The public invitation reminds people that the gospel requires, demands, a response. It helps clarify in their minds just what they are doing and why they are doing it. It allows the preacher and counselor to talk to them about their decision and answer questions they have. With these as basic foundational principles, what are some different approaches to giving an invitation? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? Let me offer six.
(1) A verbal appeal to trust Christ and embrace the gospel which has been clearly explained.
Advantages: a) It avoids the danger of manipulation that can accompany a call to come forward. b) It is personal in that it directs the listener to do business with God.
Disadvantages: a) There is no immediate opportunity to publicly acknowledge one’s faith in Christ. b) It can leave the one responding to the gospel with unanswered questions that may need an immediate answer. However, this disadvantage can be overcome by adding to the verbal appeal one of the next two options.
(2) An invitation to come forward at the end of the sermon in response to the biblical message and gospel appeal.
Advantages: a) It is an easier way to get with someone immediately. b) It is a more effective way to get with someone one-on-one. c) It can encourage others who have prayed for them and are interested in their decision. d) It allows for public celebration. e) It can provide personal confirmation to the one responding to the preached word.
Disadvantages: a) It is open to coercion and manipulation. b) It can be misunderstood even when properly communicated. c) One may equate the call to come forward with the genuine invitation to believe the gospel.
(3) An invitation to come to a side room or counseling room for further inquiry and information.
Advantages: a) There is less pressure, certainly of a public nature. b) The danger of abuse is minimized. c) It helps those who are shy. d) It provides a private one-on-one time that is neither rushed nor distracted by a congregation.
Disadvantages: a) The church misses the immediate celebration of the salvation. b) Not all churches have the necessary facilities.
(4) “Raise your hand if you’ve trusted Christ.”
The advantages and disadvantages of this method are similar to #2 noted above.
(5) Invite people to “trust Christ now” and come forward afterward for information on how to grow.
Advantages: It keeps separate trusting Christ and coming forward.
Disadvantages: Follow up can be difficult if not impossible if they fail to come forward later.
(6) Commitment card
Advantages: a) It is great for follow-up. b) It is the most non-threatening of all. c) It provides a record of all who made a decision and wish to have it noted. d) It can be used in a wide variety of settings.
Disadvantages: a) It, too, is open to misunderstanding or at least a lack of full understanding. b) The logistics of getting the card after the service has ended can cause problems.
These methods are not exhaustive. They are certainly not infallible. Acting with proper motivation and integrity is essential. Being contextually sensitive is crucial. How you extend the gospel invitation is not the most important issue. That you do it is!