High-Pressure Invitations Are Counter-Productive


High Pressure PreachingPreaching to people who aren’t accustomed to church isn’t like preaching to a well-churched community. Too many preachers say they want to reach people who are far from God, but they don’t adjust their preaching style to impact the spiritually lost.

One change in your preaching style to consider is how you ask for a commitment. I believe it’s essential that every gospel preacher ask his listeners to make a commitment. Jesus did it. Paul did it. Faithful preachers throughout the ages have done it.

But an effective invitation to make a commitment to Christ isn’t a high-pressure pitch. I’ve found that pressure is actually counter-productive. It becomes a battle of the wills. It often simply hardens the heart of the listener. That’s the last thing you want!

If the fruit is ripe, you don’t have to yank it. People who listen to God’s Word on a regular basis will commit to Him and His ways. It’s just a matter of time until the Holy Spirit draws the person to the Lord. Evangelism is usually a process of repeated exposures to the Good News.

In fact, we tell people at Saddleback to take their time in making a decision. Any other major decision of life—marriage, career change, etc.—we’d urge people to take their time. Why don’t we do that with the most important decision a person will ever make—the decision to make Jesus Lord of his or her life?

Pastor, I doubt that you decided for Christ on your first exposure. It’s pretty unrealistic to expect a 40-year-old man to completely change the direction of his life on the basis of one 30-minute message. People usually aren’t as closed as we think they are. They just need time to think about the decision we’re asking them to make.

Would you keep going to a grocery store if every time you went there to buy milk, the clerks pressured you to buy a steak? Probably not. Imagine a clerk saying, “Today is the day of steak! Now is the time for steak! You must buy steak today because you might not have steak tomorrow!”

At Saddleback, we believe if unbelievers keep coming, the Holy Spirit will eventually create that hunger for “steak.

Think about how you will ask for a commitment this Easter. What can you do to encourage visitors to come back for a second or third time?

As I mentioned recently, I try to announce a new series on days we expect a lot of visitors, like Easter. It creates a hook that brings many first time visitors back for part two the next week.

Another idea we’ve used is to tell the congregation that we will take pictures of families on Easter Weekend. Families can come to one of our Weekend Services, and we will have photographers stationed around the campus to take pictures for free.

But we also let the family know the photographs will be available the following weekend, encouraging them to return next week.

Share some of your ideas for Easter in the comments section below.

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Rick Warren About Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

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  • Pastor Brian Smith

    Amen to this article! One way we have found to lower the “pressure” to make a commitment is to gently invite people to talk to a prayer team member after the service. Members of the prayer team are trained for leading someone in how to make a decision for Jesus. This method is much less public than an altar call or other “whole assembly” method, and a few people have committed their lives to Jesus in this way.

  • Pastor Tina Suwa

    Sometimes iam disappointed that people who already are hungering for GOD dont get to make commitments but reading your piece has helped me a lot. While i wait i will pray that the people make strong and permanent commitments.Thank you Pastor.

  • Campbell Adenodi

    Pastor Rick is right. Conviction of sinners to Christ is the prerogative of Holy Spirit. Once the vessel has delivered the Good news, there might be instant acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour (Instant Salvation which might be lost considering the parable of the sower) and some might differ till another time to gain full understanding of whom he or she is believing. Thus both approaches can be employed considering which society or audience you are ministering to. Paul planted Apollo watered the increase comes from Him alone – Lord Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Ghost.

  • George

    I agree with you,time to be given for decision making.

  • Tim

    I agree with the basic premise, however the decision of salvation is life or death. Because of the uncertainty of death, I think we are to be bold in our invitations. We are not talking about a normal decision. The Bible says “Today is the day of salvation, behold now is the accepted time.”

  • PastorVLT

    I agree with Betty…the problem of doing “gimmick” preaching on special days like Easter/Christmas/Mother’s Day (and I am guilty of doing my share) is when they come back to visit again and there is no “show” they tend to be disappointed.

  • Chris

    Great article!

    “And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25–33)

  • Dr Linda

    excellent – this is so important, thank you Rick for keeping us on the right track.

  • Pastor Scott Allen

    I would like to change our sanctuary into the garden tomb. A very real visualization and speak on the empty tomb means a full life

    • Betty

      i wouldn’t ever listen to a message about a tomb. it seems like you missed ricks point

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