Billy Graham, Jim Elliot, and John Piper are just a few Wheaton alumni who have made a significant imprint on today’s American Church. As I explored the campus for the first time, I was excited to see where the likes of these men had their hearts and minds shaped for ministry.
The occasion of my visit to Wheaton was a meeting led by Ed Stetzer, Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He had called together representatives from a handful of denominations in order to collaborate over the state of evangelism and mission in the American context, and to begin to discuss what we can learn from each other in order to help advance the cause of Christ.
What I ended up learning that early December day had nothing to do with Wheaton College. My heart was encouraged by something much more important than the history of a school or the people who roamed it’s campus.
Here’s what I learned: Across the US, where Jesus is worshipped and the Gospel mission of making disciples is taken seriously, churches are growing. New and old churches are growing, not just by transfers, but by conversion.
In the future, I will elaborate on the data. For now, suffice it to say, in spite of the discouraging reports of the decline of the American Church, what I heard was that Presbyterians, Southern Baptists, Reformed Churches of America, Wesleyans, you name it – wherever the Gospel is believed, proclaimed with clarity, lived out in community and shared with the un-churched, people are responsive and lives are being changed.
This is true in every region of the country and in virtually any style of church. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is still the indescribable power of God unto salvation. Those who invite others to know Him are seeing that people still see the need for a Savior. And they see that Jesus is still mighty to save.
With that in mind, here’s my final word of encouragement to you for this year – Invite!
Get to know the One who invited you to be forgiven and have abundant life. Invite others – friends, family, neighbors, co-workers – into relationship with Him. With God’s help, you can find a way to do this, but as the Nike commercial used to say, “Just do it!” Don’t be obnoxious with pressure, but don’t be cruel the other way by never giving them the invitation to know Jesus.
Pastors, one thing every highly effective church has in common is giving an invitation to know Jesus. Most churches no longer do the old “Just as I am” style altar call, but they find a way to provide a “next steps invitation” before sending people home. Please, don’t make people walk away from your church service without an invitation to take the next step in response to the Gospel.
You wouldn’t invite someone to your house for lunch and then just have them watch while you ate, would you? You wouldn’t describe the food and its taste without offering them a bite, would you? Of course not! Invite them to talk to Him, to receive His forgiveness and His peace. Let them taste and see – He is good!
Let this be your #1 resolution for 2017… Invite people to know Jesus.
Praying for you,