ABC–Always Be Closing?

Lately during really good witnessing encounters the question about what to do with someone who appears really remorseful over his or her sin has resurfaced for me. The other person who was witnessing with me took this as an opportunity to try to close the deal. Though this individual thankfully doesn’t subscribe to the sinner’s prayer nonsense, she wanted the person to pray a prayer of salvation from the heart. If the individual hesitated, she attempted to push him or her a little bit to go ahead and make a decision for Christ.

I’ve had trouble putting my finger on why this bothered me. Everything she was saying was technically true. Today is the day of salvation, and anyone can die at any time. However, it seemed she was coming off as a salesperson trying to convince a reluctant prospect.

As always the question to ask in evangelism is: “What did Jesus and the apostles do?”

It seems Jesus never tried to close the deal. He would command people to repent and believe the gospel, or believe in Him, or come to Him, or eat His flesh and drink His blood. He never asked anyone to repeat a prayer after Him. When the rich young ruler walked away (Luke 18), he didn’t chase after Him. He trusted the message to do its work, along with the Holy Spirit, even if it meant he would never repent.

Maybe the clearest example is Acts 10 when Peter went to Cornelius and his family to give them the gospel: “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message” (Acts 10:44).  He never had to close the deal or get them to make a commitment of some sort. God saved them while he was busy talking.

So what should we do when someone appears broken by the message? Exactly what Jesus and the apostles did. Deliver the message faithfully, and trust the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to push the individual for a decision or commitment of any kind. Maybe God is saving the person as we speak.

28 thoughts on “ABC–Always Be Closing?

  1. Amen, Bill. This is so important. As you alluded, Jesus commanded people to follow Him. He didn’t try to manipulate them, pressure them, or beg them – He simply told them the truth and commanded them to come.

    We can rest in the fact that salvation is of the Lord alone, so it is our duty to proclaim the truth and trust the Holy Spirit will effectually bring God’s elect to repentance. We may never see a true convert on the streets, but Jesus says in John 4:36-38 that some sow, others reap, but we all rejoice!

    The fields are indeed white for harvest – let us be faithful to the commission we’ve been given and trust God to save His people from their sin.

  2. Good post, Bill and good counsel, Justin. As Jonah learned in the belly of the fish, salvation is of the Lord! Our human flesh wants to see results with fleshly eyes the invisible work of the Spirit of God whom flesh cannot know and we, who yet see dimly, cannot see.

    It’s easy to see why Finney was so loved by men. And so wrong.

  3. Jordan says:

    We as baptists get so caught up with making sure someone follows the “formula” of the Romans Road, that the idea that it is some spiritual act seems foreign to most now. That someone could be saved without saying the “sinner’s prayer” is heresy in many of our churches!

  4. Jordan – I know what you mean. I joined a Reformed Baptist church some 3 years ago and my wife and I have been encouraged and humbled as we learn more of the sovereignty and holiness and sufficiency of God.

  5. Excellent points. I think we end up with way too many false conversions because evangelists press people for a “decision.” Then the people are given a false sense of security.

  6. michael henry says:

    Excellent post. The ordinary and all too common response would focus on and stop at the “what should WE do?”. Trust the spirit. man, how often do we hear or read that nowadays?

  7. Ky gal says:

    So, could you walk me through a witnessing event? How exactly do you present the message, then the Holy Spirit does its job?

    This is a sincere question. I don’t think I have ever seen anything other than a decision for Christ, then a closer for the deal. Formula to the max.

    Thank you!

  8. Mickey Merrie says:

    @ Ky gal, and anyone else who will listen…
    The question becomes, “Does Jesus respond to MY invitation to “come in to My life, or do I respond to the Holy Spirit’s conviction of my sin, bringing about an urgency within me to repent for my wicked ways, while awakening by the Spirit of my need for Jesus as my Savior and Lord!” Decisions made in absence of this realization do little more then fill pews with tares who somehow get the idea from someone in eldership
    wink ;) wink ;)
    that doing things for the “community of believers” including cutting checks to the “community” will gain them an eternal pass from the “lake of fire,” and of course, “their best life now!” Even IF we teach that “works” don’t “save” you…

  9. Mickey Merrie says:

    @ Ky gal
    Yours is an excellent question, sister! In the Old Testament we see that Jesus was promised to Abraham BEFORE the Law was given to Moses. Abraham’s faith in the coming Messiah was accounted to him as rightiousness. The Law given to Moses was to point us to the fact that we are powerless to keep It and are in need of the One who can/would/could/did keep It. This is what Paul spends a great deal of time in the Word attempting to explain to us. Thus we need to see we are unable to “activity” ourselves back in to right relationship with our Lord. We are transgressors of His Law, and deserve hell for our wickedness. There is no way for us to, on our own, make things right! But thanks be to our Lord, Jesus fulfilled the Law, and to all who believe on Him, from the moment they are made alive by the Holy Spirit to their lostness, and perservering till the end of their days, believing on His finished Work, will be saved…And that not of ourselves for He alone, makes us alive by the Spirit, causes us to repent by the same Spirit, and keeps us to the end by the Spirit, for His glory. Abraham was saved through faith in the coming Messiah and we are saved by faith in the finished work of the Messiah. Thus it is the Word of God in context, preached by believers that God uses to bring His elect to Him…unless a man wants to build his own flock, then in that case please refer to above!

    “For the good of the order.” This is on Dawnmarie’s blog:

    http://dawnmarie4.wordpress.com/2012/01/31/one-of-the-elect/

    Manfred, that is a nice site you reference, but still a little light in the repentance dept.
    None the less, much better then ABC theology IMHO

  10. Deirdre says:

    I’ve also noticed when people are ‘cornerned’ they will say the right things so as to ‘seal the deal’ for themselves. You know, be release from the false guilt trip they are actually feeling. Yes, let the HOLY SPIRIT do the work and watch for the fruit. No fruit, no deal.
    Peace,
    Deirdre

  11. Great Article,Thank you.Here is a link that fits in with what you have said,If you are a blood bought believer purchased by our Lord Jesus’ sacrafice on Calvary’s Cross,then your heart beats with the desire to see others truly repent and believe and not get caught up in becoming a false convert.Without true reprntence there is no forgiveness of sin.Luke 24:47.Our Lord Jesus’ first sermon was Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.He started His ministry preaching repentance for the forgivness of sins and his last instructions to His apostles before His ascension was “Proclaim repentance for the forgiveness of sins.Paul taught Repent and believe the Good News(Gospel).All the Apostles and Elders taught this and the professing church today teaches some version of accept Jesus and besaved?NO REPENTANCE NO SALVATION.

    http://mettab.blogspot.com/

  12. James says:

    I have seen lot of talk and emphasis on repentance and very little talk on God’s grace and Jesus’ death on the cross. My question to all is what is your definition of repentance and what is God’s/the bible’s definition of repentance? How do you walk that out in your faith daily since we all continue to sin? True repentance is not only a turning from sin (especially repeated same sin), but no longer continuing in it. I’m just wondering if you’re missing the grace part of Jesus’ message and focusing too much on a “works” portion. And yes, repentance is an act prompted by our obedience to the conviction of the Holy Spirit of the sin in our lives. To steal a line from Chuck Hoskins, NO JESUS, NO SALVATION. A repentant heart without Christ means nothing.

    In His Grip

  13. Hi James,

    I don’t know what prompted your questions about repentance. It seems like you might be looking for a debate, when this post has little to do with what repentance is.

    However, in this post, I do assume, along with the other commenters, that repentance is required (Luke 13:5). I also use “repentance” instead of spelling out “repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ”. This is also consistent with the Bible as in Acts 5:31, Romans 2:4, etc.

    Repentance is a gift from God (2 Timothy 2:25). I don’t believe in works salvation in any way shape or form. Repentance occurs when God saves us, and is ongoing until the end. I would also say that true repentance cannot take place without turning to Christ. Repenting and turning to my own good deeds or turning to Allah are examples of false repentance.

    While the word repentance is not used, I’d say Matthew 16:24-25 provides a good definition: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Therefore, repentance is denying yourself, taking up your cross and following Jesus.

    The message I proclaim is a message of God’s justice and grace. What has led you to believe that me or someone here is endorsing something else?

    Thanks,
    Bill

  14. It seems we think we need to coerce sinners into a response; we forget salvation is of the Lord. We are to proclaim the truth and refrain from manipulative means to bring someone to Christ, that is the work of God the Spirit as He uses the word. Romans 1:16 is very clear on this “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”…herein lies the power to convert or leave dead in sin; the proclaiming of Christ crucified and being resurrected. No one can repent, or believe, apart from God’s power. Only those who have ‘ears to hear’ will respond, and that response is wrought by God, not man.
    We seem to have lost sight of what the Gospel is; because of this we see false converts everywhere. If we believe in sola scriptura, then why do we go against God’s word by adding to it? Why do we tell people to do something they cannot do, such as make a decision, or place their faith in Christ? Faith is a gift, so how can a dead sinner place something they do not have in a God they do not want?

    Let us not rob God of glory, the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to use the word of God to do what God has predestined it for; yes, tell sinners to repent and believe, just as the Apostle Peter did, but do not go beyond what is written.

    Good article Bill

  15. 072591 says:

    I think a lot of the “closing the deal” mentality comes from a sense of failure if the person you evangelize to doesn’t repent. “Did I just cause Leopold to reject Christ and go to Hell?” It needs to be emphasized that since we don’t save people – only the Holy Spirit does that – we also don’t ‘anti-save’ people.

    Besides the fact that it’s not our job to redeem souls, we don’t know the part of a soul’s redemption that we may be playing. It could be that one sentence, said at one time, completely unrelated to the Gospel, can get the ball rolling sometime down the road. Or it could be that one time you witnessed to someone will come to his mind years down the road, when the Holy Spirit decides, “Now.”

    Or maybe that person was never to come to Christ … but someone overheard you and did.

    God gets the glory, for He is the redeemer, but we play our part by spreading the Gospel – though perhaps not the part we think we are.

  16. I suspect a lot of the “close the deal” approach actually comes from the influence of Moody. The night of the Chicago fire, he closed his sermon basically with “go home and think about it” — and many people died that night.

    His take-away was that he should have tried to “close the deal”, that those people never got saved, so he became one who always pushed for a decision. He had an immense impact on our view of evangelism today, and not only in this respect.

    I would have told Dwight that he was taking the wrong message from his experience. A sovereign God worked so that he would tell people to think about it, and they then went out, thinking about it, to face the reality of eternity. If they were open to the Gospel when they heard him finish his message, how much more when the flames were closing in half an hour later, with his message about eternity fresh in their minds? But Moody became the ultimate “deal closer”.

    I don’t think we should overreact, though. Perhaps passages such as Luke 9:59-62 give an indication that we should encourage an immediate response at times. (That isn’t the same as a manipulative sales technique, of course.) We don’t want to drift into neglecting to confront sinners with their need to respond, and the urgency of the matter. When Jesus said, “Ye MUST be born again,” there is an urgency in that message.

  17. Todd says:

    Great discussion folks! Very satient points as well. As a person who grew-up in a traditional Baptist church (the Bob Jones University type), I was quite familiar with the Romans Road methodology of evangelism, the “close” techniques, and that whole line of activity. Further, I have been “invitationalized” times without number. I have NEVER been a fan of the modern-day type of Billy Graham invitations. It’s nothing more than a system of psychological manipulation.

    Now, as a Reformed Baptist who strongly believes in the Regulative Principle in worship, it actually offends me when I attend a church where the invitation or the “inquiry room” or the “soft” or “hard” “close” is presented at the end of a sermon.

    Once a person embraces, properly, the sovereignty of God in all things (especially, in soteriology), it’s as if “scales” fall from the eyes! Salvation is of the Lord! It’s not up to man’s willing or running (Romans 9), but upon God Who has mercy. It’s not dependent upon slick packaging, mind-changing, coercion, peer-pressure, persuasive-wording, begging, pleading, threatening, or scare-tactics. It’s through prayer to the only Sovereign, on behalf of the lost sinner, and as importantly, a CLEAR message of God’s Law and His gospel of grace.

    We are instruments in His hand, drawing people into earshot of the truth.

  18. I’ve addressed this issue before and my arguments didn’t cut much ice then, as I suspect they won’t now. But (and I appreciate Defcon’s courtesy in letting me do this) to offer a different perspective, I will state that Apostolic Gospel preaching – as it is recorded in the Bible – did indeed include the command to repent and call upon Jesus. When Paul and Peter preached they didn’t use words like “decision” or “sinner’s prayer,” but they were preaching to sinners and pressing them hard to repent, call upon Jesus, and be converted. God does the converting but He commands the converted to tell the unconverted that they must call upon Christ or perish.

  19. Hi Ministry Addict,

    You said, “When Paul and Peter preached they didn’t use words like “decision” or “sinner’s prayer,” but they were preaching to sinners and pressing them hard to repent, call upon Jesus, and be converted. God does the converting but He commands the converted to tell the unconverted that they must call upon Christ or perish.”

    Amen, brother. This is what we must do in following the footsteps of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30. Preaching the Gospel must include the call to “come”. Has something in this article or in the comments given you the impression that we should not call sinners to repentance and to follow Christ?

  20. Justin: I got the impression (although admittedly my impression could be mistaken) that some people believe that we should call sinners to repentance and to follow Christ – but just not too strenuously if they are hesitant or resistant. Partly I got this idea from: “He [Jesus] never had to close the deal or get them to make a commitment of some sort.” I don’t think that “chasing after the rich young ruler” or pressing someone hard to trust in Christ is wrong for us today just because Jesus didn’t always do it. We don’t know the heart of the person who is resistant to the Gospel the way Jesus did. So, if someone is hesitant or confused about what it means to call upon Jesus or to make a commitment to follow Christ, then by encouraging or helping them to call upon Him in prayer, we are not “closing a deal.” Rather, we are Biblically doing everything we can (by God’s sovereign power and grace) to help them confront – or be confronted by – the Truth. Bill’s friend sounds (to me) passionate about Jesus and His salvation – I find that refreshing in a world where more and more evangelists are parroting reformed Gospel sermons to guilty sinners, closing their Bibles, and walking away, under the guise that to plead, beseech, exhort, command, and confront the stony-hearted or the hesitant would somehow challenge Jesus’s rightful place as the Author and Finisher of our faith.

  21. Thanks for elaborating, MA. I am 100% in agreement with you. I actually just spent the last several days in Indianapolis during the Super Bowl Outreach hosted by sfoi.org. We had the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel to tens of thousands of people and faced much opposition. Yet, we also had many wonderful conversations and I believe with all my heart that God was working in the hearts of many who we spoke with.

    We “pleaded, beseeched, exhorted, commanded, and confronted the stony-hearted” and we had many opportunities to pray with some of the folks we witnessed to. When I pray on the street with someone, it’s usually after they heard the Gospel and recognized their position before God and need for Jesus. In prayer, I petition God to save this person, to give them eyes and ears to respond to the Gospel, to cry out to God for mercy, so they will be justified before Him. I pray they will be given a new heart so they can love God and serve Him in fleeing the things of the world and resting in the Hope of Jesus Christ. I pray that they would seek God and be rewarded by repentance and faith to receive eternal life.

    These things are markedly different than say, “repeat these words after me”, or “just try Jesus”, or “are you ready to make a decision for Christ right now?” I think you would agree, and I hope I’ve explained, at least for me, that I am in absolute agreement with you. Thanks again for explaining further your position, brother.

  22. Ministry Addict,

    I agree with what you’re saying. We should stress the command to everyone to repent and believe the gospel. But, I’m not going to try to convince someone to do something. All I can do is tell them what the Bible says. If I could convince them, Richard Dawkins (or whoever) could unconvince them.

    Thanks,
    Bill

  23. Hi, I enjoyed the post and comments too… I, If I may say, see salvation and its plan in Acts not romans and the message there is quite clear and consistent. Both Jews and Gentiles were commanded to repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus for he remission of sins and they received the gift of the Holy Ghost… Acts 2:38 and Acts 10;44-47. The roman road? forgive me but I dont read of anyone being saved in the bible using the roman road…
    …. thanks Bill for provoking thought and your point about what would the apostles do
    The Lord bless you
    Paul

  24. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for your comment. New believers are commanded to be baptized, as long as we don’t say that baptism is required for salvation.

    Thanks,
    Bill

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