|Winning Ways - from Tom Goodman, Pastor, Hillcrest Baptist Church, Austin, Texas|
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July 2, 2003
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Here is this week's WINNING WAYS . . . .
the End . . . A New Beginning
by Tom Goodman
Im sure youve noticed that were moved the invitation time. Its now after the service instead of after the sermon. Were going to try this for a while and see if it works as well at Hillcrest as it worked in my previous congregation.
I believe we ought to explain how to respond to the gospel at every worship service. But I also believe we ought to give people lots of ways to TELL us that theyve made that important decision. So, were going to invite people to come forward at the end of the service, and were going to encourage people to fill in a card in the bulletin or pew rack, and were going to enlist people to attend a class. Our job is to catch fish, and were going to put a lot of hooks in the water!
This change to our invitation time will have several benefits
First, the sermon can close with a challenge that ties to the sermons theme. Before I moved the invitation time to the end of the service, my sermon always had to end the same way. It didnt matter whether I was speaking on fatherhood or money management or honesty no matter the subject I always had to end with an invitation to become a Christian. When I moved that vital invitation to the end of the service, it freed me to close my sermons with a challenge to apply the sermon topic to life. From now on, if I preach on family life, for example, we can close with a prayer of re-commitment to our families and Gene can lead us in a song related to that theme. Then I can get up and explain how to become a Christian.
Second, by sharing the gospel in a clear and brief format at the end of every service, it actually heightens the importance of making this decision. Its a way for us to say to people, Across these ninety minutes youve listened to the praise, youve examined the scripture, youve watched us enjoy life with Jesus. Now its your turn. Heres what you need to do to be a part of this kind of life.
Third, Ive found that people LIKE to talk with someone after the service when there are a lot of other conversations going on. Do you want to know where I made the decision to move the invitation time to the end of the service? It first hit me in a restaurant. I noticed that people were carrying on loud and animated conversations all around the room, but no one was paying attention to other tables because they were involved in their own conversation. The same principle applied when we moved the invitation to the end of the service. People were actually RELIEVED that there was lots of noise and conversation going on all around the Worship Center. It allowed them to talk with a staff member without being the focus of six hundred pairs of eyes!
Im sure some
are thinking, But what about the need to make your decision public?
Didnt Jesus say we need to confess him before men?
Absolutely. But the question is WHEN we need to do this. Id say that the most important time to identify yourself as a follower of Jesus is as you live and work in your circles of influence! Thats when Jesus expects us to confess him before men. But well also give people to make their decision public in the church at their baptism and when we present them for membership.
So, as the service draws to a close this week, pray. As the service ENDS, we will invite people to BEGIN a new life with Jesus. I cant wait to see what God will do!
See you at 8:30 or 10:45!
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