Really? Oh, I know that ideally, the above statement is true, but having gone to church all my life, and preaching more than half of it, I’ve seen a lot of things. While I’m convinced the Spirit is always inviting, and says, “Come,” I’m not so sure about the Bride (the church).
Consider how we quietly and respectfully sit through a sermon, but when the preacher reaches the conclusion and climax of his lesson, the invitation to respond to Jesus, what happens? Do I need to tell you? Have you never seen or heard for yourself? From a preacher’s perspective, saying the words, “in conclusion…” is effectively the end of his sermon, and sets into motion a chain of events. When those words are uttered, purses snap. Toys jangle and clang as they are being put away. Bibles are slapped shut and Bible covers are zipped closed. Songbooks are raked from their racks. Shoes are put back on. Children are rounded up, and coats and sweaters are gathered up and put on. There is such a flurry of activity I must wonder what one who needs to respond to the invitation is thinking. If the message that comes through to them is the same that sometimes comes through to me it says, “Hurry up! We’re about done. We need to get out of here, and get to the restaurants before everyone else!”
Friends, I have no doubt that the Spirit says, “come!” The Spirit, along with the Father and Son have done, and are doing all that they can do short of forcing themselves on us and taking away our free will. They have planned, promised, and provided salvation to all who will “come” and accept their free gift. So it’s not the Spirit that I worry about, it’s the Bride. Sometimes I’m not so sure about the message we send to the lost. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think any follower of Jesus would want another to be lost. I just think sometimes we get our priorities mixed up and instead of focusing upon the spiritual and eternal, we are blinded by the physical and temporal.
I remember a preacher telling of the night his father obeyed the gospel. His memory of the event was vague because his attention during the entire service was focused on a cricket that had hopped up on the pulpit area. When the invitation was offered, his father responded and was baptized. The young man felt ashamed. He missed the most important event in his father’s life because he was focused on the physical rather than the spiritual.
Friends, the next time the invitation is offered…don’t reach for the songbook\; don’t start gathering up your things; and don’t look as though you’re in a rush to get out of the building. Rather, think of what is being done. An invitation is being given to the lost. Don’t use this as a time to get ready to leave, but rather us it as a time of prayerful concern for the lost. Let’s make sure that the “song of encouragement” really is a “song of encouragement.” Let’s not hinder those who need to respond by making them feel like their response would delay our plans for the day. May we conduct ourselves so that we can truly say “the Spirit and the bride say, ‘come!'”