I’m curious. When and where did ministers first begin asking people to bow their heads, close their eyes, and secretly raise their hand in a church service if they wanted to accept Jesus? Why do we feel like we need to sneak people into heaven? And now the backward slide continues, as many pastors do not even extend an invitation to accept Christ in their weekend services.
I believe the church is the greatest fishing net for souls ever created. And most churches don’t utilize the church to its fullest potential. For the past 12 years of our existence as a church we have taken a very bold approach to leading people to Jesus. As the lead pastor I have determined that I will not lead anyone in the salvation prayer. That right and privilege is reserved for the followers of Christ who attend my church. Instead of watching me lead people through the sinner’s prayer each weekend, I choose to empower them to release the greatest miracle on the planet. We live by the core value of, “Everyday ministry by everyday believers.”
Our plan is simple: In every weekend service we always give an opportunity for people to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. It is my favorite part of the service. When I finish the closing ministry time prayer I say, “Every head up, every eye open, and everyone looking around.” I then take two to three minutes to explain and present an invitation to join God’s family.
But pulling in the net is where it gets fun. Prior to asking them to make a commitment, I ask everyone this question: “If I had a one hundred dollar bill to give away, how many of you would want it?” Typically, everyone raises their hand. “See, when you want something it is not weird or unusual to raise your hand. Today I am not giving away $100 but I am offering you the opportunity to have eternal life through Jesus Christ. And in just a moment I am going to count to three and if you’re ready to make Jesus the Lord of your life all you have to do is raise your hand. As you reach out to God he will reach for you. Here is the cool part. When you raise your hand this place is going to begin to cheer, celebrate, and clap for you. You are going to get a hero’s reception. Yes, everyone is going to see you raise your hand. We want to boldly walk you through the front door of heaven and personally introduce you to Jesus Christ. There is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. This is going to be the best day of your life! Are you ready? When I count to three, get ready to raise your hand and one of the individuals near you will come and pray with you right where you stand.”
When I hit “three” and hands go up, my members begin the celebration. Typically 2-3 believers will go to the person with their hand in the air. They introduce themselves and tell the individual they are here to lead them in a prayer. On all of the screens in the auditorium is a simple salvation prayer. One believer takes the lead and ask the candidate to bow their head and repeat the prayer one line at a time. The other believers who have gathered recite the prayer in unison with the candidate.
Five times a Sunday we extend the invitation. Our members bring their unsaved friends to church with confidence knowing there will be an opportunity given for them to accept Christ. Last year we saw 754 new decisions for Jesus Christ. Yes, we have services where no one responds. We find that most sinners don’t attend the early service. Yet, we always give an opportunity in that service and over 50% of the time we will have at least one person respond, just not as many as the later services.
KEEPING IT REAL
We do not have designated members to respond. We believe it is every believer’s privilege and responsibility to know how to lead someone to Jesus. We have encountered that 95% of Christians have never led someone to Christ or they are uncomfortable in attempting it. So we have to continually teach, train and equip them on the process.
I tell our members it is like fishing in a stocked pond. If you can’t lead someone to Jesus . . . IN CHURCH . . . who is asking for it, how can you ever do it in the community? “This is a safe place to learn and practice.” Now, it has become a part of our church culture. Once your members experience being a part of the salvation miracle they will become addicted to it. Now they are not spectators while I am presenting the invitation; they are fully engaged and anticipating the opportunity of leading someone to Christ.
I would like to encourage each one of you pastors that already give an invitation on a weekly basis to join me and become one of 20,000 pastors to commit to the Weekly Gospel Challenge.
And for those who don’t, I dare you to take the leap of faith and see what God will do in your church.
To hear more details on this subject you can listen to “Heads Up, Eyes Open” on the Dean Hawk Leadership Podcast. Available in both audio and video versions in iTunes.