I just read a good post by Jay Guin over at OneInJesus.info about the tradition of the invitation at the end of a worship service. It is a very good post and I recommend you read it. He made this statement which is very true.
In fact, we sometimes do baptize too hastily, without taking the time to be certain the person coming forward really understands the commitment being made.
Jay’s post caused me to remember a church I once visited in Texas. Countryside Bible Church is an independent, local church in Southlake, Texas. My wife and I, shortly after our marriage almost 10 years ago, visited there a few times. What an unusual church!
The singing was hearty and passionate, people were very friendly, and a leather bound Bible was given to each visitor by the ushers. The pastor preached a fiery message from the word of God and without a word, when he had finished his sermon, people got up from their seats and started to visit and file out of the building. I was in shock! What were they thinking, no invitation? I was amazed that after such a fine Bible lesson there would be no opportunity for people to respond.
The next time we visited there, we arrived a few minutes early, so I asked one of the men I had seen there before why there was invitation. His answer floored me! “We believe our job is to proclaim God’s truth” he began, “It’s up to the Holy Spirit to convince the listeners that it is true. If someone is here who is not saved, we wait until they come to the pastor or one of the members and express a desire to know God, to repent, or to report that they have trusted Christ and want to be baptised”. My astonished reply was something like, “So you never have an invitation?” The answer was “No, we don’t try to do what only God can do”. Initially I was stunned! I had never considered the impact of what I had just witnessed.
Later I learned that each year of the church’s history they baptised dozens and dozens of people, each of them coming to Christ with only the invitation by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
I was there on a Sunday when 5 or 6 people, all adults that day, were baptised. Each of them stood in front of the congregation and told of how they came to understand they were lost, how they understood what Christ had done for them, and how they loved Him for it. Each spoke for 2 or 3 minutes. What was not so obvious was that each of them had previously spent time with an elder in private conversation so that they were reasonably sure the candidate truly did “believe with all of his heart” that the claims of the gospel were true. And, each of them sought someone else out to find out what they needed to do, no one pressured them to do anything.
My last visit there was in 2000. At that time they had 1,000 or more members, a fairly new facility on 10 acres which they had already outgrown, and were planning an expansion. They had never been in debt one penny and didn’t believe it was ok with God to do so. They seemed to be people of the Word, deeply devoted to Christ and to each other.
Let’s stand now for the invitation… How many hundreds of times have I heard those words when not one person in the room expected anything more than two verses of a song, a closing prayer, and everyone would head over to the restaurant or aunt Jenny’s house for lunch and some football. In fact, I have been in churches where they wouldn’t have had a clue what to do next if someone had come forward.
Charlie Knox, a fellow I worshp with is known for his “sayings“. One of my favorites is this one. “The difference between me and God is…He never tries to be me.” Is it possible we sometimes try to do the work that can’t be done by us?
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12,13)
“since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23)