Sent: Friday, May 14, 2004 12:06 AM

I wish to say that my articles about Invitations are not written to "attack" anyone. If a church does not choose to have invitations in their church services, they have a perfect right to that choice. My only purpose is to write in response to attacks which have been made and are being made upon those of us who do use and favor the use of the Public Invitation.

In other words, the Antis "fired the first shot." We didn't "start the war." You won't find an article posted on our website about "The Errors and Dangers of NOT Having a Public Invitation," but I have found several articles floating around on the Internet against Public Invitations, not to mention the booklets published against Invitations by some reformed Baptists and Founders brethren.

So -- please -- let no one accuse me of "stirring up controversy." I DID NOT RAISE THIS AS AN ISSUE! I am simply responding to the clubbings that others have chosen to engage in against Public Invitations. I have a perfect right to speak up in behalf of what I believe, especially when it is attacked by others.

Of course, this is "nothing personal." I don't even know some of the writers, so it is not that I have a bone to pick with them on a personal matter. I am simply dealing with the materials they have chosen to publish against a practice which I believe is just as legitimate as some other "non-scriptural" things in which even they themselves engage.

The article under review at this time is entitled, "The Dangers of the Invitation System" by Jim Ehrhard, pastor of the Bible Church of Cabot, Arkansas. I don't know Jim, and all I know about him is what is revealed on his website. He is not the subject matter, however, of my article; the subject matter is what he has written and put on the Internet against Public Invitations. I will comment on what I believe to be his major points.

1. "This experience, and many similar that followed, led me to reexamine my views of the invitation system that I had always assumed were as much a part of the gospel as the death and resurrection of Jesus."

I have noticed that many of the objections to Invitations seem to derive from subjective "experience" and misconceptions related to Invitations. In other words, "I've been there, done that, and I no longer like it." "I once thought such-and-such, but I was wrong about that."

This type of argument makes one's personal experiences the basis for rejection. This approach makes every man a law unto himself, and if I happen to differ, then guess who is wrong? The only "point of reference" in such a case is the objector's own experience, not the Word of God.

2. "Only since the 1800s has this system been employed to bring men to Christ."

While I am not sure this is an accurate representation of history, it is of no consequence even if the system started yesterday. The Internet opened up for use just a few years ago, started by men of the world seeking and finding fortunes thru technology, but Jim seems to have no problem with adjusting to its use, despite its origin. It is heavily loaded with all sorts of religious doctrines and practices, atheism, pornography, scam operations, witchcraft, political anarchists, and it will accommodate any foul bird under heaven for a price. But Jim has no problem making use of the Internet system.

The fact is, the majority of things done by churches today had a beginning after apostolic time. Owning property, building buildings, Incorporating churches, Sunday Schools, Mission boards, Conventions, Bible Translation Societies, Tract Societies, Bible Conferences and Seminars, Church Kitchens, Youth Programs, and a host of other things did not exist in apostolic times.

If we are to do away with Public Invitation because someone this side of the Apostle Paul made the first use of it, then when will Jim be consistent and take down his website?

3. "The danger of promoting a method not promoted in Scripture."

As I have noted in other articles, this is the argument based on what is called "patternism" which is the fallacious idea that everything a church does must be a copy of the supposed "pattern" of church activity in apostolic times. It is the same argument used by Campbellites and Hardshells who opposed the Modern Missions movement in the early 1800s. They objected to the "methodology" as being an "innovation." It is the same argument used by the Campbellites to insist on observing Communion every Sunday. It is the same argument used by those who oppose Mission Boards.

Again, we ask Jim, will he apply this argument to the use of the Internet by which he is attempting to promote his church, its doctrine, and its work? Where is this Internet "method" in Scripture, and where was the Lord's money ever used to pay for the use of this man-made method?

4. "The danger of eliciting an emotional response based upon the personality of the speaker or the persuasion of the appeal."

The argument here is that the Invitation is a "psychological" device, and Jim even quotes a psychologist in support of the charge. But this same type of objection was made against the preaching of Whitefield, Spurgeon, and others who saw large numbers profess faith under their preaching. Furthermore, if the preaching of the Gospel does not appeal to the emotions of men it must surely be void of any serious content. God did not create us with emotions without purpose, and nothing should stir the God-given emotions more than the Gospel, followed by an invitation for the hearer to do his duty, accept it, and confess it before men.

5. "The danger of confusing the 'coming forward' with salvation."

Jim says, "Here we have one of the greatest dangers of the invitation system."
But this "danger" exists wherever other public responses are practiced, also; such as baptism and church membership. Not having a Public Invitation does not prevent confusion about the relation of baptism to salvation or the relation of church membership to salvation. Shall we also throw out baptism and church membership, too?

6. "The danger of counting great numbers who only discredit their profession by their lives."

There were g eat numbers on Pentecost and great numbers after Pentecost (Acts 2:47; 4:4;.5:14; 6:1, 7; 9:31; 11:21, 24; 16:5). There were "thousands of Jews" in the Jerusalem church, yet they were "zealous of the law" (Acts 21:20). They even had to have a council to try to settle some of the doctrinal and practical disputations (Acts 15). Paul even had to confront Peter for his compromise. "And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas was carried away with their dissimulation" (Galatians 2:11-21). Paul said "they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel."

What does this tell us? Even without the modern invitation, the apostolic church itself had very serious doctrinal and practical problems, even causing dissimulation among the apostles themselves. Should we be surprised that today there will be similar problems where great numbers profess faith in Christ? Did not Edwards experience the same in the great awakening? Did not Whitefield? And did not Spurgeon often complain of similar false professors? Their systems of obtaining professions of faith did not insure validity.

7.  "The danger of giving assurance to those who are unconverted."

In former articles, I have cited the case of Paul's preaching in Galatia, where at the time he thought he had great success. But later, in his epistle to the same professors, he said, "I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain" (Gal. 4:11). Paul said he "ministered to you the Spirit and worked miracles among you," but now he writes that these same people had "turned again to the weak and beggarly elements" and "fallen from grace" (Gal. 4:9, 5:4).

Had Paul's marvelous ministry earlier given them a "false assurance" by his noteworthy ministrations among them, "before whose eyes Jesus Christ had been evidently set forth crucified among them"? Had Paul's ministry been "psychologically" overpowering, producing a "false assurance," despite his not using the modern church invitation system?

The charge that a public invitation will give false assurance to the unconverted might as equally be alleged against the type of preaching Paul did in Galatia, if we must judge by the subsequent outcome described in the book of Galatians.

8. "We must learn to trust the power of God's Word to convince, convert, and change lives."

That, of course, is true, but we also must be true to men's souls and tell that once they have heard the Gospel, they are responsible to accept it in their heart and to CONFESS IT WITH THEIR MOUTH BEFORE OTHERS. Jesus does not call us to be "secret disciples."

As Spurgeon said:

"I should think there is no condition of gentleness, or of obscurity, or of poverty, or of sorrow, which should prevent anybody from making an open confession of allegiance to God when faith in the Lord Jesus Christ has been exercised. If that is your experience, my dear friend, then whoever you may be, you will find an opportunity, SOMEWHERE OR OTHER, of declaring that you are on the Lord’s side

"I am glad that all candidates for membership in our church make their confession of faith at our church-meetings.  I have been told that such an ordeal must keep a great many from joining us; yet I notice that, where there is no such ordeal, they often have very few members, but here are we with five thousand six hundred, or thereabouts, in church-fellowship, and very seldom, if ever, finding anybody kept back by having to make an OPEN CONFESSION of faith in Christ. 

"It does the man, the woman, the boy, or the girl, whoever it is, so much good for once, at least, to say right out straight, “I am a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and I am not ashamed of it,” that I do not think we shall ever deviate from our custom.  I have also noticed that, when people have once confessed Christ before men, they are very apt to do it again somewhere else; and they thus acquire a kind of boldness and outspokenness upon religious matters, and a holy courage as followers of Christ, which more than make up for any self-denial and trembling which the effort may have cost them" (MTP, Volume 46, 1900 page 289).

Spurgeon also said, "I believe that it is a great help in bringing people to decision when Mr. Moody asks those to stand up who wish to be prayed forAnything that tends to separate you from the ungodly around you, is good for you." (MTP, 1897, page 516).

To quote Spurgeon again, "Tell it out then, tell it out, you who have been lately converted, do not hide your light under a bushel."

C. H. Spurgeon earnestly exhorted those who had accepted Christ as their Savior to COME FORWARD amongst his people and avow their attachment to his person and name.  Words of kindly encouragement and of loving persuasiveness, were addressed to the timid and retiring ones, who feared to avow themselves to be the Lord's, lest they should fall back into sin and dishonor his name.  This was followed by an appeal to those who had confessed the name of Jesus — an appeal of so stirring and searching a nature, that many must have felt constrained to say, 'Lord what wilt thou have me to do?'" (The Sword and the Trowel, 1865, page 70).

Hearers of the Gospel must be told they have a choice to make once they hear the Gospel. I know there are some Calvinists and even others who do not like to use the word "choose" or "choice," or "decision," but those who hear the Gospel do in fact either choose for it, or choose against it, in one form or another. They do make a decision! Spurgeon pressed sinners to make the right choice, the right decision:

In his sermon on Joshua 24:15, DECISION—ILLUSTRATED BY THE CASE OF JOSHUA, Spurgeon exhorted his hearers:

"That resolve on the part of Joshua was openly declared. I want to come straight home to some of you here who have said in your hearts, 'Yes, we will serve the Lord,' but you have never yet declared your allegiance, for you have thought it quite enough to promise in secret. Does not Joshua’s outspoken vow make you blush? You are espoused to Christ, you say, but will there never be an open marriage? Will you never take Him publicly before the eyes of men to be your Lord and Husband forever and ever? Does Jesus agree to secret nuptials? Can such a thing be done in a corner? Of old the candle was put on a candlestick—is it now to be put under a bushel? You say you are His soldier—will you never put on your Prince’s uniform? Shall your Captain’s colors never adorn you? Will you never come forward and take your Commander’s weapon in your hand and march at His bidding to the fight? . . .

"I long to drive you to a DECISION! If God is God, serve Him! If Baal is God, serve him! O, may the Spirit of God lead you to decide for God and His Christ this very moment and He shall have the praise forever! Amen." (MTP, Volume 21, #1229).

9. "We must urgently appeal to all men to come to Christ now."

Again, this is certainly true. And what better place to confess that faith in Christ than where Spurgeon was accustomed to hear men confess faith -- at the "church meeting" -- "publicly before the eyes of men"? And what better time to confess Christ than at "the very moment" when one believes? Of what use is procrastination? It only opens the door for Satan's tempting one to not confess Christ!

10. "To be biblically evangelistic, we must be certain that what we do leads men to faith, not just to decisions."

What could possibly be wrong with a "decision" in the heart to believe in Christ, along with a "decision" to confess Him with the mouth, and to do it openly before the eyes of men at the "church meeting," as practiced at Spurgeon's Metropolitan Tabernacle?

Are You Sure You Like Spurgeon?
a reformed writer has asked.

In the light of Spurgeon's custom or practice of inviting people to confess Christ openly before the eyes of men at the church meeting, are you sure you like Spurgeon?

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