I just wanted to take a minute and share a few thoughts with you about the work at South Green Street. In the past five weeks, we have witnessed 17 restorations and 5 baptisms. This is atypical for us. During the past 10 years, we have averaged a total of 13 baptisms and 18 responses a year. Now then, in a five week span, we have witnessed 5 baptisms and 17 restorations.
What’s behind this “revival?” I’d like to tell you it’s the preaching, but it’s not. I haven’t done anything different in my preaching during the past five weeks than I have done during the past five years. It’s not the preaching, but it is a simple, but profound change in procedure that apparently has made all the difference in the world.
A couple months ago, my elders and I heard Keith Parker preach one night in a gospel meeting. At the end of the service, a lady responded to be baptized. She did what you have seen repeated throughout the years. While everyone was standing, she came forward, shook hands with the preacher and sat down, all alone on the front pew. It was at this point that Keith stopped the invitation song and said the following…
“Where I preach, we have made it a practice that no one ever responds alone. There is a young lady who has responded to the invitation tonight, and who is sitting up here by herself. If there is anyone in this congregation who loves her, then make your way up to the front to show her so.”
As the congregation began to sing again, several individuals walked to the front, hugged her, and expressed their love for her. Well, I thought that was a wonderful display of love. And so the following Sunday, I shared this with the congregation at South Green Street, and I told them that beginning today, no one will ever respond alone.
That was five weeks, 5 baptisms, and 17 restorations ago. It’s like the proverbial lid has been lifted. The first response we had took a little encouragement. I too, stopped the invitation song, and made an appeal to the congregation, and they responded, and have been ever since. I’m proud of those who have responded to the invitation, and I am just as proud of those who have responded with them, showing them support, and making that often difficult and lonely event something that isn’t as fearful. In my twenty years of working with this congregation, I have never seen such an outpouring of love by so many during and following services toward those who have responded to the invitation. I have been amazed at the power of love and encouragement.
Friends, the key to spiritual growth isn’t in gimmicks, but it is in genuine demonstrations of love. “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
I challenge you to implement this simple, but profound change in your congregation and see what happens. “Let no one respond alone.”