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UM Preachers Should Get Back to
the Invitation Business, Says Professor

"Let's get back to the invitation business, and let's rediscover the frequent use of the altar."  That's the advice of Roberto Escamilla, professor of world evangelism at Methodist Theological School in (Delaware) Ohio.  "Invitation preaching," says Escamilla," is perhaps the single most important factor in revitalizing a local church."

Delivering the Denman lectures at the Jan. 5-8 Congress on Evangelism in Kansas City, Escamilla said that preaching for a response in the 21st century will require "an element of passion for there is much at stake -- it is a matter of life or death."  However, the UM clergyman warns preachers that this does not mean "getting louder and louder in order to compensate for lack of preparation.  I'm not talking about being less academic or anti-intellectual, but I'm talking about putting a little "salsa" (picante sauce) into the sermon."

The former General Board of Discipleship executive cites some of the ingredients of an invitational sermon:

  1. It proclaims all persons are accepted by God in spite of who they are or what they may do.
  2. It addresses the whole person without bypassing the mind.
  3. It acknowledges the sinfulness of all persons, including the preacher. 
  4. It is sensitive to human needs and sees people not as they are, but as they may become.
  5. It is biblical and Christ centered.
  6. It calls for a decision related to the subject of the sermon.
  7. It takes seriously all the emotional baggage people carry with them.
  8. It is well prepared, brief, structured, and revolves around one central point.
  9. It includes illustrations, including personal experiences.
  10. It avoids platitudes and can be understood by a sixth-grader.
  11. It comforts the troubled and disturbs the comfortable.
  12. It is delivered without notes and the invitation is offered in an intimate manner. Escamilla warns pastors not to confuse their own importance with the importance of proclaiming the gospel. He also warns pastors not to preach that if one "comes to Jesus" everything will be all right.  The main issue, he says, is repentance and commitment to Christ which includes:
  13. a) care about the environment;
    b) work against dehumanizing conditions;
    c) care for the oppressed;
    d) sensitivity to the plight of disenfranchised women;
    e) empathy with ethnic minority persons;
    f) political involvement;
    g) efforts to feed the hungry and house the homeless; and
    h) employing persons formerly on welfare rolls.

While Escamilla thinks that coming forward is an important witness to the congregation, he reminds clergy that "coming forward is not required in order for repentance to be genuine."  He also encourages pastors to use the times before the worship services as prayer times. - NEWSCOPE

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