The last few years at Good Shepherd have been highlighted by a number of Sunday mornings in which we used the sermon time to give plain proclamation of what it means to be saved by grace and then used the response time to give a clear invitation for people to enter into that salvation experience on the spot. That morning. In church.
Each time, the response has been overwhelming.
Instead of “every head bowed and every eye closed and if you’d like to come to faith, open your eyes and look at me,” it’s been “every head up and every eye open and if you want to respond to God’s love by becoming a Christian, stand up when I say the words, ‘Jesus is Lord.’” And people stand! And this past Sunday, instead of asking “stand-ers” to come forward, we invited them to remain in the Worship Center and join in a song of praise — an appropriate act of worship as a new convert.
So it was a day full of prayer, decision, and celebration.
There was one other new wrinkle this past Sunday: we spontaneously invited people in the congregation to share in the celebration with the “standers” and then escort them to the lobby for information sharing at the conclusion of the service. It was a way to get the people of Good Shepherd to “own” the evangelism process rather than contract it out to the hired staff. After all, we reminded them, it takes all people to invite all people.
Here’s an email response I received on Sunday from one of those mature believers who escorted a new convert to the lobby:
Just wanted to tell you that I thought the altar call this week was great. I considered it an honor to walk Angie and her daughter and Katelynn to the lobby. Renee and I gave her our #s and she seemed genuinely touched. It was a way to involve US in the calling, which we was so meaningful. I always pray for the kingdom during those times, but to get celebrate too was great.
And in reflection on what’s happened over the last several years, I’ve realized two primary benefits from simplifying the message to magnify the impact.
1) People become Christians. In the moment. Sitting in seats that have been prayed over, surrounded by God’s people, and immersed in Gospel proclamation, they move from lost-ness to found-ness and from blindness to sight. It’s thrilling.
2) Long-time believers find their own faith strengthened. It’s like J.D. Greear reminds us: you never get beyond the Gospel, you merely move deeper into it. Here’s a portion of another email I received from someone who has walked with Jesus for years: And the people who know Jesus and are in a living relationship with Him never get tired of hearing the story.
No, they don’t.