Making the Invitation Inviting

I have been reading a chapter of Mike Ireland’s book, The Gift of Ministry, each morning in the office. Each chapter is about four pages and has some practical encouragement or ideas about life as a minister. Last week one of the topics dealt with our tradition of having an invitation near the end of our services.
“Does every sermon need to close with an invitation? There are certain traditions that accompany the action of ‘extending the invitation.’ For example, any reference to the ‘invitation song’ we are about to sing will immediately send an energy across the auditorium. People who before were sitting tranquilly in their pew suddenly begin moving as if they were gathering up their belongings to catch the last bus of the day. If nothing else, church folks are always ready to sing the song that signals an end to the sermon.”
He also wrote about how some churches no longer offer the invitation. The reason is simple: it is often an invitation that goes unanswered. Rather than the intended outcome of people coming to recommit their lives to Christ or ask for prayer, it is just a time for the preacher to stand there waiting awkwardly. That first step into the aisle is incredibly difficult for most people. Now that our services are live streamed, it is even more so. Still we keep inviting.
Beginning this Sunday, we will offer another way for anyone who would like to respond to the invitation. I will be in the front of the auditorium with one of our elders as usual, but another of our elders and his wife will also be in the classroom at the southwest corner of the building. Our hope is that this will provide another option for anyone who would like to respond in a more private setting. Both options will be available each time we offer the invitation. “Hear the invitation; come whosoever will.”

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