After the Sermon 101

by Robert Earl Houston

Last night I went to bed angry. I know, the scriptures are very clear about not letting the sun go down on your wrath – but I had one thing on my mind after watching a nationally televised denominational meeting: what to do after the sermon.

I grew up in a church where the sermon was half-way during the service. After the minister preached, the invitation to was extended, then the announcement clerk came forward, some people got to make an appeal which echoed the announcements, then the pastor had something to say, then the choir would sing a closing number, benediction by the minister, shake three hands, and go home.

However, that method of the sermon being at the top or middle of the service is long passé.  Normally in most worship experiences, the sermon is at the end of the service – it’s the main event of worship. If you want to judge how well your praise team or devotional period is working – watch how many people come in late without a problem.  However, I digress.

When a pastor or minister has preached the gospel of Jesus Christ, my father in the ministry, Dr. A. Bernard Devers, I, taught us to extend the invitation.  I want to share what he shared with us to help, I pray someone who “doesn’t get it.”

Your job is to give people the opportunity to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior or renew or establish a relationship with the local church or in some cases, come forward for prayer or altar call (if the pastor’s directives are of such).  You don’t have to re-preach what has already been preached. And you don’t have to squall, whoop, or try to “coat-tail” on another preacher.  Just stand there sincerely and talk to souls that have been challenged by the word of God.

When I served at Westwood Baptist Church, University Center in Nashville as Assistant Pastor, my Pastor did something unique there. I was the only one who was allowed to extend the Invitation. That literally was placed on my job description. He felt that I had a gift for extending the invitation. I thought it was odd at first, but now I know this – everyone can’t extend the invitation.

You have to pay attention to the sermon being preached. You have to know and sense the flow of the Holy Spirit through the proclaimer. You have to been keen enough to sense what the Lord was doing through the sermon – was He challenging? Was He encouraging? Was He breaking fallow ground? Was He calling for repentance? Was He calling for celebration?

You cannot extend the Invitation if your sole purpose is to magnify yourself. You can be gifted as all heck and have the gifts to “slay the house” – but your job is not to make this a “me moment” – it’s to make it a “Him moment.” Your job is to make sure that after the sermon that you don’t make a fool of the preaching moment with self-serving buffoonery. If people can sit there and imagine you with facepaint and a cane – you’ve made a mockery of both the preaching moment and the Invitation.

Every sermon does not need an advertisement for dancing and praise. Some sermons cut like a knife and cause the hearer to perform the ultimate test – how should my life change in respect to the preaching of God’s word that I just experienced?  How do I need to respond to a word that has challenged my whole being?  Every Invitation is not an invitation to dance.

Finally, if you’re receiving an offering – receive the offering. You don’t need to create a funding campaign on the spot, nor do you need to announce your own preaching agenda for the next few weeks. Offerings don’t have to be eternal to be effective. An offering that is as long or half as long as the sermon should be examined under a very keen microscope.


11 responses

  1. Again great job a lot of the new preachers are not spending time under good leadership to know what to do they get the call and go and act as if they know everything 20 years ago when I started my father in he ministry DR. L. A. SHEPHERD taught us how worship should go.

  2. Rev.S.S. Carreathers | Reply

    Thank you Pastor. Didn’t actually see the incident but have been preaching long enough to see foolishness be expressed during the invitation numerous times. It is something that should be taught or learned early in the ministry but however some of the younger clergy have the visions of grandeur that won’t allow them to be told or taught anything.

  3. Amen! I just had this same discussion last week with some of my fellow preaching peers here in the Austin, TX area (I’m 31 years old and all of the others were around that same age). Just because we are preachers does not mean we have to “preach” every time we get behind the pulpit. As my Father in the Ministry, Pastor Kennedy Young, Sr. always said, “Son, don’t be no bootleg preacher. If your name ain’t listed as the preacher on that program, you have no business preaching. Do your assignment and have a seat. “

  4. Amen! As my Father in the Ministry, Pastor Kennedy Young, Sr., often told me, “Son, don’t be no bootleg preacher. If you ain’t listed as the preacher on that program, and you weren’t the one they called and invited to preach, you ain’t got no business trying to sneak you a sermon in that service. “

  5. Youlonda Mason | Reply

    Absolutely incredible and invaluable wisdom shared here! Thank you for teaching with clarity and conviction the right way to handle such crucial moments in the worship experience.

  6. Great teaching Sir! We were taught that early in ministry & I am so glad. After seeing folk “flunk” at being a worship leader or being asked to pray for an offering or give a benediction, I can appreciate good ministerial training. We had an organized class where we covered not only sermon preparation, but also pulpit etiquette, mic techniques, proper pulpit attire and the like. After almost 20 years in ministry, good teaching always endures the test of time. Thanks to Rev Dr. R.G. Moore for a great foundation and exposure to trained ministers from around the country.

  7. Thank you Pastor Houston for a wonderful blog posting, I plan to use it in an upcoming issue of Theology Digest, with your permission of course

    1. Yes sir. You have my permission.

  8. Once again pastor you have touched on a matter with incredible accuracy

  9. Therese Dialls, Pastor | Reply

    Thank you! i could not have said it better!

  10. Reverend Dion Monroe Stewart | Reply

    Dr Houston you have written some real truths about things going on in today church. But being an ordained minister for 26 years. I still believe in the old time way, because the Lord has not changed but we have, at lease some of us have changed. I believe if it not broke don’t fix it.

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by Pastor Robert Earl Houston

H.B. Charles Jr.

About life, preaching, church, books, and other stuff.

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