In the last message in the Heart of Northstar series, Roy Mansfield and Nick May discussed briefly why we give an invitation to accept Jesus each Sunday at Northstar. It probably does seem repetitive and a less than judicious use of time to those who have attended Northstar for several years and have bowed their head any number of times for the invitation. While Roy and Nick’s explanation was spot on, I would like to address this subject in a little more detail.
Some of us grew up in a church which used the invitation system where several verses of invitation hymns like “Just As I Am” were sung trying to get people to come forward. It could last 10 or 15 minutes, but was well worth the effort when somebody came forward to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. That is why we do provide an invitation every week.
When reading through the Gospels, one can’t help but be struck by the number of times Jesus invites people to follow Him. Commentaries suggest Jesus said to follow Him 23 times. The other thing that struck me is how many of them said yes, given that the requirements were demanding and the path they were offered difficult. Matthew 15:24 says,”Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Northstar’s task is no different. We are to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” – Matthew 28:19-20.
The Bible basically commands that an invitation be given. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 tells us: “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
The work of an evangelist is to win people to Jesus as is discharging the duties of our ministry. While the Bible doesn’t tell us to give an invitation each week, we believe it is worth the investment in time in case there is somebody in attendance who may only hear the gospel one time and today is that one time. It is keeping with one of our most basic tenets as a church: every person matters to God so every person matters to us.
Some churches ask that people come to the front of the church. We do not and there is a reason for that. After the Word is preached, members and visitors alike should be examining their own hearts. Everyone should be giving serious attention to how God is calling him or her to respond. But when you ask people to come forward, people change from self-examination to audience-examination. People are looking around, wondering who’s going to go forward. And if no one moves, one wonders, did the pastor fail? Or worse, did God take the day off? It tends to create the opposite effect you were looking for.
We believe people can be saved in their seat or at home listening to our online service. They didn’t need to wait for the Invitation. They didn’t need to come down front. They didn’t need to pray a specific prayer. The Bible invitation has never changed. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved…” In Romans 10:17 we are told “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” A person can be saved sitting in their seat at Northstar or listening to a podcast thousands of miles away.
Helping the whole world find and follow Jesus is the reason we do a weekly invitation and everything else we do at Northstar.