The Dangers of the Invitation System -- By: Jim Ehrhard

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 02:3 (Summer 1993)
Article: The Dangers of the Invitation System
Author: Jim Ehrhard


The Dangers of the Invitation System

Jim Ehrhard

As a young minister, I once made the “mistake” of closing a Wednesday evening service without extending a public invitation. 1 Early the next morning, an irate husband came to my office. For the first time in years, his unsaved wife had come with him to church. “If you had only given an invitation,” he angrily explained, “she would have gone down the aisle.”

I explained that if the seed of God’s Word had been planted in her, then she would come to faith. Then she could “go down the aisle” on Sunday and share what God had done. My explanation fell on deaf ears. I had missed the opportune time, and if she never came to Christ, I would have to bear her damnation on my conscience for eternity, he retorted.

In the ensuing months, God granted me many opportunities to speak personally with this lady about her spiritual condition. Not only was it obvious that she was not under conviction of sin; but she had little real understanding of the gospel. Through our conversations, she came to see her sin and real conviction made her life miserable. One morning she called and said, “I’ve finally come to Jesus. Now I understand what you’ve been talking about.”

This experience, and many similar that followed, led me to reexamine my views of the invitation system that I had always assumed were as much a part of the gospel as the death and resurrection of Jesus. My involvement with Campus Crusade, attendance at a number of schools of evangelism, and my denominational traditions had led me to see the public invitation as vital to evangelism. Studying the Scriptures and the history of preaching and revivals began to lead me to a different conclusion. But the process of laying aside something that was so “normal” to me was a great emotional struggle. I needed to know that the dangers of such a system outweighed the benefits that everyone claimed. 2 I needed to know that I could still be evangelistic

without extending a public altar call. I needed to see a better way.

It is my hope that this article will help you in these areas. To do a thorough analysis of the system and its history is far beyond the scope of this undertaking. But perhaps as we examine this issue, we can see the dangers inherent in this system and chart a course for a better way.

As we begin, one thing must be made thoroughly clear. I am not advocating that we not invite people to come to Christ. The invitation to come to Christ is one that we are called to make. Should we shrink ...

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