Critical Book Review
The Effective Invitation by R. Alan Streett
Streett, R. Alan. Effective Invitation: A Practical Guide for the Pastor. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Pubns, 2004.
R. Alan Streett is an accomplished author, having published many articles and contributing to many books, including writing all 60 “Twisted Scripture” entries in The Apologetics Bible
edited by Ted Cabal and Chapters 7-9 in Lifestyle Witnessing,
a Bible study series supported by Billy Graham. In addition to his articles and contributions, Streett has authored many books, including Unlocking New-Age Mysteries
, How do you Plead?
, and the subject of this review, The Effective Invitation
. The back cover of The Effective Invitation
states that R. Alan Streett “has served as a pastor and church planter and is chairman and professor of evangelism at The Criswell College, Dallas, Texas. He also serves as the editor of the Criswell Theological Review
.” He earned his M.Div. in 1972 from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington D.C., his Ph.D. with a focus on Practical Theology from California Graduate School of Theology (1982), and is presently working on another Ph.D. in the field of Biblical Theology from the University of Wales, Lampeter, UK.
Streett offers the following thought in the preface of his work, The Effective Invitation: A Practical Guide for the Pastor: “The public invitation is an important tool which can aid in leading people to Christ at the end of a gospel sermon. The ability to use this tool effectively cannot be discovered at a conference on evangelism, by reading a book on soul winning or attending weekly classes on new evangelistic techniques. It can only be gained through experience” (p 17). He then sets himself to the task of attempting to teach the reader—through the use of a “book on soul winning”—how to invite people to Christ at the end of a sermon. It is the preacher’s job, suggests Streett, to preach the Gospel (pp 21-22). He asks, “What ingredients make up an effective gospel presentation?” (p 22). To answer this question, Streett moves into a lengthy argument—even turning to Greek key words—that includes an explanation of the meaning of preaching, proclaim, preacher, Gospel, evangelize, and evangelist. At the completion of this discussion, Streett shifts to the theological support for the public invitation. “The invitation,” writes Streett, “is that act by which the preacher of the gospel exhorts his hearers and instructs them how to appropriate the context of the kerygma in their individual lives” (p 37). Chapter 2 is then loaded with Streett’s stance on repentance, the preacher’s responsibility to call sinners to repentance, and faith. Chapter 3, in the same fashion as Chapter 2, provides biblical support for the public invitation, potentially introducing the reader to a debate that he or she was previously unaware of.
Eighty-one pages into the book, Streett provides examples, methods, and styles of many other evangelists throughout Christian history. Chapter 5 is dedicated to Billy Graham and his experiences with the public invitation. Chapters 6 and 7 return to the polemic for the public invitation. Finally, at Chapter 8, the reader comes to what he or she has likely seeking from the book—the material and guidance to assist the pastor in preparing the invitation. The process starts with prayer. Streett explains, “Prayer is the key. The pastor or evangelist who wishes to be successful in drawing the net must first pray until God gives him a passion and burden for souls” (p 153). Next, the preacher needs to work on a transition from his message to the invitation. Once the transition is made, instructions must be given to the listeners. After a discussion on the proper use of persuasion, Streett stresses that a call to public commitment is made. And as an extra measure, Streett addresses the delivery itself. Chapter 9 addresses the various invitation models, both the immediate and delayed response. This section is especially helpful for readers that may come from a tradition where these different invitation methods are not utilized. Chapter 10 addresses music leading up to and during the invitation. “When used evangelistically,” writes Streett, “music has a strong influence in bringing people to Christ” (p 187). Streett concludes with a discussion on inviting children to Christ, when it is appropriate and how to do it.
In what might be more valuable than the first seven chapters, Streett includes a series of appendices. The first is a series of illustrations dealing mostly with repentance (although some of the illustrations are a bit of a stretch). Following these illustrations is a list of scriptures on the topic of repentance. The next appendix is like the first, only it is on the topic of faith. Appendix C, while a valuable list of topics to preach, departs from the idea of solid expository preaching and shifts to topical preaching. Appendix D is an engaging response to the Reformed objections to the public invitation, most specifically the alter call. And Appendix E is a list of hymns that strongly support the public invitation.
I am aware that the summary provide above has resonated a negative tone; however, I do not make apology. The greater part of The Effective Invitation
is a defense of the public invitation rather than a training manual on how to go about making the public invitation. In addition, the most challenging part of making a public invitation, if indeed an invitation must conclude all preaching, is how to transition out of texts that do not naturally lead to an invitation. Streett’s approach to this appears to either make an awkward shift (which is says not to do) or not preach on any topic that does not naturally lead to an invitation (which is what is implied by Appendix C.) Additionally, Streett makes such an issue of the debate between offering a public invitation or not, that I, having not ever through much about not making at least some kind of invitation, researched this debate. After reading Appendix D, I almost agree with the position Streett is arguing against!
A new preacher or student wanting to better understand how to make a public invitation, would be well served to read Chapters 5, 8 (with the understanding that little is offered to assist the verse-by-verse expository preacher unless the text naturally lends itself to offering an invitation), 9, 10 if the worship leader still uses hymns, and 11. The rest can be ignored if the reader has no interest in the opposing or supporting argument for making the public invitation.
 Criswell College, “R. Alan Streett,” http://www.criswell.edu/academics/faculty/r-alan-streett/ [accessed October 18, 2009].
*I have no material connection to this book. This post was, in its entirety or in part, originally written in seminary in partial fulfillment of a M.Div. It may have been redacted or modified for this website.