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The Public Invitation Attacked
By: Keith Phemister
I was talking to a man whom I pastored, and
while we were talking, he made a statement that took
me aback. He said that in our Baptist churches we do
many things that are not biblical. “For instance,” he
said, “we have invitations and nowhere in the Bible
does it say for a church to have an invitation. If it isn’t
biblical, then I will not move during the invitation.”

Well, since we are on the subject, where in the
Bible does it say we should have pews? Offertories?
Organs? Pianos? How about Ushers? May I just say
that because the Bible is silent on an issue does not
mean it is wrong! In fact, just because the Bible does
not address the issue of a public invitation does not
mean that we are wrong in conducting an invitation.

I would even go further and put that notion on
the defensive. How about this; if it is not in the Bible,
then why don’t you show me where it violates Biblical

Charles G. Finney was held as the pioneer of
the “public invitation.” For the first time in his
preaching career at Evans Mill, New York, in 1825, Finney conducted an invitation and asked anyone
who would like to give his heart to God to come
forward and take the front seat. On his first attempt,
Finney was successful.

Now Finney was not a Baptist, he was a
Presbyterian. I say that because of the belief I have
that what he did was biblical because it stood based
on biblical principles.

The reason for conducting an invitation can
rest in the need for recognizing the saved so that the
next step can be easily pushed. How can we really
know whom to baptize as part of the “Great
Commission” if there is not an identification of the

A person does not need to be saved in a
church building. There are numerous instances in the
Bible of people being saved in places other than the

If you look in Acts 2, Peter is preaching the
very first sermon after our Lord’s Ascension. These
Jews were pricked in their heart at the preaching of
God’s Word, and demanded, “What must we do?”
Folks who are under conviction should be told by the
preacher what to do.

An invitation is the answer to meet the need.
The answer in this case was: Repent and be
baptized! I have a simple question to ask all of us.
How did they know whom to baptize that day unless
they identified themselves?

The Bible says that about 3,000 were baptized.
Before baptism, there was salvation. Identification
was necessary. Therein rests a very good reason for
an invitation. Whenever there is preaching, real Bible
preaching – a decision is demanded. I have always
been taught that preaching is teaching with authority, persuading with the intent to make a decision. We
have gotten away from Biblical preaching and
become teachers exclusively with the intent to not
“run off the crowd.”

The Biblical principle of an invitation is evident
in the Old Testament as well as the New. In Exodus
32:19-29, Moses came back from the mount, only to
find the people having made the golden calf. There
was ungodly music and the people were found naked.

Exodus 32:26 says, “Then Moses stood in the
gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD’S
side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi
gathered themselves together unto him.” 

Would that
not be an invitation to the people of God? Absolutely!

An Old Testament example of the invitation is
found in Deuteronomy 30:15-19, 15“See, I have set
before thee this day life and good, and death and evil:
16In that I command thee this day to love the LORD
thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his
commandments and his statutes and his judgments,
that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy
God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to
possess it. 17But if thine heart turn away, so that thou
wilt no hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship
other gods, and serve them; 18I denounce unto you
this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall
jnot prolong your days upon the land, whither thou
passest over Jordan to go to possess it. 19I call
heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I
have set before you life and death, blessing and
cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and they
seed may life:” 

There is ample biblical principle for an
invitation. See also Joshua 24:15 and I Kings 18:17-
21.   The simple truth of the matter is that preaching
demands a decision. There is a difference between
preaching and teaching. In our church, I desire a
balance amongst our people. I want them to get the
fire and zeal that preaching gives, but I also want
them to get the knowledge that teaching brings. We
need to also be aware that biblical preaching will
include teaching.

When I think of preaching, I think of II Timothy
4:2 that says, “Preach the word; be instant in season,
out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all
longsuffering and doctrine.” 

Doctrine means teaching.
Biblical preaching involves reproving, rebuking, and
exhorting. What does that mean? Here it is broken
down for us.
  •   Reprove – to charge with a fault, to excite a
    sense of guilt

  •   Rebuke – to restrain, to calm, to check

  •   Exhort – to call for, to encourage to obey

    In conclusion, we see a preacher is to identify
    sin, present the need to change, and finally urge one
    to make a decision. No wonder our Lord said, “Go ye
    into all the world, and preach the gospel to every

    We are to press them for a decision. One of the
    most critical points in presenting the Gospel is what is
    called, “Drawing the Net.” For the soul winner it is the
    invitation. It is the time after preaching where we
    invite the sinner to “receive the Lord Jesus Christ as
    personal Saviour.”

    We must not bow to the liberal’s way of doing
    things. The neo-evangelical crowd, emergent church
    philosophy or even the seeker sensitive agenda must
    never cloud our minds. Just stay with the old paths.
    We must stay the course and have an invitation.
The liberals blast confrontational soul winning
in the same way that invitations are blasted. All
because we are pressing the appeal to make a
decision! 2 Corinthians 6:2 “…now is the accepted
time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

The same people who claim that the invitation
is unbiblical are much of the same crowd who are
consumed with pride. Pride will keep one from going
to the altar to do business with God.

In no way, shape or form do I believe one must
go down an aisle to be saved. It is belief in Christ
death, burial, and resurrection that saves, not walking
an aisle. Sadly, there may be some who think that
walking an aisle is what saves them. Confession does
not save. Confession is for man.

When we confess Christ, we show man our
belief and God is glorified. Romans 10:10 states, “For
with the heart man believeth unto righteousness (God
sees it) and with the mouth confession is made (man
sees it) unto salvation.”

Nowhere in the Bible does it say that
confession is necessary for salvation. When Paul
addressed the Jew in Romans 10, he said to them
that confessing Christ was essential to note salvation
from man’s point of view.

To the Jew, confessing that Christ was Lord
and not a man would mean a loss of friends, respect,
position and even life (witness Stephen and the
Apostles). Even Paul himself, in Acts 9:1, persecuted
those Jews who had confessed Christ.

Yes, according to biblical principles a public
invitation is desired and needed. We will continue to
give an invitation as long as we continue to preach.
God give us strength and wisdom to continue to carry
on what we have been taught and never waver.

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