Is it true that not going forward for salvation in a church service invitation indicates pride, and the person is, therefore, not saved?
We need to remember some things concerning the whole matter of public invitations as they relate to a genuine salvation experience. First, the important thing is that pride ultimately does not keep a person from trusting Christ as his or her Savior. The real issue here is not that pride (or bashfulness, or whatever) keeps a person from walking down an aisle. The act of walking down an aisle does not save a person. Many people can testify that they walked an aisle at one point in their lives, perhaps due to emotions or pressure, but that occasion did not save them. They were saved later as they realized their sin, believed (appropriated personally) what Christ did for them on the cross, and the Holy Spirit came to indwell them.
Second, we must realize that the public invitation is a cultural custom we have. It was present in the revival camp meetings of the last century, and it has continued to the present day in our churches of a fundamental persuasion, though this practice has diminished a great deal when compared with yesteryear. Many of us lament this decline. There is nothing wrong with the public invitation. Some have criticized it as something that becomes a mere ritual. But I don’t think that criticism is valid; the public invitation does not need to be a mere habit. After all, we do other things such as have Scripture reading and prayer in our public services, along with a sermon. A public invitation simply gives people an opportunity to make spiritual decisions in the company of others. Of course, follow-up should always be available. Some people have had the embarrassing situation of having no one deal with them when they came forward. And, as we have already seen, coming forward does not guarantee salvation. Salvation is something the Holy Spirit accomplishes through the new birth, not some act we do.
Many of us were saved at home, others of us in a car, in the hospital, or even in prison. Look at the examples of the Bible. Paul and the Ethiopian eunuch were saved while taking a trip—on the Damascus Road and Gaza Road, respectively. The jailer was saved in the prison. The thief on the cross was saved on the cross. Perhaps one of the closest examples in Scripture to the public invitation was on the Day of Pentecost after Peter preached. Even there, the writer of Acts doesn’t actually say the people came down an aisle but that they simply believed after receiving Peter’s message. Then they were baptized. The important thing is that we get saved and grow, not the circumstances present when our salvation experience came about.
Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.