Wrapping Up the Win – Closing the Sale
By Carlton L. Coon Sr.
Evangelistic preaching must not just end. Some books on preaching talk about a conclusion. If an Apostolic preacher is satisfied to “conclude” he has missed the target. Preacher…don’t conclude…close! Close, as surely as an insurance salesman closing a deal. Close, as thoroughly as the fellow at the used car lot! For the sake of a soul’s eternal destiny – close the deal.
Being an effective “closer” is not chance. It involves planning and being sensitive to the need of people in the congregation. A professional presenter does not leave the end result to accident. If an insurance company is so insistent on an effective close, how much more should a gospel preacher prepare to close the sale?
Acts 2:37 is one congregation’s response to an effective close. Simon’s message produced a question for which the preacher had an answer. All effective preaching brings the listener to a “What now?” question. The “close” punches that question to the forefront. The “close” should be the strongest pan of your message. To accomplish a strong close think it through:
* What will be on a persons mind if they have followed the preaching?
* Are there questions still needing to be addressed?
* What is the compelling reason for your unsaved listener to respond to a call to action?
By the way, if you don’t know the answer to the last question, your hearers are not likely to figure it out either.
Because “closing the sale” is so important, the preacher needs to have some energy and enthusiasm left at the end of your preaching. Don’t expend all your fire and passion getting an audience to pay attention only to fizzle at the end. Hammer home your close with clarity, passion and purpose.
Why preach to the lost if you are not going to give them an opportunity to respond? An obvious part of “closing the sale” is making an appeal at the close of preaching. This is the dread “altar call.” It shouldn’t be dreaded. The “altar call” is when commitments are made. During an “altar call” the fruit of evangelistic preaching is harvested.
Keeping the eternal issues of an altar call on one’s mind throughout an entire service and specifically during the preaching helps the preacher in two ways:
1. It maintains focus. Evangelistic preaching is not speech-making, any more than the Bible is just another book.
2. Preaching Bible truth is authoritative. This communication is based on an authority that is beyond the preacher. It deals with values that are God-values.
Brethren…for many it has been our tendency to get tense over altar appeals. This is not as it should be. Altar calls do not have to be confrontational. One approach I use almost every week is to have the saints give the invitation. It goes something like this, “Does not the book of Revelation say, `… the spirit and the bride say come?’ I know I’m using it out of context, but would those of you who are part of the bride of Christ turn and invite someone else to join you at the altar. Now folks, as these begin gathering, if you have an acquaintance in the building who may not receive an invitation why don’t you go where they are and invite them to join you at the altar.”
If this approach is new to a congregation it is my practice to prepare them for it. Something like this approach takes the pressure off the individual who may have some reservations about making a trip down the “sawdust trail.” A second option is to invite everyone to come to the front of the church at the same time, but ask those who need salvation, or who have a special need, to step to the front of those who gather to the altar.
One can also ask the leaders in the church to come forward and be prepared to pray with those who will follow. This presupposes, with faith, that others will be coming.
Regardless of the approach you take, several things are important:
1. Make your invitation clear.
2. Be honest. Don’t have people come for one reason and then switch to some other objective. It is the old “bait and switch.” To do this causes discomfort and a long term loss of confidence.
3. Be courteous. Jesus was abrupt and aggressive, but He was never rude.
4. An invitation should be given with confidence. Eye contact is important. A revivalist pastor who has significantly influenced my life is Charles (Sonny) Nugent of Lake Charles, Louisiana. I noticed that his sermons close with a positive expectation … to the point that he is nodding his head…agreeing with his own point. That smiling, nodding sense of expectation encourages people to come to the altar.
Praying with seekers
Evangelism does not end when people have responded by coming to the altar. Every preacher needs to be busy working with those who respond. First observation, don’t just stand back. If you are not comfortable praying with people learn from one who is.
Some people have a unique ability to pray people through to the gift of the Holy Ghost. Someone commented that Chicago Pastor Perry Walker could “pray through” a door-knob if it would repent. Evangelist David Smith, Pastor Sonny Nugent, Pastor Jack Cunningham … and a host of others are effective with this aspect of the work. Just a few days back in Columbus, Ohio, Evangelist Doug Klinedinst did an excellent job in leading a host of people to repent. He spoke a release of faith into the audience. That night 1,108 people received the Holy Ghost. There may be some gifting involved, but there are some things we can all learn about being effective in praying with seekers.
1. Don’t be intimidated.
2. Take charge of the situation.
3. Give instruction to the seeker.
4. Communicate what the seeker can expect.
5. Lead to repentance.
6. Speak faith and release.
A number of resources dealing with “praying with seekers!” are available from HM Sales.
Each person is on a different journey. Some visitors will come to the altar who are not ready to do much else. Being sensitive to the human spirit is important. Sometimes one can pray with those who are not ready to pray on their own behalf. Don’t feel as though you must lay hands on the top of their head. It is effective to take a person’s hands in your own and pray with them. Let the Holy Ghost use your prayer to speak into their life.
1. Listen to several of your favorite sermons on tape. Listen as though you were an unbeliever…one particularly illiterate regarding the scripture. Would you understand what was being communicated?
2. From the same sermons did you hear enough gospel to get you saved? Was the message one of “good news?”
3. Once again review the past two months of your preaching (or the preaching you listen to). Based on that what is the default setting of that preaching?
4. Think about those two months of preaching. How many times was there one lost lamb in the congregation and you fed the ninety and nine?
This article “Wrapping Up the Win – Closing the Sale” by Carlton L. Coon Sr. is excerpted from Director’s Communiqué the November/December 2006 edition.