Like so many churches in the South, our church still has a time of invitation after the sermon every Sunday. It usually consists of an altar call or some call to reflect on the service along with a moving song, "Trust and Obey" and the like.
Although the time of invitation seems a bit antiquated -- a hold-over from a simpler, revivalist tradition of yesteryear -- it still holds a meaningful place in the midst of our worship to God. It is, at its basic level, a time to respond to God and reflect on the challenge that God may have for the new week ahead.
I realized long ago that Trinity is too small a church to give an altar call every week. I'm not one of those preachers who makes the pianist play the hymn over and over again until someone comes forward, so over the years I've had to expand my invitation to include other call of responses as well. I now include the challenge to come forward if prayer is needed; I also encourage churchgoers to pray for one another even if it means moving over a few rows.
It is a reminder that there are many ways to respond to God aside from an altar call, decision for baptism, and prayer with the preacher. In fact, all of us -- no matter where we are in our faith -- should realize that an invitation is a time to follow God's leading at all costs.
God is in the business of calling us to action, obedience, surrender and missions. We are certainly obligated to respond if we claim to believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
One way we can respond to God's leading is by committing to a life of praise and song. I don't envy the Christian who only hears or sings praises to God for only one or two hours a week. Ours is a life of song, and we can sing and recite hymns or choruses wherever we are, no matter the day or the hour.
The Bible is full of praises that serve as responses to God. "How good it is to sing praises to our God," Psalm 147 states, "for God is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting" (NRSV).
Another way to respond to God's call is to do something for the Lord each and every week. This action can be as simple as writing a card to a friend in need or a church member who is struggling, or it can be more demanding such as "paying it forward" for a stranger's groceries at the store.
You may also choose to do something based on the sermon from week to week. I'm sure your preacher's sermons are like mine in that they include at least one challenge for the week ahead. When your pastor gives a challenge or sermon application that is fitting, write it down so you don't forget. Then publish your commitment on some social media website to have people hold you accountable.
A last way to respond to God is to live a "life worthy of the calling to which you have been called" (Ephesians 4:1). I realize that people are called to do different things in life: one is called to be a teacher, while another is called to be a missionary.
All of us, however, fit under the umbrella of the one calling all Christians are obligated to fulfill, which is to practice the Great Commission and "make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). It is also a calling to "live a life worthy;" that is, live life with holy integrity and obedience to God's empowering Spirit, to walk in righteousness and advocate for justice and grace.
Sure, some churches have done away with the traditional invitation. Not every church will sing "I Surrender All" every now and then; but all of us, whether in a church with revivalist leanings or contemporary praise, bear the weight of responding to a God who calls, seeks, knocks, and commissions with relentless passion.
The Rev. Joe LaGuardia is the senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, 301 Honey Creek Road, Conyers. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.trinityconyers.org.