Question originally posted: Sat Dec 30, 2006 11:23 pm
(The AG Message Board was hacked so it was shut down, so I posted it here.)
Tell me what you think. There is an increasing number of ministers who do not give altar calls or call their people to a time of reflective response at the close of the services. There's also a trend of not having people walk to the altar to/for prayer, but rather simply raise their hand if they want to acknowledge something the pastor has requested. This approach, while seemingly respectful, and I've used it myself many times, does offer a few set backs, as well. (I'm not sure it's substantiated as a biblical pattern for salvation. I'm quite sure it decreases the opportunity for ever actually getting the person's name/follow up information. I'm questionably sure it may even shallow the focused level of commitment on the part of the person who may raise their hand. Somehow, a public confession at an altar does bring one to a legitimatly more choiced commitment. What's your thoughts?
Pastor Joe Girdler
My Response to Pastor Girdler's question I posted Feb 18, 2008:
A call to repentance should be given at some point during each service. It only takes a few minutes to Biblically explain the Gospel. Unfortunately, most of the "altar calls" that are given today do not present a clear understanding of the Gospel and leave the "sinner" unsure exactly what it is that they are doing when they walk forward and fill out a "decision card". Too often, we use cliche's that are not Biblical like "if you want to accept Jesus" or "if you want to ask Jesus into your heart". A number of years ago I was present when a pastor asked if there was anyone in the room that wanted to "join Team Jesus" during a sports-themed message. YIKES!! Just what exactly does that mean? For that matter, what do any of these cliche's mean!?! I really think that the "church" as a whole, regardless of denomination, needs to get back to calling people to Biblical repentance and presenting a clear understanding of the Gospel to the lost. "So, John, just what is a simple, clear, Biblical presentation of the Gospel" you might ask? Well, I'm glad you did! Click here for the answer. Obviously, this is an example and can be tailored as long as the Law is used to prepare a sinner's heart for grace. Jesus, without exception was always "Law to the proud and grace to the humble." I thank God for the many pastors out there (like mine) that give a clear understanding of the lost state of an individual using the Law as Jesus, Peter, Paul, Stephen, etc. did...leaving a person with no hope. And then revealing the magnificent love, grace and mercy of the cross and payment for sin. If a sinner does not understand that he has sinned, how can he repent? If he doesn't understand his hopeless state, just how "amazing" will God's grace be? Oh! One more thing...the whole "raise your hand thing" to signal that you want to be saved, um, I don't really care for, but it's just my personal opinion. (Althouth I can't find a Biblical model for it!) My thoughts are this...if someone won't take a bold stand for Christ around other Christians inside a church building, then they will not take a stand outside the church building where the world will hate them because of Him. We're asking peple to be sheepish when it comes to salvation and then be bold and faithful witnesses the next day! When I have had the opportunity to preach in the past I explain the Gospel and say this, "With every eye open, every head raised and everyone looking around, if you realize your need for the Savior and you are ready to repent and receive the grace, love and mercy that Christ offers you this day, stand up on your feet and come down to the front and cry out to God." Once they are finished praying (notice no "sinner's prayer") I or someone else will pray with them, not for salvation, but for God's guidance, will, etc. Obviously at this point they need to get involved in some sort of "New Believers" class to begin their discipleship.
How To Botch An Altar Call