Anonymous Decisions

“Please bow your heads and close your eyes.”

For all of their bluster, fundamentalists are a private bunch when it comes to something as dearly personal as raising ones hand to give a non-specific response at the end of a sermon on a generic topic. There have to be some boundaries of personal space after all.

The anonymous hand-raising also gives the speaker the chance to speak “evangelistically” about the number of respondents. Not that most pastors would out and out lie but they might just claim to “see hands all over his room” when in fact exactly three people out two hundred have raised their hand and one of them is only eighteen months old.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus! Unless you’re making a decision at the end of the service. Then the protocol is “every head bowed, every eye closed, nobody looking around.”

10 thoughts on “Anonymous Decisions”

  1. in churches I’ve been in, it’s usually on a more specific topic like salvation… so someone can raise his/her hand and be led aside by someone in the church who can show them some Scripture and pray with them.

    Occasionally, some preachers will ask more specific questions during this time, and that’s when it gets a little uncomfortable. Feels more like a confessional in that kind of situation.

  2. I’m a fundy, and I disdain these invitations. Few actually keep their heads bowed and eyes closed…why bother? A sinner receives no more boldness to approach the front knowing that people are closing their eyes. Pursue the unbelieving attender during the week if they don’t inquire after the service. This is what Spurgeon did and it worked pretty well for him.

    Funny blog, this is. A little snarky at times, but your pot-shots may enlighten a few to the folly of their ways.

  3. See I think the greater problem is on the focus on decisions . . . . . the Christian life is a call to making changes as we grow in maturity. Frankly, the call at the end of the service and throughout the message must be for changes to be made, not decisions. There is a huge difference.

    If you want to make a decision . . .. repeat this prayer . . . heartfelt change? Not quite

  4. An invitation at the end of a service is a modern-day invention, unknown in the church up to about 150 years ago. You tend to wonder how people got saved before without it, but I’ve been in situations where a speaker will give an invitation because that is “what he always does”, and at times it is incredibly awkward. Many times I’ve heard that you should come forward and “seal” a decision, as if there is something magical about the front of a church. I’ve heard of preachers who won’t end a service until someone comes foreward as if their ego depended on it. Or did you hear about the guy who came forward and the preacher asked him why he came and he said so we could end the service and go home.

  5. or this…

    A new convert came to the pastor of a local IBF church. “Hello Pastor,” said the new convert, “I was just saved last week when one of your men visited me.” “That’s great!,” the pastor replied, “Come forward at the next invitation and let everybody know.” A few weeks later the new convert came back to the pastor and said, “Hello Pastor. I would like to be baptized.” The pastor replied, “That’s great! Come forward at the next invitation and let everybody know.” A few weeks later he came to the pastor again. “Hello Pastor. I would like to join the church,” he said. “That’s great! Come forward at the next invitation and let everybody know.” A few weeks later he came to the pastor again. “Hello Pastor. I would like to serve in this particular ministry,” he said. “That’s great! Come forward at the next invitation and let everybody know,” the pastor replied. A few weeks later the man came forward at the invitation. The pastor asked him, “Why did you come forward?” He replied, “well Pastor, nothing’s really wrong, it’s just that after 26 verses of “Just as I am” I thought someone should come forward so we can all go home.”

  6. Step 2 in the invitational of course, is for the preacher to ask everyone who raised their hands in secret with “nobody looking around” to come forward to the altar and get some prayer. It’s okay for eyes to be open during this portion of the service.

    During a “revival” service, the invitations are supposed to get FAR more results than typical, and so it is sometimes necessary for itinerant evangelists to cast an EXTREMELY wide net at the end of the service. I remember this one invitation in particular, where the evangelist BR3 preached about friendship or something, and then at the end of it, asked that everyone who wanted to be a better friend come forward and get some prayer. This made it a little awkward since everyone in the service was either attending with friends, or was wishing they had friends.

  7. Hmmm…well, I didn’t grow up in an IFB church, thankfully, but this is nothing new to me. I remember those days, particularly in my youth group, and how awkward they were. So glad those days are behind me.

  8. As a kid (I was a pk), I listened very carefully for arms going up… with only about 100 people in the room it was very easy to determine who’s arms were being raised.

    Occasionally, I would calibrate using a quick peek. Only got caught by pa once and made sure never to be caught peeking again.

    Fundy preachers, visiting preachers use this as feedback to determine the effectiveness of the sermons/stories. Fundy preachers sometime view the response as a spiritual meter of the church. No hands mean a dead church.

  9. I always heard that the rationale for the invitation was Romans 10:10 — “believing in the heart and confessing with the mouth”. The invitation gives people the opportunity to make their decision public. I don’t for a second think that’s what Paul actually meant, contextually, but that sure is how most Baptists see it.

  10. I think every one of us has at some time done the “Baptist peek.” It works very well if you’re sitting toward the back. Otherwise how can you explain three people going to the one who raised his or her hand for salvation? Just once I’d like that person to say, “Hey everyone was supposed to have their heads bowed and eyes closed so how did you know I raised my hand, hmmm??” 😆

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