"Choose you this day whom ye will serve" (Joshua 24:15). Gaining decisions for Christ is the most important motive, directive, and aim of the gospel minister. The minister who is an able speaker, a good organizer, an astute financial manager, and even an outstanding goal getter, but who fails to gain positive decisions for the message he delivers, is like a pilot who knows the laws of aeronautics, navigation, and weather control, but who crash lands at every attempt to bring himself and his passengers to a safe landing. No commercial pilot can afford a record on his log of a series of crash landings, nor can the gospel minister afford to preach series of sermons for years, months, or even weeks or days and come up with little or no results. This type of repeated performance can prove disastrous both to pilot and passenger, the pulpiteer and the potential parishioner.
Types of Decisions
Pulpit decisions are generally divided under two classifications. First, there is the impromptu decision—used generally by the popular evangelists and healers of our day, who demand a decision now.
Such expressions as "Come, give the preacher your hand and God your heart," "Come, be saved tonight," "Become a Christian right now," et cetera, are characteristic of the impromptu decision.
Pulpit Preaching for Decisions
We do not condemn pulpit preaching for decisions, for one must ask if one expects to be given a decision. The major factor that should be equated with all decisions is preparation of the candidate for that final decision.
This brings us to the second type of decision known as progressive decisions. These are decisions made step by step upon basic, vital, and fundamental truths, presented by the preacher to the prospective believer.
The progressive decision format was the type most generally used by Christ and the apostles. Examples of these are abundant in the Scriptures. The Sermon on the Mount was a series of progressive decisions requested by Christ of His listeners, that climaxed forty-two months later in three thousand baptisms in one day.
The conversion of Nicodemus to Christianity was begun by a series of decision lectures given by Christ at the evangelistic centers in and around Jerusalem. Nicodemus' decision was climaxed as the result of these series some months later on an April Friday afternoon in A.D. 31 (John 19:39).
In John 4:6-12 Jesus presented the woman at the well with at least ten progressive decisions to make before He announced to her the supreme "present truth" for that time, that she was now face to face with the Messiah (verse 26).
I. Four Major Progressive Decisions
There are four major progressive decisions that Seventh-day Adventists have always maintained as basic in making a decision for Christ.
- To be a real Christian.
- To keep the Sabbath of Christ (in the setting of Creation and the Ten Commandments).
- To abstain from alcohol, tobacco, unclean meats, coffee, tea, et cetera, and the acceptance of the message of healthful living-as part of necessary preparation to meet Jesus.
- To come out of spiritual Babylon into Christ's remnant church in response to the final call of God to the world, as based on Revelation 14:6-12.
II. Four Things We Want People to Do
- To be saved from both conscious and unconscious guilt of sin.
- To establish a willingness to forsake everything to follow Jesus.
- To maintain the conviction that one should obey every Bible truth.
- To be a true Christian by doing right as fast as one learns the truth from the Bible.
III. There Are Three Classes the Gospel Minister Is Conscious He Is Preaching to When Requesting Decisions
- Those who have never followed Christ.
- Those who have wandered from Jesus.
- Those who have followed Jesus as far as they have understood His Word and want a closer walk with the Lord. (Great tact should be used in appealing to this class, who are already Christians. They should be frequently reminded that they are not rank sinners, but sincere Christians walking in advance truth.)
The basis of all our pulpit as well as personal appeal is to accept God's message rather than uniting with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The former is primary, the latter secondary.
The best method of gaining decisions is as the gospel preacher Isaiah stated, "And ye shall be gathered one by one." The pulpit preacher should emphasize the importance that you (the prospective parishioner) are making up your own mind in taking this step.
IV. Types of Appeals and Altar Calls
- The appeal to accept Christ.
- An appeal to maintain and improve good home relations.
- To get ready to go to heaven.
- To strive to gain the victory over specific sin.
- An appeal for wanderers or backsliders to return to the fold.
- An appeal for the willing spirit that will accept distinctive doctrines.
- And the appeal to be prepared for the coming of Jesus.
V. Ways and Means of Helping People Respond to Appeals
- By standing publicly by their pew or seat.
- By raising their hand while the head is bowed.
- Help them to come to the altar to confirm a decision already made. Never ask people to come to an altar to make a decision. Tell them that they have already made their decision for Christ or for affirmative truth and they now come to the altar to confirm what they and the Holy Spirit have already decided.
- By kneeling right where they are.
- By signing their name on a prepared card.
- By being present at the first and all Sabbath services in connection with a public series of meetings.
- By bringing the baptismal garment (it being assumed that the number to be baptized will exceed all provisions for same) to the meeting place or by having it available when visited.
VI. The Ten Major Doctrinal Truths That Should Be Presented Before the Sabbath Is Preached Are:
- "Christ crucified for our sins."
- "Christ risen from the dead."
- "Christ, our Intercessor before God."
- "The office work of the Holy Spirit."
- "His coming the second time in glory."
- "His personal dignity."
- "Prophecies of Christ as the true Messiah."
- "His pre-existence."
- "Christ's divinity."
- "God's grace" (in the settting of the Ten Commandments). (See Evangelism, pp. 187, 246.)
These doctrines should be presented under varied and sundry titles by the minister who preaches for decisions.