Every preacher desires to be used by God evangelistically. We may all have different views regarding a few theological nuances, but there’s no doubt that the goal of leading people to Christ and His cross resides in all of us. If that is not true of you, repent immediately or resign immediately.
Yet I have often found pastors and preachers and evangelists, or whatever other term they are going by these days, to unintentionally make extremely troubling judgments upon the sufficiency of God’s revealed Word and the methods that the NT writers provided for us to draw from. In fact, far more often than I wish, I’m found reading a book on evangelistic methodology that completely ignores the NT prescription or completely invents a NT counterpart. Both are troubling, for obvious reasons. Note the following advice,
“There are several possibilities as far as type of invitation are concerned. The New Testament does not prescribe a certain way a person is to indicate outwardly that he is coming to Jesus. The fact that there was a method of public indication that one was deciding for Christ is very obvious, but the prescribed manner is not always the same.
“The exact method used in extending invitations in the New Testament was undoubtedly varied. More than once, Jesus simply said, “Follow Me,”and this was the extent of His invitation. On other occasions, Jesus said, “Come unto Me.” Exactly how Simon Peter called for open declaration of faith at Pentecost is not clearly stated, but the fact that three thousand people were baptized is clear indication that Peter gave people a chance to openly indicate their response; otherwise he would not have known whom to baptize out of the huge crowd that heard him that day.” – Fasol, A., Roy Fish, Steve Gaines, & Ralph Douglas West, Preaching evangelistically: Proclaiming the Saving Message of Jesus, p. 83
The above advice is then followed by the five types of invitations: (1) the invitation to come forward, (2) signing cards to acknowledge your acceptance of the gospel, (3) counseling in an “inquiry room,” (4) lifting one’s hands, and (5) praying where you are. I disagree profoundly with the author’s presuppositions regarding the nature of the new birth, but my intention is not to deal primarily with that. There’s something else that concerns me.
Since when are we unable to simply take the NT model as sufficient? When the author writes that the NT “does not prescribe a certain way a person is to indicate outwardly that he is coming to Jesus” can we not respond with the NT data? The NT indicates the following pattern for people coming to saving faith: (1) preachers preached the gospel, (2) hearers heard the gospel, (3) preachers pointed hearers to Christ, (4) the Holy Spirit would open hearts, (5) preachers clarified issues such as “sin” and “repentance,” (6) hearers responded by believing and repenting, (7) there were no “alter calls” or “raising of hands” or “acceptance cards.” No, there was simply thousands of people believing in Christ and being baptized. Acts 2:41 tells us that “those who received his word were baptized.” Simple. The emphasis was on believing in Christ and then the concern for “outward profession” came into play, and that outward profession was in the NT, baptism. It seems to me that the author here is wrestling with what seems obvious in the text.
Me thinks that some have replaced baptism with hand-raising. I don’t want to misrepresent or jump to conclusions regarding this author. I’m just not sure this type of thinking (or help)… is helpful. Might we just consider the NT model? Yes, invite people to repent and place faith in Christ… but the goal is not necessarily to get people to do a specific thing; the goal is to direct people to Christ! I’m sure we’d all agree on that.
Perhaps we’ll discuss this further in the near future.
What’s the point? Let’s be careful not to unknowingly “improve” upon something that doesn’t need to be improved. The apostolic gospel and methodology is sufficient! So preach away, and trust the Spirit to convict men and women, young and old, of the glorious holiness of our Great God!
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.