RALEIGH, NC - At some Baptist churches, there is no invitation. At other Baptist churches, it lasts for about two verses of "Just As I Am." At a majority of Baptist churches, the invitation drags on through about a hymn and a half while a few regulars "rededicate their lives to the Lord." But at Bible Gospel Baptist Church (BGBC), a new record now stands.
TBNN has learned that this past weekend, starting at 7PM on Saturday night, the BGBC pastors and deacons offered a non-stop, 24 hour invitation. Senior Pastor William Hughes explained, "We normally offer an invitation at every service. The problem is that a normal invitation just does not give people enough time to make a decision for Christ. The Holy Spirit has to work on them. They might need to get emotional about it. A normal six minute invitation is simply not enough time. We don't want to be eternally responsible for someone not getting saved."
Deacon Billy Alderman showed us the biblical basis for the marathon invitation. According to Alderman, "We used two verses to support what we did on the weekend. First, Luke 14:23 says: And the master said to the servant, 'Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.' The second verse is Revelation 3:20. Jesus says: 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.'"
Between 7PM and 10PM on Saturday night, eight people showed up at the church. The problem for the pastors was that it was just some of the deacons' wives bringing in casseroles, coffee, and sweet tea to help the men stay awake all night. Nothing much at all happened between 10PM and 9AM. There was some sleep and lots of silly stories about the good old days back at seminary.
Things began to pick up when Sunday School started. Pastor Hughes told us, "As people were coming into the church, a young couple came forward. There was no service going on yet. They said they had already given their hearts to the Lord, but they just wanted to 'nail it down.' That was good enough for us. So by the start of the morning worship service, two people had gotten saved."
Throughout the service, at least three or four deacons were standing down front ready to accept anyone who came forward. In between every announcement, song, drama piece, and scripture reading, the pastors reminded everyone that they, "desperately needed to get saved because Jesus does not want to live without you." The sermon topic was a warning from Genesis about the fate of the Sodomites.
At the conclusion of the service, Pastor Hughes ordered the organist to play through "Amazing Grace" four times. Several people sat down. Three walked out. One old man came forward, but he was just confused about how to get to the bathroom. The service concluded with disappointed pastors and deacons - only two people saved so far.
During the afternoon, the church leaders watched the Patriots-Colts game at church. No one came, so they just enjoyed the game.
They were determined, however, to make something happen at the evening gathering. Thirty-nine people came for the 7PM time of worship. Although an invitation was given throughout the music, offering, and sermon, no one came forward. That's when, according to eye witnesses, "the Holy Spirit really began to move on people's hearts."
Deacon Alderman recounts the scene, "It was a miracle. The organist began to play 'Just As I Am,' and Pastor Hughes told the folks that no one was leaving until they were sure that everyone was saved. I will never forget what happened next. First a few went forward, then it turned into an avalanche. Of the thirty-nine folks there, thirty-seven of them went forward to give their lives to Jesus. I was surprised because I thought some of those folks had been saved. The only people who didn't go to the altar were the Walters. They are old and can't hear anymore. Anyway, what a move of God!"
TBNN has also learned that everyone cleared out of the church very quickly at 8PM. Baptisms are scheduled for next Sunday at BGBC, where a total of thirty-nine souls were won to the Lord.