitation.
So why was I so struck by that? Because sometimes pastors can end up informing people how to be saved, but there is no invitation extended to them to accept God’s free gift of eternal life today. So many non-Christians leave the service with a knowledge of how to come to Christ but feeling no urgency to accept God’s free offer. We inform. But we don’t invite.
The Importance of Inviting them to the Gospel
Evangelism is a process of sharing the gospel with the intent of seeing the non-Christian trust Christ. If we inform people how to be saved but do not invite them, we’re missing an incredible opportunity.
This is why the stance of one who evangelizes in the New Testament is that of a persuader—he recognizes that God is ultimately responsible for the results, but he endeavors to be used of God in persuading others with the truth of the gospel and the need to trust Christ.
Examine what God gave as His purpose in sending Paul. In Acts 26:18, Paul was sent “to open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.”
Paul himself understood that was God’s purpose for him when he testified, “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (II Corinthians 5:20). Paul knew that he had the responsibility and privilege to both inform and invite.
The Practical Purpose for Information and Inviting
As has been often stated, we speak as “a dying man to dying men.” There is nobody we are speaking to who is promised tomorrow. Therefore, the time to invite them to come to Christ ought not be tomorrow; it ought to be today.
In 2002, I was in a crusade in Yugoslavia. A woman in the congregation who was 82 and was married to a man who was 88. His health not being as good as hers, he often needed her help with things as simple as tying his shoes. She went home, and that afternoon was helping him with just that—tying his shoes. In a freakish kind of accident, she fell over, and her ribs punctured her lungs. She was rushed to the hospital and died the following evening. I was gripped by the fact that my message and the invitation that accompanied it was the last one she heard. To my knowledge, she had already trusted Christ. But what an example of the need to not only inform but also invite people to the Savior. Our message may be the last one they hear.
Isn’t that warning and urgency the one James speaks of in James 3:13-14? He wrote, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”
As pastors, how you invite non-believers to tell you they desire to trust Christ may differ. Whether it be by coming forward during the service or after everyone is dismissed, inviting them to arrange a time to speak with you, raising their hand, or signing some kind of response card, the point is, you should invite them.
So as boldly as you announce the gospel, just as boldly exclaim, “Is there anything keeping you from trusting Christ today?”
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