Every church I went to when I was growing up and during my college years had an invitation at the end of pretty much every worship service. The invitation is a time where people are invited to the front of the church to respond to the preaching. Unbelievers are encouraged to come forward and accept Christ (or talk to somebody about the possibility), and believers are encouraged to confess their sins and “get right with God.”
There are problems with this method. People often feel that if they don't go forward every Sunday that there is something wrong with them. Often the same people go forward, not because they are meeting with God necessarily, but because they don't want to be seen as someone who never goes forward. Some people never go forward because they are concerned that people will think they are bad people.
This throws a shadow over the intended purpose of the invitation, which was to prompt the hearer to commune with God regarding what they heard.
Personally, I'm not vehemently opposed to “invitations.” Some people are. But over the years it has seemed to me that they weren't very effective for their intended purpose. If there's a better way to encourage the congregation to commune with God, confess their sins, and seek his guidance and strength for the week ahead, we should try it out.
The reason I started thinking about this was that our church (which doesn't do invitations, and never has as far as I know) recently started celebrating the Lord's Supper on a weekly basis. Up until that time, we had been doing this monthly like every other church I've been in.
So I started thinking about what happens when we take communion.
We meditate on the work of Christ on the cross. We contemplate what we have just heard preached, and how we fail to live up to God's high standards. We grieve over our sins, but we rejoice that Christ's blood is sufficient to cover our sins, past and future.
Beyond this, we commune with God. The Lord's Supper is one of only two sacraments given to us by Christ. Grace is transmitted to us in this special time of communion with God in a way that does not happen at any other time.
So the short of it is, communion accomplishes everything an invitation hopes to accomplish, and so much more. It was also instituted by Christ, unlike the invitation. Wouldn't it be a much better idea to partake of the Lord's Supper more frequently than to use the invitation? I'm not saying every church should necessarily have weekly communion, but it's a much better approach than the invitation.
July 30, 2007