WHATCHU TALKIN BOUT WILLIS?

I grew up when Diff'rent Strokes was a popular television show. That's no big deal unless your last name is Willis. To this day I still hear those famous words popularized by Arnold: "Whatchu talkin bout Willis?" Usually they are uttered by someone looking at me as though I may have never heard it before. Yeah, right! Well this blog is what I (Willis) am talkin bout...my thoughts, observations & opinions. Enjoy...



Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Invitation?

I frequently hear good brethren announcing that they "always offer an invitation" whenever they preach. The implication is that faithfulness requires such a practice and to omit an "invitation" is tantamount to serious compromise. I believe I understand why men have these convictions and I am not interested in eradicating all "invitations", but I am interested in differentiating between human inventions and Biblical directives. Let's consider the "invitation time"  traditionally placed at the end of a sermon. Normally this would include a presentation of the "plan of salvation" and an "invitation song". The expectation is that anyone wanting to become a Christian would arise and come to the front of the assembly during the song in order to obey the gospel. Hmmmm. Where is exactly is this found in God's Word? I'm sure it MUST be in there because so many folks who claim to speak where the Bible speaks say it is a mark of fidelity to New Testament Christianity.

Well, actually it isn't there - not in the Bible at least. And neither is it there in the pages of early church history. It seems that history knows nothing of invitations for the first 1800 years or so of the church! It might make some uncomfortable to know that our invitation times have more in common with the "altar calls" of Presbyterian preacher Charles Finney in the 1800's than the book of Acts! Ironically a close examination of Peter's preaching in Acts 2 (the first New Covenant message) reveals that the people in the audience were the ones to inquire of Peter as to how to be saved (Read it for yourselves in Acts 2:36-38). And they did so without a standard invitation time or song. Apparently innumerable people have become followers of Jesus Christ without walking an aisle while onlookers stood singing a hymn.

(We should also consider that the standard invitation time has produced a Sunday only, preacher only evangelism system in many churches. This obviously is not the ideal. Additionally, Scripture doesn't teach that the Lord's day assembly of Christians is for evangelistic outreach. Evangelism may be a byproduct, but it isn't the expressed purpose. It seems that Christians got together  for encouragement, edification, etc. ["in-reach"], but that's another blog post for another time).

Let me be clear. My issue is not whether or not a local church offers invitations. I believe in local church autonomy but reject the idea that every practice not mentioned in Scripture is automatically prohibited.  My concern is when dogmatism clouds our handling of Scripture resulting in casting aspersions on brethren. There are many Bible verses that are twisted and stretched to produce denominational errors, so let's not do the same things when defending our traditions.

You are invited to reply but you must do so in the absence of a song unless you can sing & type at the same time!

That's what I'm talkin bout...

16 comments:

The Seeking Disciple said...

I have even heard people say that if you don't offer an invitation then you would be sinning against God. I once told a guy that the invitation system is not the Bible and he tried to show me that it was. He twisted passages such as Acts 2:37-41 to try to say that Peter gave an invitation. This is not the case. No doubt we should call people to repent but we should not try to convince people that if they "come down front" that that makes them Christians when it does not.

Jsphmnts said...

It would be nice to try to actually follow the real ancient Way, wouldn't it?

Willis said...

Yes it would!

Willis said...

Exactly brother. Some folks walk down the aisle think they are good to go!

Tom said...

Wow! So now offering an invitation isn't Biblical! Giving people a chance to respond to the Gospel isn't part of the "real ancient way"?!

Peter during his sermon at the gate beautiful declares, "Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord" That is certainly an invitation. Who cares if there is a hymn or not.

If you're preaching the Gospel you need to present the Gospel. Especially if you have the lost in your audience. Perhaps condemnation for the lack of an invitation is a bit extreme but don't go to far the other direction.

Coming down front is simply showing the responders willingness to obey the Gospel. No body thinks that is a necessary part of the Gospel. If someone came to me during the week and wanted to be saved, I wouldn't make them wait until Sunday so they could walk down the aisle.

You're making a big fuss about the way the invitation is offered but if you have such a problem with this then you should also take issue with how the Lord's Supper is offered.

Willis said...

Actually I will "take issue" with how the Lord's Supper is "offered" in a future post. I predict you will likely not like that one much either, but thanks for stopping in. I think you missed my point, but perhaps I've missed yours.

Tom said...

Well at least you're consistent . Might as well put a few other things on the pile; Sunday school classes, having a church building, having a preacher deliver a sermon each Sunday morning. Your argument throws these things out as well.

Willis said...

"Consistency thou art a jewel!" My argument throws nothing out. Read my original post slowly again and you'll find no such argument. I would approach the things you just mentioned in the same way as I do the invitation time. I would see these as a freedom/opinion issues. For instance... Is a local church apostate if they don't have "Sunday School"? No, but they would be if they failed to teach the Apostle's doctrine. Sunday School is negotiable, but sound teaching is not. BTW, I attend sunday school every week, but was a part of church that didn't offer it for years, yet the church taught the Bible clearly & strongly through other methods. That church also didn't have a "church building" either. I am not against any of the things you just mentioned - I actually practice all of them. I am against making these issues tests of faithfulness to NT Christianity.

Joseph said...

I remember once this guy came to visit RBC, and he gave a special lecture in one of my classes. He said that he felt that if a local church wasn't having Sunday School, then they were going against the will of God. He was a representative of Standard Publishing. Big surprise, right?

Joseph said...

Ah, I remembered the term that your posting made me think of! It is a term that I learned from Mr. Bill Griffin, who taught me New Testament Introduction: Extra-Biblical. A lot, LOT of our practices are extra-Biblical. I guess as long as it isn't anti-Biblical it is ok, but some folks hold onto the extra stuff as if it were holy writ.

And lets not forget how the offering is taken! My church does the traditional (ahem, extra-Biblical) thing: pass around silver plates. They have recently started a thing where you can also give money on their website, so you can do it in private.

I have a friend who goes to a Vineyard church, which I've never been to, but in my mind they are pretty modern (among other things). But I was shocked when she told me that they use cloth bags on the end of poles to collect offering.

Sounds like something from puritan times! I asked her if they also use the poles to bonk people who fall asleep on the head!

booking said...

The only INVITATION I ever saw, with Peter was that of his audience. He lived a life SO different from others, so opposite of those around him, that people invited him to their homes and gathering places to explain why. When he was done, he had no need to offer an invitation to walk with Christ. They were already on the path.

Christian Lee

Keith Wood said...

I caught your point from the very beginning Dave and am in total agreement. Particularly about the evangelism angle.

Cammie Novara said...

"The implication is that faithfulness requires such a practice and to omit an "invitation" is tantamount to serious compromise." I can totally relate to that from personal experience.

Neal A said...

Yo Willis - long time no read ha ha - I keep checking in but it had been a while since you posted.

Talk about jumping right back into it man - way to stir things up - funny thing about what you and "Tom" are arguing about is probably simple miscommunication and misunderstanding - you all probably would sort of agree on just standing on the "Truths" of scripture and not elevating "traditions" to the level of biblical doctrine (that is to me what I heard you sort of saying)

I whole- heartedly agree about so many of the things that "make up church" for us today - they just simply are not found in the pages of scripture or the examples set forth by early church. NOW THAT DOES NOT MEAN you throw them out. That is what I heard you saying - you just wanted people to admit that wasn't the ONLY WAY (which I think we would all agree is Jesus anyway ha ha ha) so stop making it sound as though it is the only way to do things.

I just recently preached and shared that we were not having a "formal invitation" that what I read in scripture it says that many were being added to their number "DAILY" not "SUNDAILY" and with the "formal invitation" model I do believe we have built a system where church people might believe ONLY the minister has the official invitation and ONLY on Sunday and maybe Wednesday night if the particular "prayer meeting" turned uncharacteristically evangelical (but I digress ha ha)

So I hear ya man - I am not against a church body using these methods if it is effective and if it is where their true heart is and what they feel led by God to do - but I just don't like when we elevate these types of things to the level of "thus saith the Lord" when He never did.

We might not always agree - but on this time around I'm with ya - hope all is well - good post man!

The Fitness Journey said...

To invitation or not to invitation... first, isn't the important part spreading God's love, and second, it's important as to how people respond in their heart to God. Outward appearance doesn't always reflect inward repentance.

The Fitness Journey said...

You said, "I believe in local church autonomy but reject the idea that every practice not mentioned in Scripture is automatically prohibited. My concern is when dogmatism clouds our handling of Scripture."

Thank you for articulating that so well!! I agree 100%!!

I may have to quote you on that :)