Extending a Public Invitation—The Reasons Why 2
A second scriptural reason for giving a public invitation is to afford those who have heard the gospel in the past an opportunity to receive Christ. Lost people are at various stages in their relationship to Christ. Some have never heard the gospel; they are in total darkness.
Others are on the verge of making a commitment. They have sat in churches for many years hearing the gospel expounded, or may have been exposed to the evangel through literature, radio, television, or films. They are ready to receive Christ. The public invitation offers them an immediate opportunity to do so.
Scripture is clear that evangelism includes the planting or sowing of the seed of God’s Word (1 Corinthians 3:6), at which time the sinner hears the gospel for the first time. It also includes watering (1 Corinthians 3:6), when the sinner is further exposed to gospel truth and it is explained to his understanding. He also becomes the subject of many prayers that the Word will take root, grow, and produce faith.
Unfortunately, many evangelistic efforts stop here. The New Testament pattern includes another step: harvesting, when the invitation is extended for the sinner to repent and trust Christ (John 4:35, 36). Through the invitation, God gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:7) and adds new members to His Church (Acts 2:47).
By giving an invitation, the pastor or evangelist can reap a harvest of souls that was planted weeks, months, and even years earlier. Dr. James A. Stewart explains that when evangelist D. L. Moody came to Scotland in the late 1890s, his efforts were greatly blessed by God because he was preaching to people who had heard the gospel all their lives. They knew they needed to repent and believe, but they did not know how to go about it. When Moody extended his public invitation, they flocked forward by the thousands to receive help for their seeking souls.
Finally, through precept and example the Scriptures enjoin God’s servants to issue a public invitation. The Bible opens with God seeking the fellowship of fallen man through a call (Genesis 3:9). It closes with God and the church issuing a final appeal for sinners to come to Christ (Revelation 22:17). The task that God began alone, He expects the church to continue. Dr. I. D. E. Thomas, a pastor with strong Puritan and Reformed leanings, says he issues a public invitation because “we are bidden to persuade, command, even compel them to come in.”3
R. Alan Streett, The Effective Invitation: A Practical Guide for the Pastor (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1995), 140–141.