In his March 22, 2006, issue of his Ministry Toolbox newsletter, Rick Warren emphasizes the importance of offering listeners an opportunity to respond to the gospel. He says, “I believe we always should offer unbelievers an opportunity to respond to Christ in a seeker-service. They may choose to not respond, and you must respect that without pressuring them, but I feel the opportunity always must be offered. Too many pastors go fishing without ever reeling in the line or drawing in the net.
Here are some suggestions for leading people to make a commitment:
1. Clearly explain exactly how to respond to Christ. Too many invitations to salvation are misunderstood. The unchurched often have no idea what’s going on.
2. Plan out your time of commitment. Deliberately and carefully think through what you want to happen. Extending an opportunity to come to Christ is too important just to tack on to the end of a message without planning it. People’s eternal destiny lie in the balance. Be creative. If you say the same thing every week the audience will disconnect out of boredom. The best way to avoid getting in a rut is to force yourself to write out your call for commitment with each message.
3. Lead unbelievers in a model prayer. The unchurched don’t know what to say to God. Give them an example: “You might pray something such as asking them to repeat a simple prayer in their hearts after you. Help people verbalize their faith.
4. Never pressure unbelievers to decide. Trust the Holy Spirit to do His work. I tell my staff, “If the fruit is ripe, you don’t have to yank it!” I believe an overextended invitation is counterproductive. It hardens hearts rather than softening them. We tell people, “Take the time you need to think through your decision.” I believe if they’re honest with themselves, they will make the right decision.
Keep this in mind: You’re asking people to make the most important decision of their lives. Evangelism is usually a process of repeated exposure to the good news. I doubt you decided for Christ on your first exposure. It’s pretty unrealistic to expect a 40-year-old man to completely change the direction of his life on the basis of one 30-minute message. People usually aren’t as closed as we think they are. They just need time to think about the decision we’re asking them to make.”