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.
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