In the last few years there seems to have been a move away from calling for a response to the Gospel after preaching amongst my friends and peers. This has largely been due to a rediscovery of the theology of the Sovereignty of God in salvation - a realization that it is God who gives a person faith to believe and repent, not the preacher. This has meant a reluctance on preachers' behalf to meddle with God's work in people, trying to give them space to respond as God regenerates and convicts, rather than attempt to move people towards a decision.
I have appreciated aspects of this attitude in the sense that it is reverential towards God and His Gospel, and respectful towards people. Many of us have sat in meetings where Charles Finney -style evangelistic techniques have been used to manipulate people into a decision. I was in a funeral a few months ago where the preacher stood next to the coffin after his preach and said, "If you want to see this person in heaven one day, then give your life to Jesus today." I too, want nothing to do with this kind of approach. It is both heartless and faithless.
However, I do see much biblical evidence of preachers calling for a decisive response from their hearers. Jesus' first words recorded in the Gospel of Mark were,
"The kingdom of heaven is near. Repent and believe the Gospel." His next words to Peter and his fishing companions were, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." Essentially his message came with a call, "Repent. believe. Follow." And they did.
Paul too, was not merely an explainer of Gospel truth. He was a proclaimer, calling for a response. "Therefore, I implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." (2 Cor 6)He explained, proclaimed and pleaded!
I think this is the nub of the issue. Many who have rediscovered reformed theology tend towards explaining the Gospel, which leads to clarity, but avoid proclaiming it, which leads to response. They are worried that imploring can get in the way of God's sovereign work. Paul however, didn't seem to see a conflict between the two, understanding that a Sovereign God graciously uses the foolishness of preaching as He Sovereignly awakens people to faith. "For it pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save those who would believe." (1 Cor 1:21)
This is why I have resisted the pressure from some of my friends to stop calling for a Gospel response at the end of a message, because it is now 'out of vogue.' I know there will be those who respond insincerely, some even out of a wrong understanding of the Gospel. We need to be open to changing the way we call for a response so that there is no confusion or manipulation. But there will always be those whom God has awakened to faith in the Gospel by His Spirit. They require the preacher to impress upon them the decisive urgency of the moment. "Today if you hear his voice do not harden your heart. Today is the day of salvation."