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How to Give an Effective Evangelistic Invitation

The sermon is ready. You have studied the text. Illustrations are in place. Your introduction will lead the congregation right into the truth God has placed on your heart for this Sunday. But is your preparation really complete?
What about the invitation? How will you transition from the conclusion of your sermon into the time of commitment? Here are a few tips that may be helpful.
Prepare spiritually. God is surely dealing with someone who will hear your sermon. Certainly you will seek His guidance concerning the message. It is just as important to pray and seek His leadership about how the commitment opportunity will be presented.
Make the invitation clear. Assume that people will be present who do not understand our Christian language. Even a child who is familiar with church talk may not really understand it. In fact, adults who have heard religious terms all their lives will find it easier to respond when clear, understandable language is used.
Tell people what they must know. Near the conclusion of the message, restate the essential facts people must have to make an informed decision. If the message is evangelistic, state the essentials of salvation.
Tell people what action they should take. If you want people to come forward during the singing of the invitation hymn and tell you about their decision or commitment, tell them so. Sometimes this is not as clear as we preachers think. For example, if the instrumentalists are playing softly, the newcomer may not know whether to come during this soft music or to wait for the choir to sing again. Tell them what they should say if they come forward and "take you by the hand." Be specific.
Tell people what will happen when they come forward. Present your invitation as if you were preaching to people who have never before been in a church service. If you or someone will pray with them at the altar, tell them so. If you will briefly greet them and someone else will take them to an inquiry room (be careful about using the terms counseling or counselor), tell them.
Give the invitation boldly. Expect a response to the invitation. You are inviting people to Christ. You are inviting people to a renewed commitment to Him or to meaningful participation in His church. Clarify in your own thinking the invitation you are giving, then give it without hesitation or apology.
Prepare the people to expect and understand the invitation. A public invitation to respond to Jesus is foreign to many who will hear your message. Make clear statements well in advance of actually offering the invitation. Consider a word of explanation in the bulletin or worship guide.
Use music appropriately during the invitation. Use familiar hymns. This is not the time to learn a new text or tune. If choir or soloists are used, be sure it is done in a way that does not draw attention to the person or persons singing. Prearrange signals for quick, clear communication between you and the minister of music.
Invite people to pray at the altar. Invite your people to come forward for prayer during the invitation. Unless you use an inquiry room, consider praying at the altar with those who come forward. If you use the altar, others will feel more free to pray there. (If you are a single staff pastor, be sure someone else is available to receive those who come forward while you are praying at the altar.)
Personalize the invitation. People come to Christ one at a time. Speak as if you were speaking to one person about Jesus. Ask the audience to listen as though you were speaking directly and exclusively to them.
(Adapted from Wayne Bristow, Invitation to Christ (Nashville: Convention Press, 1998)).

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