Monday, January 27, 2014

The Ministry of Invitation

Note:  Below are notes from my Sunday afternoon message on "the discipline of inviting non-believers into the meetings of God's people."
The Ministry of Invitation

Luke 5:18-20; John 4:28-30; 1 Corinthians 14:23-25

CRBC January 26, 2014

We are continuing a short series on personal ministry.  How can a believer be useful in kingdom work?  In what ways can he lawfully serve in ministry?

How can a believer be engaged in evangelism?  One way is through the often neglected ministry of invitation, that is, the spiritual discipline of inviting unbelievers into the meetings of God’s people so that they might (1) be exposed to the witness of God’s people, (2) be under the preaching of the gospel, and (3) through this be placed before Christ himself as he is present in his gathered people and as he speaks through the reading and proclamation and through the singing of his word.  Compare:

Ephesians 4:20 But ye have not so learned Christ; 21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:

Hebrews 2:11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee [citing Psalm 22:22].

We need also to note that God has particularly ordained the preaching of the gospel to be the means of convincing and converting sinners:

1 Corinthians 1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

To demonstrate the significance of this ministry of invitation I want to look at three NT passages:

1.  The healing of the paralytic in Luke 5:18-20:

Luke 5:17 And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them. 18 And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him. 19 And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus.

Notice:  There was a man who was paralyzed and could not move.  He had friends who had compassion on him in his circumstances, and they sought means to bring him and lay him before Jesus.  They knew that his best chance for healing was to place him “into the midst before Jesus.”

2.  The Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:28-30:

John 4:28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, 29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? 30 Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.

Notice that this woman did not go as a preacher or teacher.  She went as an inviter.  She had the power of her own personal experience of Jesus.  By her invitation men came to listen to Jesus for themselves.

See the fruit in John 4:39-42.

3. The description of worship in the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 14:23-25:

1 Corinthians 14:23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned [idiotai:  unskilled or untrained], or unbelievers [apistoi], will they not say that ye are mad? 24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: 25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.

Granted, the specific purpose of this passage is not to provide a model for how to do invitation evangelism, but it is to advocate for prophesy given in intelligible utterance versus speaking in tongues in unintelligible utterance.  However, we should not overlook what the passage teaches us about how evangelism was done in the early church.  It assumes the following:  (1) the whole church gathered in one place (i.e., this is not the lone preacher going to stand on the street corner); (2) the unlearned and unbelievers were invited into these gathered meetings (i.e., these people came to the church’s gatherings, rather than the church going out to them); and (3) these unbelievers came under conviction of their sin and were converted to become worshippers of God as they heard the gospel intelligibly proclaimed in an explicitly Christian assembly.  From this we might surmise that the normative way for the church to do evangelism is (1) to gather publically to worship, especially on the Lord’s Day; (2) to invite unbelievers into our assembly; and (3) to preach intelligibly in hopes that the unconverted in our midst might come under conviction and be saved.

Practical exhortations:

1.  We are to see the ministry of invitation as one of the ways we might be lawfully and profitably involved in personal ministry.

2.  We should bring our children to worship to hear the preaching of the word.  This is one reason we do not need “children’s church.”

3. We should strive to invite and bring our unsaved relatives and acquaintances to hear the preaching of the word.

In our CRBC membership covenant we pledge “to seek the salvation of our kindred and acquaintances.”

4.  We can place Bible passages, good Christian books, and audio recording of Christians sermons and teachings in the path of non-believers (physically and electronically through email and social media), but we should not neglect the power of the physical gathering of God’s people.

5.  We should not necessarily expect an immediate result (though God can work miraculously if he so chooses) but we must be patient and understand that for some God in his sovereignty is concealing the truth (cf. Luke 18:34:  “And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hidden from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.”).  Still we can and should offer, we can invite, and we can pray.

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