I have read the next two chapters of The Effective Invitation: A Practical Guide to the Pastor by R. Alan Streett. Chapter six, “Answering the Critics”, deals with objections to the practice of extending a public invitation during the service. Streett deals with nine objections from David Martin Lloyd-Jones. Streett lists nine objections from Lloyd-Jones (LJ) and then answered them. Streett’s answers are in caps:
1. An invitation puts pressure on the human will; the will must be approached indirectly through the intellect and the emotions. LJ IS CORRECTLY CONCERNED THAT AN INVITATION NOT BE GIVEN WITHOUT A CLEAR PRESENTATION OF THE GOSPEL GIVEN FIRST. HE IS CONCERNED ABOUT GOSPEL PRESENTATIONS THAT SEEK TO MANIPULATE PEOPLE RATHER THAN MOVE THEM BY A CLEAR PRESENTATION OF THE GOSPEL.
2. Many who come forward are responding to the personality of the preacher, general fear, or psychological influences rather than for spiritual reasons. THIS DIFFICULT TO PROVE OR DISPROVE. AGAIN, LJ IS CONCERNED WITH ABUSES OF EXTENDING AN INVITATION. THESE ABUSES DO NOT NEGATE THE LEGITIMACY OF THE INVITATION.
3. The invitation is tacked on to the end of the sermon, thus dividing the proclamation into two parts. TO COME FORWARD IS A PUBLIC DECLARATION THAT AN INWARD CHANGE HAS OCCURRED IN RESPONSE TO THE GOSPEL MESSAGE. THIS IS THE BIBLICAL PATTERN. AFTER PETER PREACHED ON PENTECOST HE CALLED ON THOSE WHO REPENTED IN RESPONSE TO HIS SERMON TO PRESENT THEMSELVES FOR BAPTISM.
4. The practice implies that those who respond have some power to save themselves. LJ IS CORRECT, MAN HAS NO POWER TO SAVE HIMSELF. BUT “THROUGH THE POWER OF THE WORD AND THE MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, MAN’S MIND IS ENLIGHTENED TO RECEIVE THE GOSPEL AND HIS WILL FREED TO RESPOND.” STREETT QUOTES LEITON FORD ON THIS; FORD POINTED TO JESUS COMMANDED A MAN TO DO WHAT HE COULD NOT DO PHYSICALLY, STRETCH OUT HIS HAND (MT. 12: 13) AND COMMANDED LAZARUS TO LIVE (JN. 11:43). “AT THE INVITATION TIME GOD SPEAKS THROUGH THE EVANGELIST, CALLING THE SPIRITUALLY DEAD TO COME TO LIFE (2COR 5:20). IT IS GOD, NOT MAN, WHO RESURRECTS THE SOUL AND ENABLES MEN TO LIVE.”
5. Most evangelists who issue public invitations are attempting to manipulate the Holy Spirit. This objection may spring from LJ’s Calvinist understanding of election that only those chosen by God will be saved. THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION HAS NO BEARING ON THE PRACTICE OF PUBLIC INVITATIONS. THE PREACHER IS COMMISSIONED TO PREACH THE GOSPEL AND ISSUE THE CALL TO ALL PEOPLES. HE/SHE GIVES THE MESSAGE AND WAITS FOR THE REPLY.
6. People who come forward are not responding to a conviction of sin, but are hoping for some benefit, such as acceptance of others or escape from judgment. WE CANNOT DISCERN THE PRIVATE MOTIVES OF INDIVIDUALS. THE EVANGELIST MUST GIVE CLEAR INSTRUCTIONS THAT THROUGH THE INVITATIONS GOD IS CALLING SINNERS TO REPENT AND PUT THEIR FAITH IN CHRIST FOR SALVATION. THOSE WHO COME FORWARD SHOULD BE DIRECTED TO TRAINED WORKERS WHO CAN ASCERTAIN WHY THE PEOPLE CAME FORWARD.
7. A public invitation encourages people to think they are saved if they came forward. This objection is linked to objection #6 and can be answered in the same way.
8. The public invitation supplants the Holy Spirit and His work. The evangelist preaches the sermon, then the Holy Spirit convicts of sin and draws people to Christ. An evangelist who issues a public invitation co-opting the work of the Spirit. “THE MINISTRIES OF THE EVANGELIST AND THE SPIRIT CANNOT BE SO NEATLY CATEGORIZED AND SEPERATED. RATHER THAN WORKING EXCLUSIVE OF EACH OTHER, THEY ARE UNITED. THE EVANGELIST IS A FELLOW WORKER WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT. TOGETHER THEY PREACH, CONVINCE, PERSUADE, AND CALL MEN TO CHRIST. THE APOSTLE PAUL SAID TO TIMOTHY, ‘THE LORD STOOD WITH ME THAT ALL GENTILES MIGHT HEAR’ (2Tim. 4:17).” SEE ALSO COL. 1:28,29, MK. 6:20, REV. 22: 17. THE EVANGELIST IS DEPENDENT UPON THE HOLY SPIRIT AND LOOKS TO THE SPIRIT TO DRAW MEN TO CHRIST.
9. No one ever “decides” for Christ. LJ IS HUNG UP ON TERMINILOGY AND IS INFLUENCED BY THE DOCTRINE OF IRRESITABLE GRACE. GOD DOES INDEED CHOOSE MEN, BUT GOD HOLDS MEN ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR RESPONSE TO GOD’S CHOOSING THEM.
Chapter seven is called “Extending a Public Invitations—The Reasons Why?” Streett gives scriptural reasons which were gone over in chapter four. He also gives historical reasons which will not be gone into here. He then gives practical reasons:
1. The public invitation is a practical way to accomplish the main task of evangelism: winning people to Christ at the earliest possible moment.
2. People under the conviction of sin miss half of what is said, all they know is the need to be saved and they have no clue about how to be saved. A public invitation helps clear up their confusion.
3. A call to come forward offers help to those who have heard the entirety of the Gospel message but are confused as to its meaning.
1. Man needs an outlet for response. When the heart and mind are stirred, there has to be an avenue of expression. The inward workings of the soul seek physical manifestation. Failure to provide an outlet leaves souls burdened and psyches frustrated.
2. People are mentally conditioned to expect it. To extol the benefits of receiving Christ and not give an opportunity leaves people confused and disappointed.
1. Christian observers recall their own walk forward and are motivated to rededicate themselves to Christ.
2. Christians who bring their unsaved friends to Church will be assured that their friends will have an opportunity to be saved.
3. People will be stirred to become soul winners.
4. It builds up Christian observers spiritually.
Affects on Pastors and Evangelists:
1. They witness the lost being saved.
2. They can measure the effectivenss of their presentation.
3. They have immediate access to new converts, thus being in a position to disciple them.