No preacher likes to feel that his efforts in persuading men to obey the Lord have failed. He is always anxious to see big numbers of people respond to the invitation but often questionable methods are used to move people.
In the dark ages, we read of the "child crusades and the mass hysteria that was aroused by the singing, praying, marching mobs." Recent years have produced Gypsy Smith and Billy Sunday here in America with their call to the altar and the "Old time religion." The current rage among denominationalist is Billy Graham. He is but another example of the mass evangelism coming to life.
Two classes of people are subjects of the Gospel invitation and it will help if we keep this in mind when an invitation song is sung. First, those who have never become Christians should be invited to "obey the gospel." Sinners should be informed about the new birth, baptism for the remission of sins and salvation in the one Church. Second, those who have fallen away from the faith should be urged to return to their duty. This includes only those who have sinned so as to bring reproach upon the Church. The invitations does not call for Christians to rededicate themselves to the Lord nor volunteer for some special service. We should remember that a formal placing of membership with a congregation is not a part of the invitation of the Gospel, but an invitation of a local Church for loyal Christians to identify themselves with the work.
In the desire to increase the number of responses (?), many times the invitation is pressed and the terms are made broader than the Lord intended. We often see what many term "re-baptisms." There is no "re-baptism" in a true scriptural sense. If one has not been scripturally immersed, he has simply been plunged under water and there is no obedience to God in such an act. It is true that many people, such as members of the Baptist Church and others have been immersed, but not for the remission of their sins. It is also true that there may be some who have gone through a form of obedience and been immersed under the preaching of a gospel preacher who have not become Christians. These all have simply never become Christians and should obey the Lord. The abuse is seen when preachers are unable to move some one to obey the gospel and they begin to make such suggestions as: "if your mind is not completely satisfied, if there is the least doubt about your baptism, then make it right." In an audience of young people and emotionally unstable adults, there are often many who will immediately begin to build up fears and raise questions. With a little emphasis and earnest persuasion, it is possible to "re-baptize" at least a half a dozen in any meeting. If this does not bring results, then a few suggestions that "precious little boys and girls, eight and nine years old" should give themselves to Jesus before they permit the devil to get control of their lives, will get a few.
Perhaps the greatest abuse of the invitation today is the "restorations" that are often reported. If a Church member has sinned against the Lord, and has fallen away from the faith, he needs to confess his sins. There is no point in Church members answering the invitation, sometimes twice a year, just to confess that they want to "live closer to God." Such "restorations" do no good and they may do much harm.
A true restoration to the faith is not a "rededication" or "consecration" of ones self to God. This is necessary and should be done daily but there is no need to make a public demonstration of the fact that a sermon has moved one to want to live a better life. At the beginning of every service we pray to God for our sins to be forgiven and we ask for divine help in living the Christian life. What is the point in 25 of the best people in Church responding at the invitation to repeat the same prayers, confessions, and resolutions all made at the beginning of the service? A true restoration is not a time to confess ones secret sins. It is not a time to tell the Church that one has not been reading the Bible and praying as much as he should. There is no point to a public confession that does not involve public sins. Family matters, secret sins and private problems should be left out of congregational deliberations. In the midst of such services, the preacher himself could well start things to moving by being the first to confess "that he wants to live closer to God." Such confessions do not constitute Bible restorations.
The danger in such pressure as this is very evident. It cheapens religion in the eyes of the world. Do we have to remodel our membership twice a year or have we turned to the Roman confessional? Do we not appreciate our own privileges in the secret place with the Lord? What is wrong with a Church where the best must be "restored" so often? It makes God appear to be a "bell-hop" and sin looks easy. Though it takes courage to publicly confess error, many of those who respond in the excitement of such services, would be the first to deny that they have denied the Lord and departed from the faith. They simply "want to do better." As a woman once told the preacher, "I have not sinned but I want the prayers of the Church that I might liver nearer to God." There is wrong in such demonstrations because God has not made arrangements in his plan for them. A gospel invitation does not include such persons.
"Preach the Word." Remember the Gospel is the "power of God unto salvation." Tell sinners about the "new birth." Preach on the "one Church." Some may become offended and turn away from God, but the Bible still teaches there is "but one Body." Quote Acts 2:38 and urge the unsaved to be "baptized for the remission of sins." Use the conversions as models for the plan of salvation. Some of the old people have heard it but most of them can forget it. The young need to know these vital truths. One generation of no Bible preaching will produce a crop of unconverted members and compromising preachers. Quote the great commission at least once during the meeting and go easy on personal experiences and death bed stories. Twenty years ago, preaching that was not filled with Bible quotations and illustrations, would not have been permitted in "our" pulpits. Show what a real restoration is and what it is not. Urge sinners to repent and all Christians to make each day a time of rededication to God.
At the end of the meeting, we might not be able to report "fifty responses," when broken down simply says, "eight baptized," of this number three of the leaders "rebaptized," and 42 of the members expressed a desire to "live closer to God," but we can say, the gospel was preached and God will give the harvest.
An unfair pressure is put upon preachers today by an unconverted membership. The members demand that the preacher produce results. The number of "responses" determines the success of the meeting, so the preaching is often designed to move the people to "respond." All should want to see great numbers added to the Lord, but let us use the Lord's methods and offer the Lord's invitation to move the people. - From The Preceptor May, 1957.
Truth Magazine IV:1, pp. 23-24