Yes, it has been nearly forty years. I think back to a Gospel Meeting. The little congregation of twenty-five or thirty souls met in a typical white frame building so common in those days. It was not quite the middle of September, but fall came early that year. There was a nip in the air every evening when we assembled.
The meeting progressed quite nicely. The attendance began at thirty and the last night there were 92 present. Visitors came from all around.
There was nothing cutesy or frilly about the sermon topics. Rather, they were a selection of some of the countless, timeless topics of the Bible! Monday night we started out with “Binding and Loosing,” a lesson showing the difference between the Old and New Covenants. (In those days we had never heard of the “One Covenant Theory.) Later in the week we spoke on, “Dangers Facing The Church” and closed the meeting Sunday night with, “What Shall I Do With Jesus?” I suppose the invitation was extended with average enthusiasm as I explained step by step the Gospel plan of salvation. That would have been followed with an earnest exhortation to “respond before it is eternally too late!” When we stood to sing the 92 present joined wholeheartedly in singing the invitation song.
As we were concluding the song, from the body language and facial expressions, I had a strong feeling that some present really had been convicted by the sermon and the song. It was the last service of the meeting and the last song. What was I to do? I alerted the song leader and the audience to be prepared to sing the last verse of the invitation song again. With that, I with great urgency, pled with those who were not Christians to respond while there was “time and opportunity.”
As we sang the verse again, much to the delight of everyone, five adults from two different towns came forward. And they were baptized the same hour of the night!
That night I learned some great lessons. (1) Never get in a hurry to close a service. (2) Never be reluctant to ask for one more verse of the invitation song if it seems warranted. (3) And, never get in a hurry in extending the invitation! After all, that is what the gospel meeting had been all about. From that time forward, with few exceptions, I go through the plan of salvation very methodically, step by step, at the conclusion of every service. Those who need to be baptized are the ones who likely know the least about the scheme of redemption. Take time to tell them one more time. It may move them. Telling people about God’s plan for saving them has motivated folks for two thousand years!