Book Review of "The Effective Invitation"

The practice of preaching is a tenuous but rewarding job of the minister. The book, “The Effective Invitation” was an insightful look at the importance of the message to move towards the call of invitation. Alan Streett is professor of evangelism/pastoral ministry at Criswell College, Dallas, Texas and editor of the Criswell Theological Review. Dr. Streett believes that each sermon must have a call of salvation from the gospel. You can see this theme throughout the book. It is a step-by-step explanation for the need for biblical invitations to see people come to know Christ. Dr. Streett appears to have used all of his expertise as a pastor, evangelist and professor to make this book clear and concise.

It is not only a moment of response but also more of a call for obedience to what God says through the message. The importance of preaching is explained in the earlier part of the book. The fact is that preaching is not correct unless it includes the gospel message. The book highlighted the importance of displaying a correct knowledge of the gospel so that the listeners know what they are responding to during the invitation. The first section of the book focuses on the actual meaning of preaching and proclamation. It then moves into the explanation of the actual invitation during a service. The interesting part of the book is how the author used different examples of Pentecost to make a claim about the importance of an invitation. The invitation according to the book has different styles of who it is accomplished.

The gospel is to be preached as not only Christ lived, but was crucified and rose again on the third day. Streett asks, “What ingredients make up an effective gospel presentation?” (p 22). As the book begins to explain the importance is to declare the complete picture of the gospel message. The main aspect of the sermon must move people to a point of action in a clear and understandable way. As the book begins to explain the different aspects of the gospel, it leaves the reader with an understanding of making sure the heart of the message is explained. Streett explains the importance of repentance and calling people to obedience once a sermon has been delivered. The book explains the history of invitations and the numerous Pastors and evangelists that led many people to a call of obedience to the gospel.

At the heart of any good message is prayer. Prayer is the total dependence upon the Holy Spirit to take the words of the message and implant them into the hearts of the people. Without God, one can do nothing. This is seen in the act of preaching, especially in regards to calling people to respond. The practice of prayer must be an ongoing act towards God. Prayer is not only speaking words, but also more importantly to listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The only way that a person can be saved is if their heart is softened and drawn by the Holy Spirit. The Pastor who prays will have the power to proclaim the goodness and grace of God.

The importance of leading people to make a decision quickly is a theme in the book. People are continually making decisions every day that are focused upon their own desires. It is a priority for a preacher to call upon people to put in action the very words of the message. The power of exhortation or encouragement is needed in the pulpit today. It is the ability to motivate people to make a decision with urgency. There is no greater message that must be explained and responded unto than the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a theme of the book and must be put into action by ministers of the gospel.

The most moving and helpful part of the book was setting a goal of the message to be applied to the listener. Many people can hear sermons but without clear plan of action to be followed, it is simply a speech. The author explains the importance of an invitation and cites Acts as the example to follow in ministry. Pentecost is an example of many people coming to know Christ. The book explains that without a clear need and desire then no person can be saved. The preacher is to prepare in such a way that helps people make a public decision to follow Christ. Many times the gospel is preached but with no chance for people to respond. At other times, the invitation is given but the gospel is non-existent within the sermon. The book helped explain the biblical reason for an invitation and how to effectively practice it. The book gave good insights into always keeping the heart of the gospel as the motivation.

The reason that a response is a priority is because many times in Jesus’ ministry and throughout the early church, people were called to make a decision. A sermon leads people to make a decision that would ultimately change the eternal destination of their lives. It is the foundation that Jesus left for the disciples to follow in as they begun the early church. Peter and Paul communicated with the lost to reveal their need for a savior. This book gives important insights into the art and practice of the invitation.

I affirm the importance of having an invitation in a gospel presentation. The one aspect that I do think is missing is that if there is no clear direction for people to respond to, and then an invitation does not need to be given. I have seen many messages that were biblical but left the audience without any clear application. I think the book could have explained the fact that a message needs to applicable to the original meaning of the text and not just throw in the gospel at the end if it does not connect. Many times, Pastors will proverbially mention the gospel at the last part of the message. The problem that occurs is that it if it does not connect to the heart of the text being preached, it is hard for people to understand. I do believe that the gospel should be a priority but at the same time, the gospel needs a clear presentation rather than squeezing it in during the last three minutes. The book gives great explanation, illustration and stories but what is lacking is updated stories of how invitations are used in today’s culture. The issue that arises is that people can become numb to the call of invitation unless it is fresh and creative. The invitation should be the climax of the message and should move people to action. In other words, I do not believe that a preacher should do an invitation only because that is a tradition, it should be much more important. The message must be communicated with clear action steps of how people can apply to their daily lives. Not only application but also it should lead to transformation in how they interact with the lost world. I find many gems of wisdom within this book, but what is lacking is an updated look at the need for invitations because many people view the invitation as a time to think about lunch, go to the bathroom, or prepare to leave. I have seen many great times of invitation in my life, it just seems that the book did not clearly explain the wrong uses of invitation and only focused on doing the invitation.

The latter part of the book focuses upon illustrations on repentance. This section was excellent in helping visualize practically how to lead an effective invitation. If the message does not ultimately lead to a personal decision, it will be left to be only a lesson. People are looking for real life truth that leads to a change of lifestyle. It should be the aim of the gospel to help people make the ultimate decision to follow Christ.

I realized that each message I prepare must lead me to the question, “what must we do?” If this question is not answered, then what is missed out upon is the need for people to publicly and privately focus on Christ. The evangelistic approach that Streett takes during this book encourages me to continually focus upon reaching the lost with the gospel. The important aspect is to not just teach people the Bible, but also help them learn how to apply it to the world. If a preacher loses sight of the need for the gospel, the message can become off course. I have seen this happen in my own preaching. The importance of always focusing on how the message will be applied in daily life keeps the truth from derailing into man-centered preaching.

My preaching will improve because there has been many times that I have missed the importance of leading the audience to a clear invitation. The response to the truth is the most important aspect of any message. The author gave important truths about the wisdom found in preparing and communicating messages that bring about a change in the lives of the audience.

I believe that one of the most absent aspects of preaching today is the lack of the use of the Law in gospel presentations. People must come to know their need for Christ because of sin. Just as the purpose was in the early church to reveal the need for the lost to turn to Christ alone for salvation, the same need arises today. The issue that arises today is that some younger preachers are moving away from a call of invitation. The replacement of the invitation is just a quick prayer and song but no focus on leading people to make a decision on what they have heard. At the same time, I have seen older preachers have an invitation but the audience was unclear on how they were supposed to respond. The invitation is a valid and useful part of any service, but it should not just become a tradition that must be followed. The question, “why” should always be in the forefront of any preacher’s mind in leading an invitation. The improper view of an invitation is not to coerce or motivate people to make only an emotional response. Too many times people have been manipulated with Christ-less messages and respond but quickly fizzle when they walk out the door. This book shows the need for invitations, but what is lacking in today’s church is a biblical explanation of the gospel that is built upon the need for repentance. People have quickly focused upon simply adding Jesus to their lives and not made their lives all about Jesus. The need for this type of preaching must be a priority if true believers are to arise from the church. If the church is not hearing the biblical gospel how will the world ever hear about the cross?

Another aspect that is seen in this book is current preachers who have a balance of the gospel and invitation. The movement that some are making is towards not having invitations and only focus on appeasing the audiences music styles or personal comfort. The call for repentance is not always a comfortable decision and many times it is a grueling process for people to be changed by Christ. It takes some people years to hear the word and respond with a humble heart. The book gives insights into shaping messages that prepare people to respond from the first word all the way to the final word. The whole importance of a message is for it to be received and obeyed.

This book will be a good tool to look back and use as a measuring stick to check how invitations are being led. The importance of an invitation is much more than a part of the service, but it is the time that people are called to obedience. The book explains the heart of the gospel and answers important questions about it. It gives helpful advice on the art of leading people to a decision. The theme of the book is not only helpful in leading invitations but seeing the power of preaching in such a way that leaves people wanting to make a decision to change to follow Christ. This book is not just one that should be read once, but used whenever the question arises on how we are to make the call of invitation. It not only gives good explanation but it stretches the mind and comprehension of the reader to think through the delivery and purpose of the message.

The missing element in many sermons today is the lack of action in regards to what is heard. This book gives the foundation that is needed for today’s minister to be able to accurately explain God’s Word and how to live it out. The need for clear and expositional teaching of God’s Word is a priority for the current generation to continue rightly diving the truth. The need for action especially for the church to move outside of the walls and impact the world with the life changing message of Jesus. People are in need of a clear calling to respond in obedience to the cause of Christ.