Public Invitation: Biblical?

 

Image result for billy graham invitation

For many today the ministry of Billy Graham has come from memories to history. Billy Graham became popular for his evangelistic ministry. His crusades were widely attended and marked by his practice of the public invitation. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, public invitations were common among evangelists such as John Wesley, John Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney, Charles Spurgeon, Dwight Moody, and Billy Sunday. These men were not bashful about calling sinners to repent and accept Christ publicly.

Today the climate towards public evangelistic invitations has turned bitter and even hostile in some Christian circles. As I reflect on this change in attitude towards the public invitation I can only think of one reason why every church should practice a public invitation—it is biblical.

Old Testament Examples

  • Moses. After Moses discovered the Israelites worshiping the golden calf, he stood at the gate of the camp and asked, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me” (Ex. 32:26). This appeal demonstrated the Moses was calling the Israelites to denounce publicly their sin and follow God.
  • Joshua. When Joshua addressed the people of Israel right before his death he said, “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).
  • Elijah. At Mount Carmel, Elijah asked the people of Israel who they would serve, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 18:21). While no one responded, the invitation was clear.

Examples by Jesus

  • Jesus publicly called his disciples. Jesus called Philip, Matthew, and the brothers Simon and Andrew with the simple phrase “Follow me.” It can be safely assumed that Jesus used a similar method when calling the other disciples.
  • Jesus publicly called individuals. Most notably Jesus called Zacchaeus publically. When Jesus arrived at the tree He said, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” Upon Jesus’ command and in an act of repentance, Zacchaeus declared that he would give back to all whom he had wronged. Clearly, this was a call of salvation and public repentance because Jesus explained, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
  • Jesus publicly called the crowds. In Matthew 11:28-29 and in John 7:37-38, Jesus invites the crowd to come to him. Each of these instances were invitations for them to come humbly and trust Jesus.

New Testament Examples

  • Peter. In Acts 2:14-41, Peter delivered one of the greatest salvation messages ever recorded. “And Peter said to them, ‘repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38). Peter preached for a response, and he expected one. By the end of the invitation, about three thousand people had been saved.
  • Paul. The ministry of Paul displayed a pattern of evangelistic preaching with the desire to call for response. As recorded in the book of Acts, Paul preached in synagogues located in Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Thessalonica, Berea, Corinth, and Ephesus. In each of these situations, Paul proclaimed the truth of the gospel with boldness, presented the truth clearly and sympathetically, preached with respect to his hearers, and identified the difficulties that the listeners would encounter.
  • Philip. Philip experienced the work of preaching the gospel when he led the Ethiopian eunuch to the Lord. After explaining the Scriptures to the eunuch, he demanded that he stop and be baptized in the passing water immediately. The invitation was public and immediate.

The call to ask someone publicly to repent of their sin and follow Jesus is a call that is biblical. The Old Testament prophets, Jesus, and the early church leaders all practiced calling individuals and crowds to follow Jesus. Pastors, call your people to repent publicly and believe the Gospel. Don’t allow the methodology of an altar call to stop you from giving a public invitation.

Simple Evangelism Presentations

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There are many personal evangelism presentations available for believers. I was recently asked what was my personal favorite approach to personal evangelism. After I gave my answer, I began to think about why it was my favorite and if there were others that met the same criteria.

  1. Based on the Bible

The first criterion for my preferred personal evangelism presentations is that it must be based on scripture. Paul stated in 1 Cor. 15 that the gospel he preached, we must also preach. That gospel is “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to Scriptures.” As he continued, he was adamant to point the Corinthians (and us) back to the Scriptures. The Bible says that in order to proclaim the Word of God, we must use the Word of God.

  1. Easy to Learn

The second criterion is that the presentation must be easy to learn. I believe that teaching a new believer to share his or her new faith should come early in the process of disciplemaking. In fact, I think a new believer should be encouraged to share that faith within the first hour. The simplest way to do this is to have the new believer share the gospel presentation that was shared with him/her. Therefore, it must be easy to learn.

  1. Easy to Teach

It’s not enough for a new believer to learn the gospel, the new believer must also be confident enough to teach others to share the gospel. Therefore, the presentation must be easy to teach.

Resources

There are a number of great, simple gospel presentations. Here are some that are available online:

One Verse Evangelism This presentation is available from the Navigators. It was written by Randy Raysbrook. The presentation is based on Romans 6:23, and utilizes the bridge illustration.

https://www.navigators.org/Tools/Evangelism%20Resources/Tools/One-Verse%20Evangelism-%20How%20to%20Share%20Christ-s%20Love%20C

Steps to Peace With God This resource was created by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. It was originally developed as a tract, but is useful as an outline to a gospel presentation.

Step ONE: God loves you and wants you to experience peace and life- abundant and eternal.
Step TWO: We choose to disobey God and go our own willful way. This results in separation from God.
Step THREE: Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the grave. He paid the penalty for our sin and bridged the gap between God and people.
Step FOUR: We must trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and receive Him by personal invitation.

https://peacewithgod.net

John 3:16 One Verse Evangelism This presentation is similar to the Navigators presentation in that it utilizes a version of the bridge illustration. This version uses John 3:16 as the basis of the gospel.

http://gbcchurchplants.com/pdfs/One%20Verse%20Evangelism%20(John%203-16).pdf

Wordless Book This resource is great to use with children or anyone who is an oral learner. It uses five colors to communicate the gospel:

GOLD God wants us to be in heaven with Him.
BLACK Our sin separates us from God.
RED Christ died on the cross as the only payment for our sin.
WHITE Accept God’s forgiveness and the free gift of eternal life.
GREEN Grow closer to God every day.

http://www.cefonline.com/download/wordless-book-pdf/

Four Spiritual Laws This is better used as a tract, but it is possible to learn the four laws as the basis of a gospel presentation. Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) developed this approach.

1. God loves you and created you to know Him personally.

2. Man is sinful and separated from God, so we cannot know Him personally or experience His love.

3. Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin. Through Him alone we can know God personally and experience God’s love.

4. We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know God personally and experience His love.

http://knowgod.com/en/fourlaws/?utm_source=4laws&utm_medium=website&utm_campaign=4laws-visit&utm_content=english

 

Gospel Appointments Resource

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I had the pleasure of meeting with the Baptist Collegiate Network this evening. This is a network of leaders in Baptist Collegiate Ministries. These guys are passionate about making disciple-making disciples on the nation’s college campuses.

While meeting with them, I learned of a great resource for evangelism. It is the Gospel Appointments website. Be sure to check out this website which details a very simple approach to meeting people and sharing the gospel.

The Gospel Appointments approach was designed to help college students meet and share the gospel with other college students. However, it is not limited to just college students. Check out this resource, set up an appointment, and share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Gospel Conversation App

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We are releasing a project today that we’ve been working on for quite awhile. The Gospel Conversation app is a resource for all church members who would like to be intentional in their personal evangelism efforts.

When you download this app to your phone, you will have access to different evangelism tools such as 3 Circles, Gospel Lighthouse, Prayer Walking, etc. You will also find a link to the Caskey Center blog where we will continue to post helpful articles.

Two areas of the app are forms. One form, “Gospel Conversations,” is for you to enter information regarding a gospel conversation you may have had. There are two purposes for this: 1) to help New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary celebrate it’s centennial anniversary by engaging in 100,000 gospel conversations, and 2) to foster a certain amount of accountability.

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is celebrating it’s centennial anniversary this year. The seminary was started by act of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1917 in order to train pastors in a mission field. New Orleans, LA was not like any other city or state in the early twentieth century. It’s quite unique even today! So, for the 2017-2018 school year, we would like your help with gospel conversations in your mission field.

Two key components of effective evangelism is intentionality and accountability. With this app, we are asking you to intentionally engage in gospel conversations with the people God puts in your life. We want to help you by keeping you accountable. This is not a legalistic type of accountability. Rather you will receive regular encouraging emails (not too regular. We don’t want to be a nuisance!) regarding personal evangelism. I imagine you might want to know how well your fellow Christ-followers are doing in sharing the gospel.

So there it is. The Gospel Conversation App is here for you. Let me challenge you to make an effort each day, each week, to prayerfully look for the divine appointments God has prepared for you. Share the gospel in love. Provide those who are ready with the opportunity to make Jesus their Savior and Lord. Then let us know about your conversations in the app.

You can download the app here.

Excellence in Physical Health and Wellness

Today’s guest post is from Brad Winter, Rec Director at NOBTS. It is a repost from his blog site, I Must Decrease

Brad Winter

This is a piece I wrote for the Dean of Students Newsletter at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

I remember stepping on that scale three years ago and realizing that I had enough. If I was truly going to go wherever God wanted me to, I had to change my lifestyle. I just knew that if God called me to a remote part of the world at 300 plus pounds, that I would struggle the whole time there. Sadly, I would not be able to honor and serve God to my fullest ability.

Excellence in physical health and wellness is vital not only for being available to go wherever God wants you but also for your own well-being. Physical health and wellness, when placed in the top tier of our priorities help with stress and anxiety. It also helps with battling depression, it affects your work performance, protects against heart disease, and other medical issues that we encounter in our lives.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

Take some time this summer and reflect on where you are with your health. See which areas in your physical health and wellness that are not glorifying God at the current moment and work on those areas. Then, get busy getting healthy in order to go where God wants you and to glorify Him in that aspect of your life. It’s tough, but you can do this!

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Church Health Dashboard

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Pastors should be purposeful in leading their churches. A pastor who resigns himself to simply show up at the regular meeting times, and teach a nice Bible study or preach a sermon is not honoring his calling. We are called to lead the churches to make disciples who make disciples. Healthy churches do that through evangelism, discipleship, worship, etc. In order to keep the church on mission, it is important to evaluate your church’s health regularly.

John Finkelde recently posted an article here about five metrics he suggests churches should measure regularly to stay on course. Read the article for his explanation, but the five items are:

  1. Baptisms as a ratio of worship attendance
  2. Average age of the congregation compared to the average age of the community
  3. Percentage of adults serving
  4. Visitor flow
  5. Secondary giving

I agree with most of what he says regarding the metrics. If the church is baptizing roughly 10% of it’s average worship attendance, it is more likely to be a healthy church. Baptisms reflect the presence of evangelism and discipleship. I agree the average age of the congregation should be mirror the community. I would also add that the racial/ethnic and economic composition of the church and community should be similar as well. This indicates the church is making an impact in the community.

The percentage of adults serving indicates discipleship and equipping effectiveness in the church. I would probably tweak this metric to measure the percentage of baptized believers who are serving. If we believe that the Holy Spirit empowers all believers to engage in ministry, then we must believe that baptized children and youth must be engaged in ministry.

Visitor flow refers to keeping track of the number of visitors in the church. It is extremely important to show hospitality to those guests who visit the church. Smaller churches tend to have a more intimate setting, and they must make guests feel like they are part of the family.

Secondary giving deals with giving beyond the regular offering. This could be missions giving (Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, etc.), capital campaigns, or any number of designated offerings. I would adjust this to examine the percentage given to mission and ministry through the budget as well as through designated gifts. It will reflect the institutional attitude of missional giving as well as the personal attitudes.

I would also recommend the pastor and each staff minister keep a personal assessment dashboard. Here are some metrics I would recommend for your personal ministry dashboard:

  1. Relationships:
    1. Keep up with the quality and frequency of your personal spiritual disciplines.
    2. Spend quality time with your spouse.
    3. Invest in time with your family.
    4. Regularly meet with a small group.
  2. Rest:
    1. Assess your personal health and fitness.
    2. Assess your emotional health.
    3. Rate the quality of your sabbath.
  3. Work:
    1. How productive are you being?
    2. How effectively are you managing your time?

Regular assessment keeps us focused on the mission. How do you measure your church’s health? Would you add or change anything for the personal ministry dashboard?

 

Musicians Wanted

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I read an interesting article about the lack of musicians available in the church. Scott Barkley, production editor at the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Christian Index, wrote about the effects of the cultural change throughout America. What was once considered a rite of passage for children has diminished. Fewer kids are taking piano and other music lessons. More kids are involved in sports. While this may be healthy for kids who sit around looking at tablets, it has an unexpected negative consequence for the church. Also, those who are skilled musicians are often drawn to secular opportunities. We are seriously lacking talented musicians to lead in worship.

Rather than bemoan the state our culture is in, we need to be proactive. This issue affects small churches and large churches. Many churches have adopted the use of recorded music (CDs, digital music, etc.), and others are contacting local college ministries.

Beyond the immediate measures, I believe it is important to make systemic changes so that the church has musicians in the future. Here are three suggestions to help with the future worship of your church:

  1.  Disciple young believers with musical abilities to see how they can use their skills/gifts for the kingdom.
  2. Encourage current musicians in the church to mentor/teach potential musicians. Give them space to practice. Give them opportunities to play during worship.
  3. Disciple the congregation to be open to different types of worship expression. Many younger musicians are capable at contemporary worship, but are intimidated by hymns. Allow them to worship God in their own cultural expression.

What have you found that would help in these types of situations?

Don’t Criticize CEOs

CEO–  /ˌsēˌēˈō/ – noun– an individual who attends church on Christmas and Easter Only

A story has been of a husband who told his wife that he would do anything to save their failing marriage. It was Passion Week, and the believing wife knew that the Gospel was the only thing that could change her husband’s life. So, in a false move, she told her husband that if he would go to church with her on Easter Sunday that she would never ask again. Reluctantly, the husband agreed. He arrived with a cautious but opened mind. Unfortunately, the service began by the pastor belittling everyone who was only there because it was Easter. The husband left the church that day never to return to any church ever again.

This story is harsh, but this sort of story will take place in many churches this Easter. CEOs will be a part of your church this weekend and instead of condemning them let us embrace the opportunity:

  1. By Preaching the Gospel. This Sunday may be the largest concentration of lost people in your church all year. So Pastor, please preach the Gospel and what the resurrection truly means.
  2. By Praying for their Salvation. Begin now praying for the family and friends of your church members who will be coming to church possibly for the first time all year or in many years.
  3. By Training the Greeters. The first perception of the church for new guests will be the greeters. Make sure they have a smile and the information needed to make the guests feel welcome.
  4. By Connecting them to Your Church. People want to feel like they can be a part of something bigger than themselves so make sure that you have an intentional plan to connect guests to your church. Provide information about small groups, upcoming events, and for families, information about youth and children’s ministry.
  5. By Creating an Intentional Plan for Follow-Up. Every guest that provides information to your church should have a follow-up contact within 24-48 hours. Allow those who visited your church know that they were welcome that day and any future date they return.

Each week the church should be reminded that every person that walks through the doors of the sanctuary is a person created in the image of God and a person in need of the salvation found only in Jesus. As a church, we should anticipate and welcome the guests that come to our church. We should treat them with respect and avoid anything that will hinder them from knowing Jesus, especially on Easter Sunday. So please do not criticize CEOs.

What did we miss? What would you add?

No Restraints Conference-Deadline Soon

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The Caskey Center for Church Excellence would like to invite you to our annual No Restraints Conference April 21-22, 2017. The No Restraints Conference is a free two day event that seeks to encourage the minister, the minister’s wife, and the overall ministry taking place in smaller membership churches. This weekend is not limited to church staff members only and is open to anyone who has a love for the ministry of smaller membership churches.

This weekend will include two keynote plenary speakers: Dr. Ed Stetzer and Phil Waldrep.

Ed Stetzer
Ed Stetzer

Dr. Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer has written extensively in the areas of church planting, revitalization, evangelism, and pastoring.

Phil Waldrep
Phil Waldrep

Phil Waldrep is the President and Founder of Phil Waldrep Ministries, a ministry that seeks to provide Biblical truth with practical application. Waldrep speaks at conferences and retreats in churches across America. He has a heart for pastors and seeks to encourage them through Scripture. Waldrep is also the author of Reaching Your Prodical

Breakout sessions for the event will include topics such as Logos Bible Software training, Money Matters, Accountability, and a special Excellence in Marriage session lead by Dr. Chuck Kelley, President of NOBTS and his wife, Dr. Rhonda Kelley.

A special program just for ministers’ wives will be led by Courtney Veasey, Director of Women’s Academic Programs at NOBTS.

For registration, schedule, and housing information please visit http://www.nobts.edu/caskeycenter/conference.html