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During the Sunday PM service, the song leader leads a couple of songs, the Lord’s Supper is offered to those needing to partake and then the speaker pulls up a chair and begins to read Paul’s letter to Galatia. When he finishes, he asks for comments. A couple of scattered comments are offered. He then offers the closing prayer and we are dismissed. Within minutes of the amen, there were those questioning the lack of an “invitation,” the lack of an “invitation song”. It is my belief that the invitation is a tradition, dating back to the 1880’s, and while it serves a purpose, it is a tradition and not a scriptural requirement for worship. What say ye, oh, sage of the scroll?
The New Testament pattern provides warrant for the public reading of Scripture, as was done in your meeting. Paul told Timothy in 1 Tim 4:13, “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (NET). He also commanded that his letters be read in church meetings (Col 4:16; 1 Thes 5:27). The letter of Revelation attests to the practice of having a reader for the sacred writings (Rev 1:3). Your reading of an entire letter in a single meeting is laudable.
The invitation song is a form of encouragement to people who need to obey the gospel. Singing is, in the New Testament, another means of communicating and encouraging one another (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16). It is proper to use a song to encourage obedience, as well as speaking, from the passage quoted above in 1 Tim 4:13. An invitation song serves much the same function as Peter’s exhortation in Acts 2:40, “With many other words he testified and exhorted them saying, ‘Save yourselves from this perverse generation!'”
Hence, the invitation song fulfills the general command to exhort and encourage one another. There is not, however, any specific command to sing a song of invitation after a sermon. This practice is a tradition, not practiced universally in churches of Christ, though often found in American congregations.
It may well be that, besides being a tradition some feel uncomfortable dispensing with, the use of the invitation song belies a dependence upon the church’s meetings for evangelism rather than the personal daily proclamation on the part of the saints. There is sparse evidence of unbelievers participating in the church’s meetings (see 1 Cor 14), but multiple examples of what we today call personal evangelism.
Now that would be a wonderful thing not to leave out, don’t you think?
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