“C. H. Spurgeon earnestly exhorted those who had accepted Christ as their Saviour to come forward amongst his people and avow their attachment to His person and name. Words of kindly encouragement and of loving persuasiveness, were addressed to the timid and retiring ones, who feared to avow themselves to be the Lord’s lest they should fall back into sin and dishonor His name. This was followed by an appeal to those who had confessed the name of Jesus — an appeal of so stirring and searching a nature, that many must have felt constrained to say, ‘Lord what wilt thou have me to do?’ Prayer for more earnest living, abiding, practical godliness, followed this address.” — The Sword and the Trowel Magazine, 1865, pg. 70
Spurgeon also commented on the more private response…
“There is a wonderful work to be done in those lobbies, and in those pews, after a service. There are some dear brethren and sisters who are always doing it; they call themselves my ‘dogs’ — for they go and pick up the birds that I have wounded. I wish that they might be able to pick up many tonight. Oh, that some of you might always be on the alert to watch a face, and see whether your own canoe alongside that little ship, and see whether you cannot get into communication with the poor troubled one on board, and say a word to cheer a sad heart. Always be doing this; for it you are in prison yourself, the way out of it is help another out. God turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends. When we begin to look after others, and seek to help others. God will bless us. So may it be, for his name’s sake! Amen.”
— Excerpted from C. H. Spurgeon’s sermon #2282 “David’s Prayer in the Cave”
MTP Vol 38, Year 1892, pg. 549, Psalm 142
So, what’s the point? Well, I have had several along the way express their desire to see more fruit of what God is doing at UBC. They usually do so in a form of real encouragement to me not to grow discouraged (just another part of the love relationship between this pastor and the people God’s charged me with). I definitely see more fruit than most of you because of the emails, phone calls and number of appointments each week that I have with people who are really wrestling with the truths that we are presenting each Sunday. When you combine that with the use of our new member’s class (Discovery Class) it makes sense that many do not “see” the fruit of our labor. We do instruct each member candidate to present themselves publically at a service and the newly converted in baptism. There are several that I am speaking with now about just such responses. Also, our Church Conferences will increasingly become filled with “ministry reports” that will include this information (so attend the conferences as they come up).
Back to Spurgeon’s comments… I clearly do not offer a very “heavy” invitation. In fact, some could probably argue that I give a pretty weak invitation. There are a few simple reasons for this. First of all, I do not want to confuse the REALITY with the MEANS. What I mean is that many people “walk an aisle” or “pray a prayer” and call that conversion, yet neither are mentioned in scripture explicitly. However, life change, behavioral change and the public association with Christ in baptism are mentioned explicitly. So, we want to be good stewards of those in our midst to help them insure a proper understanding of the scripture. I believe it is the confusion of “means” that has led our denomination to claim 16 million followers, yet only average 6 million in attendance (where are the other 10 million?).
Secondly, historically invitations were only offered some 140 years ago through the ministries of D.L. Moody, Charles Finney and then Billy Sunday at the turn of the century. Our Greatest Awakening on American soil (1600’s) under the preaching of George Whitfield and the theology of Jonathan Edwards, never saw an invitation. The decisions were localized and deeply moving. It (the Awakening) led to the establishment of Yale and Princeton as seminaries to train young men to preach. There was real fruit.
Your part… Read again Spurgeon’s second comment above. We are all called to participate in exhorting, encouraging and even rebuking one another in love with restoration in mind. The hallways are not so much meant for “game day” talk as they are a time for us to listen intently to one another, meeting new people and sharing the gospel with those in our midst. We sometimes live as if we assume that if someone has walked in the door they are either saved, or it is the pastor’s work to share the gospel. I seek to do that each week, but you are in their midst! There’s no “safer” environment to practice your evangelism than in the church foyer, classroom, pew or parking lot.
We are not at all abandoning the invitation (no one has accused us of this, by the way). Simply, we want to implore men, women and children to repent of sin and turn in faith to Christ having tasted His free grace! We can also trust the Author and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ, to complete the work that He already finished on the cross and will absolutely finish in those who believe.