by James Shewmaker
We may offer encouragement at any time to respond to the summons of Jesus, but the summons belongs to Him and not us.
If a person expresses a desire to respond to the Savior's summons, I do not wait till the end of services. For example, a family contacted me about 40 minutes before the beginning of the evening assembly one Sunday and stated that their teenage son had expressed an interest in responding to the Gospel. They lived about twenty minutes from the building. By the time, they got to the building and the young man got changed into the provided garments, there was only about ten minutes or less before assembly was to begin and around half of the members who were coming had arrived. I baptized him prior to the assembly.
I have stated in my preaching that if a person comes forward five minutes after I have started preaching, I will stop my sermon and immediately baptize that person.
The idea that we provide an opportunity is a bad thought to implant in the minds of the unlearned. I refer to the words that I speak at the close of a sermon as "the encouragement" and the song that is sung as "the encouragement song" because I believe that we are supposed to encourage people to respond to the Savior's subpoena. I avoid the use of terms such as "the invitation song" because I believe that it is "an uncertain sound" (I Corinthians 14:8).