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The walk-the-aisle invitation-the idea stirs up images of old-fashioned, Southern tent meetings with repentant sinners walking the sawdust trail on hot, summer nights. The images look sepia tinted, photographs from a bygone-era.
In a day when faith is considered private and "the hard sell" produces a backlash, does a call to stand and walk forward have any appeal? Is such an invitation still effective?
These questions are often raised by pastors who want to have an evangelistic impact-and who recognize the legitimacy of calling people publicly to commitment or rededication-yet who sense resistance to the traditional invitation.
How are preachers calling for commitment in a day when Sony Walkman is preferred to Billy Sunday? After talking with a number of preachers, I discovered pastors feel the traditional invitation still has a place, but increasingly it is being augmented by contemporary forms.
Here are six innovative approaches pastors have found effective.
Mike Cocoris, pastor of Church of the Open Door in Glendora, California, asks people at the end of a service silently to make a commitment where they sit. He may have them raise their hands, but then he always says, "If you've trusted Christ today, I've written a letter for you, telling you how to grow spiritually, and I want you to have a copy. After the service, please stop by the piano and pick up your letter from the person wearing the badge."
People respond well to this approach, he says, because in the after-service milling of people, their trip to the front does not stand out. In addition, they like the idea of receiving something written by the person they've just been listening to.
The person distributing the letters has been trained to engage in conversation, discuss the decision that's been made, and get a name and address. If the seeker gives his or her name, someone from the church will call soon after.
The letter is "full of warm fuzzies," Cocoris says, building on the idea that God wants ...