What if? With those two words, you could form many questions.
1. What if there’s someone present who’s not a Christian?
2. What if today is someone’s first-ever time to hear the Gospel?
3. What if someone has a form of godliness but doesn’t bear the fruit of a Christ-follower?
Many similar questions work their way into my thought process for Sunday morning worship services. It’s because these services are for leading others in our corporate worship of Jesus Christ. And in that context, evangelism, and discipleship take place.
My focus is on the invitation and subsequent salvation prayer. Some have called it the sinner’s prayer, but I DO NOT like that description. It drips with poor theology. Over the last century, masses of people have been deceived that they’re Heaven-bound because they repeated a prayer. And the life of willful sin they continue does not look anything like following Christ.
Despite that, I still make an evangelistic appeal at the end of nearly every Sunday service. About twice a month, I use a prepared salvation prayer. It takes place after the general invitation, and some people have already responded.
Why do I ask the congregation to repeat a salvation prayer with me? It’s because of those “what if” questions.
4. What if there’s an unchurched individual in the congregation whose heart has been awakened by grace?
5. What if there’s someone who has fallen from grace and needs to get back on track with following Christ?
6. What if there’s a church member who doubts the validity of their salvation because of spiritual warfare?
So, what value do I find in using this salvation prayer?
It’s about salvation. Salvation is what we all need. It’s not God’s will for anyone to repeat a prayer and continue living in willful sin. Jesus came to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). I won’t list out all the Bible says about this, but I suggest you meditate on Romans 6:1-2, Romans 8:1-3, and 2 Timothy 2:19.
It’s about commitment. This prayer is a verbal and audible step of faith. It could be the first time that person has publicly declared their faith in Christ. And in that good God-moment, I’m glad to help it become a reality for their soul. An unchurched or unconverted soul might have no idea how to act on what the Holy Spirit is doing in them. Through this prayer, my goal is to help them commit to trusting in Christ alone.
It’s about helping people right now. The best time for a person to believe in Christ is always right now. When the Holy Spirit is drawing the person through His convincing grace, it’s not always visible. Sometimes I can spiritually discern it, but sometimes I can’t. So, by faith, I transition into the salvation prayer and trust God for the results. Now is always an acceptable time for someone’s new birth. The fullness of time has come, and Christ has done the necessary salvation work. And I want to lead people to faith in His vicarious atonement and victorious resurrection right now.
Here’s a couple of valid questions that you might ponder. Why invite the whole congregation to pray the salvation prayer? Why not insist that only the unconverted walk the aisle?
First of all, there’s no biblical command for anyone to walk a church aisle for salvation. That means people can be born again at home, in their car, or standing in the congregation while we pray in unison. Secondly, praying this prayer does nothing to hinder a believer who is already secure in their salvation. It helps them learn a prayer that they can use when the Holy Spirit uses them in a one-on-one evangelistic moment. Plus, it’s a moment of humble outreach as we help others see the normalcy of praying out loud to God.
Pastorally speaking, I like to be laser-focused towards evangelism, discipleship, and worship on Sunday mornings. All other parts of ministry and life can wait for another time. The eternal souls of men, women, and young adults are hanging in the balance. And my goal is to point them to Christ.
Here’s the final “what if” question.
7. What if the person says they prayed this prayer and got saved, but they didn’t?
In the next-steps process, one of our staff can discover that. In these ministry moments, we individually encourage them to follow the Lord in water baptism, unite in local church membership, and consider a service opportunity. As well, I trust the Holy Spirit to do what only He can do for that person. I’ll leave them in the hands of our all-knowing and always compassionate Savior. Salvation is of the Lord!
Because curiosity is natural, I’ll share an example of the salvation prayer I’m using this Sunday. It changes each time slightly based on the sermon.
Father, I am sorry that I have not fully obeyed the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am a sinner, and I cannot save myself. Jesus, I believe You are the eternal Son of God who died on the Cross, shedding Your sinless blood for my sins. You rose from the dead for my new life. I ask You to save me. By faith, I receive Your forgiveness for my sins and the gift of eternal life. I trust You as my Savior. Because You are my Lord, I commit to turning away from my sinful past. And I commit to living for you as a wholehearted follower of Jesus Christ. AMEN!
You see, my fellow believer, our call is to make disciples of Christ. I’m less concerned with pleasing the conventional thoughts of mankind and most concerned about pleasing God. For me, the worst pastoral sin I could be guilty of is to ignore Christ’s Great Commission.
Here’s the baptism service I follow. There are two questions that the new convert must be ready to answer.
1) Do you believe that Jesus Christ, as God’s only begotten Son, paid the full penalty for your sins on the Cross, and do you confess Him before this congregation as your personal Savior and Lord?
2) Do you believe that Jesus Christ rose from the grave so you can rise to a new life and live for Him?
Because of your public profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and your determination to follow Him, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and be baptized, and you will be saved.Tweet