It has been a common practice for over a century in churches across the country. The preacher finishes his sermon and steps down from the pulpit to give people a chance to "make a decision" or "respond" to the sermon. Often this period at the end of the service known as the "invitation" can be a very emotionally charged time. It is during this time that people often come forward to either profess faith, ask for prayer or join with a particular congregation.
The invitation is almost always accompanied by the congregation singing a hymn, and over the years particular hymns have become tied to the invitation time. One of those hymns, Just As I Am has been one of the most popular choices. But the singing of this hymn has at times presented a some difficulties. The problem arises when the invitation time goes long, often caused when a number of people decide to come forward for whatever reason. What results is that the congregation must sing not only the six verses of the hymn but they then must begin repeating the verses over again. At times it is possible for the hymn to be sung four or five times through until the invitation time has ended.
"We had one Sunday a couple of years back where we sang the song five times through" said Rev. Richard Bailey of Wildwood Baptist Church in McKenzie. "I'll admit the song gets kind of old after a while."
So to remedy the problem Wildwood's song leader, Wes Hatfield recently wrote an extra 25 verses to the hymn that can be sung in the case of an extended invitation time.
"The solution was very simple" said Hatfield. "We just needed more verses so that we don't have to repeat the song over and over again. So if it looks like the invitation time is going to run longer than the standard six verses we'll just project the words up on the screen for people to see."
The extra verses were recently used by the congregation during an extended invitation time to much acclaim.
"I really liked them a lot" said Todd Davis, a member of the congregation. "I could tell it was going to be a busy Sunday. A lot of people were coming forward with prayer requests and such, so as we got to the end of verse six the projector came on and we started in on the new verse seven. We made it to verse fifteen before we finished."
In addition to writing more verses for Just As I Am, Hatfield also has plans to write extra verses for Trust and Obey, Nearer Still Nearer, and I Need Thee Every Hour.
"All of these songs need extra verses" said Hatfield. "There's no need to put people in the position where they get bored during the invitation time. I'd like to put an extra twenty or thirty verses to Trust and Obey if I can."