Frequently, when we are speaking, we get the opportunity to invite people to accept Christ. That’s a heavy responsibility, even if it is one of the highlights of your life! But while we’ve all seen many gospel invitations, do we know how to give one? Here are a few tips:
Check with the organizer to make sure they want one.
What kind of talk is this going to be? Do they want a gospel message, or is this more a talk to soften people up so that they will return to other events at the church? Sometimes churches want to put on seeker events where people are free to bring their friends and there won’t be any “heavy” evangelism. So ask what is expected. Do they want an invitation, or not? And if they do want one, do they want you to give it, or does the pastor or music leader want to give it?
It’s always best to have these things spelled out clearly. Once it’s ascertained that you are to give a gospel invitation, here’s what you should do:
1. Sprinkle the heart of the gospel throughout your message.
Don’t leave it until the very end to explain what the gospel is; tell why Jesus died and the significance of the resurrection naturally throughout your talk. You don’t have to use “god” language to do this, either. Just tell it in everyday, plain English. If your story deals with grief, for instance, tell what it means that Jesus defeated death and rose again. In another place in your talk, if you’re talking about needing to trust God more, explain that He’s trustworthy because He loves us so much.
No matter what your story or talk is, sprinkling bits of the gospel throughout ensures that it ultimately focuses on Jesus, and not on you. And that keeps you grounded!
2. Remember the Two Aspects of the Gospel
I’m sure many people have more than two, but I like to boil it down to two that are easy to understand, but absolutely fundamental: repentance and accepting the lordship of Christ; and walking in newness of life. To put it another way, you focus on both the cross and the resurrection; one deals with sin, and the other deals with how we are now to live our lives.
You can’t have a gospel message without telling people they need to repent and leave the negative relationship patterns and bad things in life behind. It’s not just a warm fuzzy; it’s a commitment. Don’t go light on it in the hopes that it will be more attractive. The gospel is attractive because it is what it is. So don’t sugarcoat the need for repentance!
But then also make sure that you don’t portray it as a club that once you’re in, you’re in. This is a commitment to live a certain way for the rest of your life. I often put it something like this:
Jesus didn’t just die on the cross. He also rose again. And that means He’s alive today, so He wants to live with you, live in you, and start changing you from the inside out. He’s not a distant God; He’s a God who’s here today and who wants to be active in the rest of your life. He wants to direct it, and to help you, and equip you, to live life abundantly and properly.
Once you’re spelled out the gospel, invite them to pray. There are two ways to do this; one is at their seats, and one is to come to the front and pray individually with someone. Let’s deal with the pray-in-your-seats scenario first. Have everyone bow their heads, and then say,
“if you’ve never asked Jesus into your life, I want to give you the opportunity to do that today. He wants to have a relationship with you, and if you’re tired of spinning your wheels, today is the day to give God control of your life…”
Then tell people that if they want to ask Jesus into their life, they can pray this prayer along with you. Then say a prayer that sums up the gospel: you’re sorry for the bad things you’ve done; thank you for dying for me and taking my punishment; I want you to be in control of my life from this day forward; thank you for rising from the dead so that you can live with me now and I can live with you in heaven forever. You don’t have to say it exactly like that, but try to include the main elements.
Remember to say it SLOWLY. Much slower than you normally pray. If people are praying this, they need time to process it. So pause for a long time after each phrase, and pray slowly so that people can say it after you in their heads.
After the prayer is over, encourage people to keep their eyes closed, but ask people to raise their hands if they’ve prayed it for the first time. That gives you an idea of who did respond (and if you can remember who some of them are, the organizers always like to know). It also makes people commit. If they raise their hands, it’s concrete. If they don’t, they can always question whether or not they really prayed the prayer.
I believe in not ending it there, though. I think that if people did pray the prayer, they need to receive something that spells out what they did. So I always ask the organizers to provide booklets or Bibles to those who did commit their lives, and then I say something like,
“if you prayed that prayer for the first time, I have a special gift for you. Come talk to me afterwards and ask for the gift, and I’ll give it to you.”
Again, it’s another confirmation for them that something significant happens, and it helps identify them to the organizers and gives them something to disciple them.
After that prayer, I often then offer another prayer of rededication for those who already know Christ. And this prayer is just as fervent as the other! Often the people that you impact most when you speak are those who are already following Jesus, but need to go to a deeper level. So I continue to pray wtih everyone’s eyes still closed for those people.
4. Invite People to the Altar
If, on the other hand, you’re going to do an altar call, you’ll have to talk to the organizer beforehand about having prayer partners available who know how to lead in prayer.
In that case, the gospel invitation is less of a prayer and more of an exhortation. It tends to work best with music playing, and you just explaining the gospel and asking people to respond. You often need to ask several times, since people aren’t always immediately sure of what they should do. Spell it out: “If you need to give something to God, don’t wait. Come on up to the front. You can kneel at the pews or on the steps, or you can sit in the front pews.” You need to be very specific. Also be careful of ONLY inviting people up to the front to kneel. If there are people with bad knees, or who have a hard time getting up and down, they could be discouraged from coming forward simply because you used the word “kneel”. Mention that there are other options.
Be sure to give LOTS of reasons for coming up to the front.
Maybe God has been speaking to you and you need to leave something behind tonight. Maybe there’s something you need healing for. Maybe there’s something you need forgiveness for. Or maybe you need to start your relationship with Jesus today.
The more options you give, the more likely people are to respond. First, they don’t feel centred out, and second, they hear something that relates to them.
Altar calls often take a while, because rarely do people come forward right away. They need a few minutes to listen to God and to get up the courage. So you may have to repeat things several times. Say things slightly different ways. Pause. Sing a song. Give people the time they need, and don’t rush it!
5. Think about timing and music.
I believe most gospel invitations should come at the end of the event. That gives people time for extended prayer if they need it, and everything has been leading to this. But you do need to think about what music you’re going to have, and how you will dismiss people after the invitation. If people are still silently praying, the best thing is to have some music play quietly and invite the other women to continue their conversations out of the sanctuary, so that others can have peace.
Whatever you do, don’t leave announcements at the end, because it will completely disrupt the response time! Encourage the organizers to put any announcements in earlier in the program, so that you can end the evening with the invitation.
I hope that helps! Have you ever been in a gospel invitation that worked really well? What did they do differently? Let me know in the comments!
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