Sabbath Worship Calls

Sabbath by Sabbath good sermons are preached by godly ministers in Seventh-day Adventist churches, but seldom is a specific call made for unbelievers to accept Christ and become members of His church

Pastor, Collegedale, Tennessee

Sabbath by Sabbath good sermons are preached by godly ministers in Seventh-day Adventist churches, but seldom is a specific call made for unbelievers to accept Christ and become members of His church. Too often the preacher will finish his discourse with a brief benediction and then sit down. Or it may be that all are in­vited to raise their hands if they love the Lord and want to be ready when He comes. Of course, every hand usually goes up, but seldom has a real decision been made.

"In every congregation there are souls who are hesitating, almost decided to be wholly for God. Decisions are being made; but too often the minister has not the spirit and power of the message, and no direct appeals are made to those who are trem­bling in the balance."—Gospel Workers, p. 151.

Think of it If in every audience there is at least one person hesitating, almost persuaded, then how can a minister of the gospel close a sermon without giving that one an opportunity to publicly express his desire? The casual raising of the hand by all those who want to be remembered in the closing prayer is hardly specific enough. Almost invariably the whole con­gregation responds to these general calls. How much better it might be if fewer re­sponded but with a definite purpose in mind.

Visitors have of ten attended  our churches for months at a time without hearing a call extended by the pastor. Some have been led to inquire just how one can become a member of the church. This is pathetic. Think how many others there may be who never ask.

General sermons, like general calls, sel­dom produce effective decisions for Christ.

"Never should he [the minister] preach a sermon that does not help his hearers to see more plainly what they must do to be saved."—Ibid., p. 153. "There are many who want to know what they must do to be saved. They want a plain and clear ex­planation of the steps requisite in conversion, and there should not a sermon be given unless a portion of that discourse is to especially make plain the way that sinners may come to Christ and be saved."—Selected Messages, book 1, p. 157.

This means that when a Sabbath sermon is presented on any subject, whether it be on the atonement, signs of the times, temper­ance, health reform, religious liberty, or In-gathering, it should awaken in the sinner's heart his need for Christ, and at the close of that sermon a call should be extended and an invitation hymn should be sung. The unsaved ought then to be invited to step forward and thus silently announce that it is the desire of their heart to follow the Saviour.

Occasionally, a general call could be made so that the whole congregation would have an opportunity to respond, but more tangible results will be seen when a specific call is made after each sermon, inviting non­members to affiliate with the church and backsliders to publicly rededicate their lives to God. It can be made clear that those who come forward will have opportunity to re­ceive personal studies in preparation for baptism.

Among the evangelical churches it is a common practice for the minister to close his sermon with a definite call for all the unsaved who wish to accept Christ as Lord and Saviour to come to the front while an invitation hymn is being sung. There is something appealing when the minister leaves the rostrum and stands on the level with the congregation while "I've Wan­dered Far Away From God," "Come, Every Soul by Sin Oppressed," or "Just as I Am," is being sung. The fact that the minister is there eagerly waiting to extend a hand of welcome is an encouragement for one to make a decision. People of other churches often attend our Sabbath services and it would be no unusual experience for them to hear a gospel call extended at the close of each service.

Another interesting fact about making a call every Sabbath is that the people soon become accustomed to it and expect it. It is not uncommon at all for some to have their minds made up to take their stand even before coming to church. What a dis­appointment if the minister, for some rea­son, fails to extend the invitation on that Sabbath! And what a blessing it is to the faithful members when they see a person for whom they have been praying walk down the aisle to make that full surrender. Extending a call every Sabbath helps to keep a strong spiritual tone in the worship service.

Preaching for a decision also helps the minister. Regardless of what his theme may be, he knows that primarily he is preaching for a decision for Christ. He knows that to turn souls to Jesus, he must exclude all levity and witticisms from his message. He sees himself standing between the living and the dead. He visualizes him­self standing in the place of Christ, say­ing, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden." Soon, however, a new freshness will come into his ministry, the Spirit of God will touch his own heart, and the people will discern that he has been with Jesus.

Without doubt, baptisms in all our churches would be increased if all our min­isters preached for a decision each Sab­bath and made a call for surrender while singing an invitation hymn. It could well be one of the cheapest and most productive investments in evangelism. After all, there is no better way of ending a service than by singing a heart-warming hymn, and what is more soul stirring than a hymn of invitation? If no one responds, the service is then concluded with a benediction as usual. No one is ill at ease, for it is a per­fectly normal way of ending the worship hour. On the other hand, when there is a response, the minister can kindly greet them with a few comforting words, record their names, and then follow through with personal visitation in their homes. The individual has made his commitment, and it is a simpler matter to follow through with the preparation for baptism.

Calling people forward is not the only way of getting a decision for Christ, but it has become a recognized and acceptable method by most churches. This was true among the early Seventh-day Adventists.

"In meeting that evening we called those forward who had a desire to be Christians. Thirteen came forward." "We called for­ward those who wished to start in the serv­ice of the Lord. Quite a number came for­ward." "After I had spoken one hour, I invited those who wished to be Christians to come forward. Between thirty and forty came forward quietly without excitement and occupied the front seats." "I called those forward who wished to seek the Lord most earnestly and for those who wished to give themselves to the Lord a whole sacrifice." "At the close of the dis­course an invitation was given for all who desired to be Christians, and all who felt that they had not a living connection with God, to come forward." "We then called for those to come forward who would take a decided position on the Lord's side. Many responded." "At the close of my dis­course, I felt impressed by the Spirit of God to extend an invitation for all those to come forward who desired to give them­selves fully to the Lord. About thirty came forward." "We called all to come forward who felt that they were unready for Christ's coming and had not an evidence of their acceptance with God." "After I had fin­ished speaking, all who desired to give themselves to the Lord were invited to come forward. A large number responded." "The Lord would be pleased to have a work similar to this done in every church." —Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 144-152.

Many times, young people under the in­spiration of the moment will make their decision for Christ. This is better than the mass psychology of the baptismal class, usu­ally organized in the church school at the close of the Week of Prayer. It adds strength to the decision when it is made personally and independently. Often former Seventh-day Adventists attend church and are im­pressed by the Holy Spirit to return to the church when the invitation hymn is being sung. Frequently husbands or wives of Ad­ventists regularly attend church and they, too, have the opportunity to make a com­mitment to Christ as they hear the Spirit of the Lord whispering to their hearts each Sabbath as the call is being made.

The pastor may not extend a call to a small audience, thinking he knows the spir­itual condition of each member. However, it is often true that even our good church members have problems and habits in their lives that they wish to overcome.

A public rededication will give them strength. A specific call each Sabbath, with the singing of an invitation hymn, is an open door into the church. May it never be closed.

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Pastor, Collegedale, Tennessee

May 1964

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