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...