SALVATION and THE PUBLIC INVITATION
By Dr. Max D. Younce, Pastor
HERITAGE BAPTIST BIBLE CHURCH
One of the persons considered here is one who may not have desire to be saved. This does not mean they cannot be saved...because they can. Many people are saved today who never had a desire for spiritual things. Many are stimulated or stirred when witnessed to, hearing a radio message, or sermon in a church. Different approaches, messages, topics, such as death, prophecy and etc. may stimulate a person's interest even though they may have had no prior concern. The type of invitation employed at the end of the service has a tremendous effect upon the persons present. This is why it is so important to present the Gospel to the lost as simply and clearly as the Word of God states, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me (Christ) hath everlasting life" (John 6:47).
While pastoring in southern Indiana a few years back, I attended a large outdoor evangelistic meeting in the are of Cincinnati, Ohio. This was sponsored by a large independent church, their speaker was a nationally known and popular evangelist from Louisiana. The message was good, and related throughout, that belief in Christ was all that was necessary for eternal life. At the invitation, it was then stated that if you wanted to be saved you must leave your seat and walk to the front of the platform and there receive Christ as Savior. Just in front of me a young boy, just about eight years old, asked his mother if he could go forward. His mother would not let him. The invitation was held for a lengthy period of time. At the closing I gave the mother a tract and asked her to read it and told her that she did not have to go forward to be saved. I have often wondered if this little boy ever got saved or was brought under conviction again. Since he wanted to go forward, I am sure he would have received Christ as Savior if given an opportunity to do so, from where he was seated. I have related this incident to some other people for their assessment. The standard escape route was, "How terrible for his mother not to allow or take her son to the platform." All the blame was placed upon the mother. Whose fault was it really? Should not the evangelist have given the invitation to be saved the same way as he stated in his message? I believe so, and if he had, the boy probably would have been saved.
Another sad occasion occurred in Indianapolis, Indiana, at a conference held at the Lifegate Baptist Church. One of the key speakers delivered a tremendous message in the morning meeting. About half way through the message several "hippie" type young people came in and sat in the back pews. I was at the rear of the church taping the message.
The young people appeared to be 18 or 19 years old with long hair and dressed very shabbily. At the conclusion of the service an invitation was given to come forward...with no response. The speaker extended the invitation for quite some time and finally one person responded. It became obvious the speaker was upset and appeared to actually be getting mad, evidently because of the lack of response. He then began a verbal attack in a roundabout way directed toward the "hippies." I watched them as they recognized immediately what was being done. They began to look at each other, some sneering in disgust, and some laughing so as to mock the speaker. He had obviously singled them out in the final minutes of his invitation. If shall never forget his closing remark. He pointed his finger toward the back of the auditorium and stated, "You need to do the most manly thing you have ever done in your life and step to the front of the church and receive Christ!" There was not a doubt in anyone's mind who he was talking to. Personally I would have not gone down for help from him after the kind of attack. People are not apt to respond to a personal attack coupled with resentment and anger in a positive manner. I often wonder what would have happened if an invitation had been given in love without a personal attack on them. When the closing prayer was given they made a "bee-line" for the door and it was evident they were angry. I approached them immediately outside the church. I gave them a tract and told them they did not have to go to the front of the church to be saved. I tried to apologize for the speaker's attack but to no avail. They were turned off 100%! I cannot repeat the things they said. I will say, I do not blame them for feeling as they did. It will be nothing short of a miracle if they are ever reached for Christ after what happened that day. Whatever their reason for coming in was, I do not know; but I do know this, the speaker had an obligation to God to present Christ, clearly and simply... with love, to all who were there. The message was great, but the invitation was a disaster completely overshadowing the message. The next person who attempts to witness to any of their group will undoubtedly never know the surrounding circumstances that may have sealed their rejection for Christ.
Paul, of the New Testament, emphasized the importance of using simplicity concerning God's Word. In 2nd Corinthians 1:12 we are told, "For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, THAT IN SIMPLICITY and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by grace of God , we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward." Since coming forward is never mentioned in the Bible as an ingredient for salvation...why corrupt the simplicity of simply trusting Christ as Savior. Paul in writing 2nd Corinthians 11:3 said this, "But I fear, least by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve, through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted FROM THE SIMPLICITY that is in Christ."
Another ingredient which must prevail if the Gospel is to have an effect upon people is that it must be presented in love. In 1st Thessalonians 3:12 we are told, "And the Lord make you to increase and ABOUND IN LOVE one toward another and TOWARD ALL MEN, even as we do toward you." Ephesians 4:15 says we are to, "Speak the truth in love." As happens so many times...love is replaced with disgust when no one responds by coming forward.
Allow me to relate one more experience. At a previous pastorate, one of the deacons discussed an experience that happened to his brother in the same church I was pastoring, but prior to my coming. His brother had come to church and responded to the invitation of, "If you would like to be saved, come forward." When he went forward a personal worker went with him to another room for counseling. He was instructed that upon receiving Christ as our Savior he would have to stand in front of the church and answer a couple of questions from the pastor. The young man told the personal worker that he did not want to stand in front of the church at this time. He was told that his procedure went along with being saved. To make a long story short, he was not saved, he did not stand before the church for his public profession, and he left the church that morning vowing never to come back again. His brother asked me to pray for and visit him. Truthfully, I was not overly excited about the visit because I knew from past experience that some of the hardest people to reach are those who have had a bad church experience. The young man was then playing the drums in a dance band. As I recall, I believe the opener for the conversation was the fact that I had played drums in a dance band some years back. He seemed quite shocked that a preacher had once been a drummer in a dance band. I do not suppose he was any more shocked than I would have been, if someone would have told me back then I would be a preacher! Anyway, it opened the door to tell him about Christ. I assured him if he came to church he did not have to come down to front to be saved. A very exceptional ending concludes this experience. He began coming to church, received Christ as his Savior, became an usher, then a member on our trustee board. He later felt God's call to the ministry and graduated after four years of collage. It was an honor to ordain him into the Gospel ministry here at Faith Baptist Church a while back. He then started a church in southern Indiana where he is presently the pastor.
I would not for a moment question the well meant intentions and sincerity of the pastor and
personal worker dealing with this man's salvation. But, because of the traditional invitation of coming and standing before the congregation as part of salvation, this young man was
turned away from Christ instead of to Christ. Something I think we need to remember, this
man did not reject the Gospel, he rejected the Gospel MIXED with a traditional ingredient of coming forward. That is what he rejected and it was not God's fault...but man's.
I have given only a few of the hundreds of experiences of people who have been turned off and away from Christ. I honestly feel this is the other half of the story which is neither told nor discussed today.
Next | Table of Contents
Dr. Max D. Younce, Pastor
HERITAGE BAPTIST BIBLE CHURCH
P.O. Box 573
Walnut Grove, MN 56180
Telephone (507) 859-2519
Am I Going to Heaven?
Books by Dr. Max D. Younce
100 Bible Questions and Answers