I want to invite you to put yourself in the shoes of an unsaved person. Imagine the following situation as if you were an unbeliever: you are sitting in a church service, and the pastor’s message has deeply touched you. Over the past few weeks, God has been convicting you of your need for Christ.
As never before, you are wanting to settle your eternal destiny. You now “get it” that you have to come to God as a sinner, recognize His Son died for you as your substitute taking the full punishment for your sins, and rose again on the third day. You can receive His free gift of eternal life by trusting in Him alone to save you. This is where you’re frustrated, though. You say to yourself, “But how do I settle it? What do I have to do?” Your frustration is only enhanced when the pastor says, “Let’s close in prayer.”
Several months ago, I spoke at a Wild Game Feast event. Being an avid hunter, I showed many hunting pictures in my presentation. I then explained how I came to Christ through hunting as God took me from the creation to the Creator to Christ. After I had explained the gospel, I appealed to any unbelievers to not only come to Christ but to come to Christ that night. As heads were bowed and eyes were closed, I gave each person an opportunity to trust Christ by personally leading them in prayer myself. I made it clear that saying a prayer does not save. Trusting Christ saves.
After the service, a man said to me, “You are the first person in the history of this church that actually gave a non-Christian the chance to settle his eternal destiny right there and told them how he could do that.” I pray that we all see his statement as an imperative reminder to end a message with a clear invitation. It’s often easy to make an appeal for people to come to Christ and even explain what a person must do. Never forget, though, to give the congregation the opportunity to actually do it.
Leading a congregation phrase by phrase as they tell God that they are trusting Him alone is very effective. Be incredibly careful to clarify that the prayer itself does not save. Give them time to repeat each phrase after you. I also highly recommend some kind of device such as a Communication Card for the congregation to inform leadership of their decisions for better church follow up.
After giving the congregation an opportunity to settle their salvation, you can proceed with whatever method works best in your individual church. People can come forward like an alter call or they can meet you after the service. I just urge you to not only tell them how to settle it, but give them the opportunity to do it. Instead of remaining frustrated in their search for salvation, your guests can walk away with the testimony, “Jesus Christ is the Savior, but today He became my Savior.”
Please read below for a sample prayer including each specific pause:
“Dear God, I come you now and I admit I’m a sinner. Go ahead tell God that.” I pause long enough that they can repeat the phrase in their hearts. “I now understand that nothing I am or do will get me to heaven. Go ahead tell God that.” Once again, I pause in prayer long enough for them to tell that to God. “But I now understand that Jesus Christ died for me and rose again the third day. Go ahead tell God that.” I pause, giving them time to do so. “Right now, I place my trust in Jesus Christ alone as my only way to heaven.” I pause as they verbalize that to God. “Thank you for the free gift of eternal life I just this moment received.” I pause again. “In Jesus’s name, amen.” I pause a final time and then proceed to explain how they can tell us of their decisions.