There is no telling how many times I have counseled people who doubted their salvation. And usually it’s the result of what I call “Ministerial Manipulation.” I blogged about this before… (Read the fourth paragraph).
Ministerial Manipulation takes place when an undue emphasis is placed upon “Are you SURE you are saved?” by the preacher or evangelist. Which is then usually followed by… “If you’re not 100%, absolutely, without a doubt, convinced you are saved… raise your hand (Every head bowed, every eye closed). If you raised your hand… look at me (No one looking around). If you looked at me… pray this prayer (Every head bowed and eye closed). If you prayed that prayer, get up right now and come down front.” THAT is ministerial manipulation and is an unethical practice that should never take place in God’s House or when the Gospel is proclaimed!
Note: If you are seeking assurance of salvation, skip down to the part of this blog titled, “Calming Doubts About Conversion.”
In some worship services the most dangerous time is the invitation that follows the message. Let me explain my reasons for making this assertion…
God saves people by showing them the love of Jesus when He died on the cross. God does NOT save people by “scaring the hell out of them” (I’ve heard preachers and Christians use that terminology regarding salvation.). God does NOT use fear and intimidation to bring anyone into His family.
God is the one that saves and He doesn’t need a manipulative preacher to get the job done.
I did my doctoral project on the evangelistic invitation. I studied the Biblical evidence for the invitation, the history of the invitation, and examined how it is currently practiced. What I found is that the invitation… as it is practiced by many preachers today… came into being during the ministry of C.G. Finney in the 1800s and the anxious bench. Finney is not a person worthy to emulate in my estimation.
In my ministry of almost 20 years, the majority of people God has saved were at a time other than during the invitation. Usually their conversion took place in a one on one encounter and their conversion was communicated to the church after what is called the invitation. POINT: In my experience, most conversions took place BEFORE the invitation. In Christian history, a formal invitation was not used or needed for people to be saved. Example: Peter did not give an “invitation” when he preached at Pentecost! The people actually interrupted his message and then he told them what to do in answer to their question. CLICK HERE.
I will always give “an invitation” at the conclusion of any message I deliver because the Gospel inherently contains an invitation. But I will not use unethical means to get people to make a decision for Christ… I don’t need to. God saves them… not me. POINT: I know that when God calls a person to Him for salvation, they will come to Him regardless of whether there is an invitation or not (Click on those links!).
The fallout and consequences of Ministerial Manipulation is that people, who are saved, unduly doubt their conversion (I know this because of the number of people I’ve talked with through years of ministry). They struggle for weeks, months, and sometimes years about whether or not they really are saved all because some preacher bombarded them with unethical means rather than simply using the Scripture and relying upon the Holy Spirit to do His work.
Calming Doubts About Conversion
1 John 3:19-21. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before Him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God…
John 10:27-30. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
Acts 16:31. Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…
Romans 10:9-10. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
1 John 1:9. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Comments And Reflections…
The assurance of salvation is based on the truth of God’s Word. That is where we begin and end when it comes to affirming or evaluating our salvation.
Our emotions are not valid indicators as to whether or not our salvation is sure (1 Jn 3). Our feelings cannot be trusted. Only God’s Truth matters in relation to our conversion.
The standard for conversion is Acts 16:31 and Romans 10:9-10. Praying a prayer doesn’t save anyone. Walking down an aisle doesn’t save anyone. Getting wet in a baptistery doesn’t save anyone. Doing what a preacher says isn’t what saves anyone either.
It is impossible to lose salvation once it is bestowed by God! Once a person is genuinely saved they are saved forever.
Conclusion: I have two desires as a result of this post. First is for those who question their conversion, or have been subjected to ministerial manipulation, to find peace with God through His Word. Second is for believers to “always (be) prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:15) the next time they are subjected to ministerial manipulation.
OH! I love this… I love would to read your thesis. My problem exist not with the invitation itself but how it is followed up. Many people simply walk the aisle due some pressure of guilt, remorse, and half a dozen other reason. We Baptist immediately vote them into the church. I am not saying we should have a “test” but let the heat of the moment pass and then let the candidate meet with the pastor or a committee following the service or the next day. Then present the candidate to church the next service or even that night. Oh well just my opinion. People are sort like cattle, the follow the leader and is generally the one front of them. Not a fan of current system which is part of reason we have 1000 on role and 250 that attend at least once a week in Baptist Churches. I wish I could go more, but I explained that I do try to keep up.
Your brother in Christ
WOW! What a powerful exposing of a real challenge in church life today. One could allow this to open the door to a plethora of other “misses” in the organized church today, but one will not indulge that. After all, even with it’s flaws, gathering together with God’s people is still the best thing we have to unite ourselves for our Father God. Thanks Ron!