Dr. Queen has been teaching at SWBTS for 13 years and just published his book, “The Gospel Invitation,” with O.S. Hawkins.
A “gospel invitation” focuses specifically on evangelism in the context of public preaching instead of a one-on-one conversation. The very nature of preaching calls for a response. While a call to believe the gospel is not the only invitation that should be given, it should be dominant. There is always the opportunity to apply Scripture and respond, whether that is an evangelistic response or a response of deeper dedication to Christ.
Why Have Invitations Declined?
Three major reasons:
Discipleship culture has led a strong push for evangelism through long-term relationships and conversations.
Some pastors pointed out that invitations are more human-centered instead of God-centered.
For pragmatists, they see no response to invitation, so invitations become less and less common.
The Biblical Argument
Gospel invitations are rooted in the fundamental elements of what has always happened amidst God’s people.
Some examples would be in Genesis 3. When God called Adam out of hiding with the phrase “Adam, where are you?”, it was not an issue of God not knowing Adam’s location. God was calling out to see if Adam was willing to present himself in his sin. Moses called the Levites to come to his side after the sin of the golden calves. Elijah calls Israel to Mount Carmel.
In the New Testament, John the Baptist calls people to repent and proclaims Christ as “The Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.” Christ himself calls for people to repent. Paul preaches continually in the book of Acts with calls to believe the gospel.
While these are not “altar calls”, they are public invitations to respond to God’s Word.
What About Christians?
How should pastors frame a gospel invitation if he is preaching to Christians?
Ultimately, we do not know if someone is saved. Pastors are still called to preach the gospel, and Christians are supposed to rejoice when the gospel is proclaimed.
What About Hebrews?
The book of Hebrews is a full sermon. There is a mix between an evangelistic invitation and the main invitation, which is to continue in the faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). There is a difference between preaching and teaching. Paul’s letters are teaching the church, while Hebrews is an exhortation to press on in the faith.
How to Draw Out a Gospel Message and Invitation From Every Text
Identify the genre of text.
Associate the gospel message with text.
Identify spiritual needs of the author/characters in the text.
Compose a gospel invitation that anticipates the lost that will hear the Word.
Let the power of the Spirit work through the text and in the hearts of the hearers as you formulate and develop the gospel invitation in the context of various Bible genres and spiritual needs. Incorporate the gospel invitation as part of sermon prep. The invitation does not have to be at the end of the sermon but can be scattered throughout as different points are brought out.
Brittany Proffitt lives in Dallas and is a writer and content manager for So We Speak.