As I read through the New Testament I am struck by the numerous references to what we might call “the ministry of invitation.” What is “the ministry of invitation”? It is the practice or discipline of encouraging and inviting people whom you know and meet to attend the Lord’s Day worship gatherings of God’s people where Christ is present and where Christ is preached. It is a form of evangelism with which all God’s people can be engaged. Consider a few Biblical examples:
· As Jesus “preached the word unto them” in a private home that was filled to the point “that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door,” four faithful men lowered their paralyzed friend through the roof so that he could be in the presence of Jesus (Mark 2:1-12).
· Andrew told his brother Simon, “We have found the Messiah.” Then John records, “And he brought him to Jesus” (John 1:41-42).
· Philip told his friend Nathaniel that he had found the one about whom Moses prophesied, Jesus of Nazareth. He then told his friend, “Come and see” (John 1:45-46).
· After meeting Jesus, the Samaritan woman at the well went to her village and invited her neighbors to come and hear Jesus: “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:29).
· When Paul wrote to the church at Corinth about their worship practices, he exhorted them to be edifying in their gatherings so that if “one that believeth not, or one unlearned” is in their midst, “the secrets of his heart” will be made manifest and “he will worship God” (1 Corinthians 14:24-25). This assumes the early believers were inviting unbelievers and the “unlearned” to be present in their gatherings so that they might come under the influence of Christ as he was preached in the Scriptures.
When a Christian invites someone to come to Lord’s Day worship in the gathering of God’s people, he is inviting that person to be in the presence of Christ as He is spiritually present in the assembly of the saints (Matthew 18:20). He is inviting that person to listen to Christ as He speaks in the Scriptures that are read and sung (Colossians 3:16). He is inviting that person to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him as He teaches (Ephesians 4:21).
Let me offer a practical challenge: The last Sunday of this month (March 31st) is “Easter Sunday.” As a Reformed congregation we do not follow the “holy-days” of the so-called “Christian calendar.” We do, however, observe the weekly gathering of God’s people for worship of the risen Jesus on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week. Many non-believers and even backslidden Christians are open to attending worship on days like Christmas or Easter. Can you begin now prayerfully to consider someone you might invite to “Come and see”? If that person is unwilling to attend our congregation (due to distance or for whatever reason) might you encourage him to seek out another Christ-centered church in his area? Let’s pursue the ministry of invitation as we have opportunity.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Though, like yourself, I don't subscribe to the "personal evangelism" promoted in our day, surely the Christian life must be characterized by; 1) a burden for our fellow men who are lost and dead in their sins, and 2) an exuberance for life in Christ and the expansion of His kingdom. This "ministry of invitation" would then become the fruit of Christian living.
I wonder if this would not be produced in us, if the church would pray regularly and corporately through the Lord's Prayer purposing to use it as the model for direction in our corporate prayer meetings. Not simply recitation, but allow it to dictate the flow of our prayers together: take requests prior to the meeting, place them categorically into the corresponding petition, then pray through each category, breaking in between to give the requests and possibly read an appropriate passage of scripture (you can probably tell I've given this some thought ;) ). I know that as I pray for things regularly, they become constant in my mind and heart. Imagine that taking place in our congregations, particularly the first two petitions - wow!
To borrow from Mr. Watts -
We long to see your churches full,
That all the chosen race
May, with one voice and heart and soul,
Sing your redeeming grace.
Thanks for the comment. Better be careful about expressing approval. I have found that to question the modern, broad evangelical, revivalistic views of doing "personal evangelism" (in place of preaching) brings about as much ire as saying you prefer the traditional text over the modern critical one or that you don't think being "Calvinistic" is the same as being "Reformed." Smiles.
Anyhow, I like your thoughts on using the Lord's prayer in corporate prayer. It is, after all, a model prayer. Are you doing this in family devotions or in your church prayer meetings?
I am glad to fellowship in your camp no matter the ire ;)
As far as your question about the Lord's Prayer, I am not currently using it in this way with the family and our church does not have an official prayer "meeting".
I have been using it in my personal morning prayer for about a year, primarily to keep order to my wandering and easily distracted mind. Most of my recent thoughts about this have really stemmed from teaching for our Bible Hour on Sunday mornings. I had the opportunity to teach through a series on prayer. I started following Hodges Systematic by giving a definition and then going over the assumptions and nature of true prayer for several weeks and then finishing with a study through the Lord's prayer, finishing about a month ago. I was struck by the fact that Jesus taught this same prayer on at least two separate occasions (in the "Sermon on the Mount" and then later, privately to his disciples). The fact that He repeatedly taught this added to the gravity of it in my thinking.
As I was teaching through the petitions (the Westminster Larger Catechism gives a wonderful study of what we pray for in the petitions), I really started considering how powerful and beneficial this could be in a corporate setting and began to play out in my mind the logistics and such. It is good on so many levels! I realize that many churches don't have regularly scheduled prayer meetings, but I wonder if we are not forfeiting blessings and growth in our personal prayers as well.
All that said, I am not in a position to implement this in the church we are attending, but I do intend to begin doing it with our family. For several years now, we close our family prayers by reciting the Lord's Prayer together (the kids are always excited when they go last because they get to lead by saying, "And we pray as the Lord has taught us saying,..."). I think it will be a blessing for our children to learn how to really pray "as the Lord taught us". Shame of it is, though I am so familiar with the Lord's prayer, I am only beginning to learn how to pray using the model given us by our loving Lord (does this smell like that pesky Regulative Principle?).
I've probably worn out my comment allowance so I'll stop here.
Please pray for the third petition in my family as we learn to pray ;)
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