When The Preacher Starts Winding Down
Preaching has a lot of peculiarities to it by its form and nature. A man stands before an audience sharing thoughts gleaned from the word of God as he has studied various points to storm the will of the hearers with the prayer of helping change lives. There is nothing more powerful in the world than the word of God spoken to the hearts and minds of those who would listen to the preaching of the gospel. Lives are changed forever when the seed of the word implants itself in the heart. Souls that were chained to the darkness of depravity will be set free by the purity of the revelation of God through the blood of Jesus Christ. Preaching has been around as long as the world has existed. Noah was a preacher of righteousness in a dark and troubled time when the world was filled with wickedness. The Bible is filled with stories of the good news of God’s grace given to all men to show them the way to the Father. Jesus came to the earth to open the gates of eternal life in the message of the risen Savior. The disciples of the first century went everywhere preaching the word. By the grace of God, the Holy Spirit preserved the words of God throughout all generations so the knowledge of the Lord can be fully revealed to all humanity.
Preaching the word is a powerful tool. Nothing matches its grandeur and influence but like many times before in the nation of God’s people, an indolent view of its power can overshadow its effectiveness in the hearts of those who need it most. There is no Biblical pattern for how the sermon must be conducted as to length and manner of finishing the message. In the modern world of church politics, the sermons are framed within an hour of worship and usually must conclude with what is commonly referred to as an invitation with an invitation hymn. This pattern of worship accommodates a broad platform of needs in worship but it must be noted this is more a form of tradition. The first sermon on Pentecost was interrupted by devout men who were pricked in their hearts crying out to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do.” There was no invitation hymn and no aisle where three thousand people came walking down. Peter did not say, “Please stand and sing.” However it came about, Peter and the eleven explained what those gathered in the assembly needed to do and they found a place to baptize three thousand people.
The practice of the modern church service includes an invitation followed by a hymn to exhort and encourage the hearts touched by the gospel to respond. This is a good pattern to follow but like many things can become so routine the purpose is lost in the translation. The audience can tell when the preacher is winding down his message and can easily forget the impact of what is about to happen. Listening for those keywords or seeing on the sermon notes the end of the sermon is near, the minds begin to prepare to leave. Books are gathered, coats put on, and a host of activity begins while the preacher concludes his thoughts. The impact is the activity becomes a great distraction to the climax of the sermon where hearts are to be challenged to consider eternal questions. There could be someone in the audience that is pricked by the message but because of all the commotion going on about them, they cower back with timidity and take no action. A soul may be lost because of it.
Recently, an article was posted to a blog discussing the impact of the noise when the preacher is preparing to finish his sermon. The writer says, “After shushing my son at the end of a sermon today, a memory popped into my mind, so I’m passing along something important that a preacher said to the congregation I was in many, many years ago: You never know who is sitting in the pew on any particular Sunday. You may think you know everyone, but only God knows the heart. When a preacher has finished his sermon, he usually has a tell-tale sign … whether he walks away from the pulpit and approaches the audience, closes his Bible, says “in conclusion…”, or says “if you’re here today and need…”. That’s the cue. No, it’s NOT the cue to start shuffling papers, zipping Bible cases, waking small children, and packing up their things. NO! That’s the cue that the most important part of the sermon has begun: the invitation. Picture yourself sitting there, knowing you have something heavy on your heart, knowing you need salvation. But all around you, there are people who are in so much a hurry to get to lunch that they can’t even be bothered to listen to the invitation, much less wait for you to prolong their hunger-suffering to bring your needs before them. When the sermon is coming to an end, all attention should be on the speaker. Let the people in the pew know that you’re in no hurry to leave. You’d rather stay as long as needed to help them get right with God. Pack up your stuff after the last prayer has ended. Someone’s soul might depend on it.”
If the invitation is to be a vital part of the worship and a time to exhort souls to respond to the gospel, the action of the audience may very well determine the outcome. Another practice of many that ruin the moment of invitation is when someone or a family decides to walk out during the invitation song. It seems they have somewhere to go and to beat the rush will pack up everything and make their way to the doors during the invitation hymn. This is incredibly rude and will tell those who may want to respond to the gospel of how little importance the invitation can be. Waiting for ten minutes has never been a life-changing decision. It must be remembered the invitation, corresponding hymn and closing prayer is still WORSHIP before the Lord and not to be taken lightly. The response of the audience can make or break an invitation. “What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15).
Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). If the noise is too loud some may not hear Him call or if there is so much activity going on they may not realize Jesus said anything. Let our lights shine in the worship assembly so that all can see our faith and love for the preaching of the gospel and the prayer that a lost soul will find salvation in the obedience of the gospel. Let’s stand and sing.