We have noticed that some of the churches we have visited do not have an "invitation" at the end of the service. We notice such things because we have long been part of denominations for whom an invitation at the end of the service is de rigeur. So, not having one is not only noticeable to us, it is also borderline sacreligious.
See, we have always been taught to see Sunday morning services, indeed almost every service conducted within the walls of our traditional church buildings, as the epitome of evangelistic opportunity. We never know when someone who has attended the service might need to get saved! So it is always best to provide an invitation to walk the aisle and pray the prayer of salvation.
Lately, a lot of invitations have been satisfied with "you can pray where you are to receive Christ" or "you can come see the pastor or one of the deacons after the service." And generally we also remind attendees that they can come forward to request baptism or to join the church or to "rededicate their lives" or "just to receive prayer for a need."
Anyway, we had become convinced that "The Invitation" was absolutely a required element of any given church service; just as crucial as The Offering, The Sermon, The Singing and The Special Music.
The first church where we experienced the absence of an invitation (visit # 3, I think) we noticed it, but we thought maybe it was an oversight or something. After all, that church is still a "church plant" - brand new - still learning. But at church visit # 4, the lack of a formal invitation was clearly part of their plan! We had to really think about this!
It dawned on me that I had been considering a particular notion for a few years now. We tend to be all about inviting friends and neighbors to "come to church" - but we seldom invite our friends and neighbors to "come to Jesus." Once again, we are leaving ministry up to the professionals. We figure if we can just get them to come to church, then the pastor will INVITE them to meet Jesus. It is his job, after all.
As I thought about the purpose of our gatherings - it is really intended for followers of Jesus to come together for fellowship, worship and discipleship. Evangelism CAN happen at church, but really, the best place for evangelism to take place is outside of the church. How much better would it be for folks to come to know Jesus, then come to church and learn to love His people, Him, His Word, etc.
THE INVITATION should be happening in our everyday lives.
In fact, we should be THE INVITATION.