Invitations With Integrity -- By: Mark Tolbert
JBTM 6:2 (Fall 2009) p. 89
Invitations With Integrity
Dr. Tolbert is Associate Professor of Evangelism and Pastoral Ministry and Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
I am concerned about a dear friend. God has greatly used this proven friend not only in my life but also in the lives of countless others. This seasoned ally has been an incredible blessing and vehicle for multitudes to experience comfort, freedom, forgiveness, and untold joy. Although once a very familiar mainstay in evangelical circles, over time this friend has become the victim of misunderstanding, abuse, neglect, ridicule, scorn, slander and now near abandonment. This familiar friend is at risk of being portrayed at the least as a marginalized relic or at the worst a dangerous charlatan. I am concerned about the current state of the public invitation.
One’s integrity is crucial. To have your integrity questioned is far more serious than having one question your competency or skills. There is a serious challenge today concerning the very integrity of the public invitation. I would have to agree with those that would charge that the public invitation sometimes has been abused or mishandled. Most preachers would support a move to insure that invitations are better prepared and extended with more clarity and integrity. This article addresses a more serious issue – the very integrity the public invitation as well as the integrity of those that would extend such, in any form whatsoever is at stake. It is this issue which we need to examine.
I came to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord in response to a public evangelistic invitation. At the age of sixteen, I attended a Billy Graham movie at a local theatre on a date with my girlfriend. For me it was just another Friday night at the movies. I did not realize we were attending a religious film or I probably would not have attended. That movie exposed me to the awareness that although I was a church member, I did not have a relationship with Christ. I was deeply moved and convicted of my sin and need for forgiveness. I understood that I needed Christ’s forgiveness and salvation. Sitting in my seat, watching the final scenes of the film, I purposed that I would commit my life to Christ someday.
At the conclusion of that movie, a man gave an appeal for those who wished to make a commitment to Christ to come to the front of the theater and speak with a counselor. Prior to that night, I was unaware of a need to make such a commitment. I had not gone to the movie that night with any intention of coming to Christ. No Christians had been talking with me about my need for Christ. I had never been exposed to the message of the gospel. I had never been part of hearing a public ev...
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