Have you ever considered why congregations encourage and receive public responses, usually at the close of lessons preached or taught? Some say the extending of the invitation comes from a denominational practice, but that would be difficult to prove. Some form of invitation had to have been extended on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), else how could about three thousand souls have made their desire known to be baptized into Christ? If the extending of the invitation practiced in most churches of Christ came from denominationalism, then that in and of itself does not necessarily make it wrong. When you enter the building to worship, how do you do it? Through a door? They do, too! Does that make entering a church building through a door wrong? The practice could also very easily be traced to James 5:16, where the instruction is given to “confess your faults one to another and pray for one another.” This is instruction to the Christian, a baptized believer, who is in need of prayer for forgiveness of sin. Certainly it doesn’t have to be one walking an isle, but such cannot be forbidden either.
When one is in sin and cannot pray to God because of that sin, God instructs through James that he/she may ask a Christian or Christians to pray for them to be forgiven. Some sins are private and can be addressed in private prayer, but public sin carries a different burden. The practice of declaring a change, a repentance of sin, is necessary for Christians to know and pray. God knowing the thought of our heart, instructs individual prayer for forgiveness (Acts 8:22), but when one is steeped in sin and involved in public rebellion to God, the instruction is clear; call on brethren to pray with them and for forgiveness of sin.
It is not the walking of an isle that brings forgiveness. An individual could walk the isle 7 days a week for 25 years and not be forgiven. Repentance is a change of heart that is seen in a changed life (I Thess. 1:9; I Pet. 4:3). A wayward Christian can find forgiveness when walking an isle and asking as a penitent sinner for the prayers of the church. It is the changed heart that makes the difference (Psa. 51:17). Some congregations make rooms available to meet with an elder or a preacher to confess fault and pray. If the sin rises to the level of public declaration, then the elder or preacher will later make a public announcement of the expressed desire to repent and ask all to pray for the individual. Whichever method, the prayer of the righteous “avails much.”
How powerful is the prayer of brethren in converting one back to the truth? It “…shall save a soul from death and hide a multitude of sin” (James 5:19-20). When you’ve lost your way and find yourself in sin, who will you call? Call on brothers and sisters in Christ who love you and will delight in praying with you and for your forgiveness (James 5:16-20).
David Hill, President of TBC