Life Compass
Keeping You Pointed in the Right Direction

The Altar Call

I grew up in a Dutch Reformed church. Services were dry and lifeless. It was simply assumed that if you were there you were a Christian. The only time the gospel was ever explained and an invitation to accept Christ offered was by a guest missionary couple teaching at VBS. I remember the minister telling them later, “we do not do that here. We do not pressure people.” I had no idea what that meant.

As a teenager my mother took us to an independent fundamental church. Total contrast. The music was uplifting, the messages were vibrant and practical and understandable, and the gospel was clear and plain. Then there was thing called The Altar Call. WOW! You actually had an opportunity to go forward and kneel or stand before the Lord and allow the Holy Spirit to work on your heart, or you surrender or deal with an area of your life. It was ALIVE and God was REAL!

I am concerned over the growing number of evangelical and fundamental leaders, teachers, and preachers who are dismissing the altar call.

They contend that altars have no place in a NT church, this is simply emotionalism, Finney started altar calls not the Apostle Paul, and on and on it goes. These are the same lame arguments extreme fundamentalists’ used a decade ago that power point and movie screens had no place in a Christ honoring church. In fact, one well known fundamental pastor from the West Coast wrote a booklet about movie screens in a church were a pathway to liberalism. Pleeeeeeeeeeease.

An altar is simply a point of reference for a decision. There is something about inviting people forward after they have experienced Holy Spirit conviction in an area of their lives. Did Finney invent the modern altar call? Yes. So what? Someone had to be first. Just like some church was first to use PA equipment, broadcast on the radio, or use electric instruments.

An altar call is a tool. People can look back and remember the night they were converted, convicted, or consecrated.

John MacArthur argues that Paul would not use altar calls today.  He said that altar calls are nothing more then guilt trips and manipulation.

Oh, brother…

He sites I Corinthians 2:4 that Paul was humble and would not draw attention to his message but let the Holy Spirit do it. Really? Are you serious? In II Corinthians 5:11 Paul said he persuaded men to the gospel. What does that mean? Force. In I Corinthians 9:22 the same Apostle said he must be all things to all people. Why? So that some might be saved. Sounds like Paul did whatever it took.

Funny, these same people have no problem with a marriage altar. But an altar used to confess sin or make things right with the Lord … NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

The real issue is NOT the Bible. First, it’s their own lack of understanding. Yes, Paul and the apostle’s DID persuade men. Second, some of these men have no power or anointing to their preaching to draw people to an altar. Third, they do not want a place where God could potentially deal with their sin.

When I resigned the pastorate  in New York and moved to Florida. I spent many days and hours pacing and kneeling at the altar in my church. I cried out for grace, mercy, and forgiveness. I burned some bitter tears. Today, they are precious memories.

Bring back the altar! Bring back the altar call!

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