Altar Calls

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Steven2006, May 24, 2007.

  1. Steven2006

    Steven2006
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    I am curious, what verses could be used to best support the use of altar calls? I guess my question is, are altar calls more a tradition or are they more biblically based? And if you feel they are more biblically based, from what verses? Thanks in advance for your replies.
     
  2. Scarlett O.

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    Steven,

    I believe that altar calls are a man-made tradition and not a biblical directive.

    However, I believe that they are a good thing. By inviting people to come and pray at the altar, be saved, or be restored, altar calls allow people to express their convictions publicly whether they express their words publicly or not.

    I heard a revival pastor say once, "When was the last time you walked down the aisle and proclaimed the Lordship of Jesus Christ over your life?" Many people, many strong and active Christians, walked the aisle that morning. Most wanted just to express what Jesus meant to them and renew their convictions.



     
  3. Tom Butler

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    Up until the middle of the 19th century, altar calls, or invitations, were practically unheard of. I don't know who got the idea,but it was perfected by Charles Finney.

    I suppose that, even if there's no scriptural basis for it, invitations are not necessarily bad. Just not necessary. I have spent my entire life as a Baptist in churches which give invitations at the end of the message. In each case, it involves some "altar call music," some congregational singing and exhortation to "come forward." Often the preacher is speaking over all this, urging people to come.

    Occasionally, the preacher will ask the congregation to bow their heads and pray while the instruments play. Sometimes he will exhort, at other times he will wait silently. Oh, and the congregation and choir are standing all the time.

    None of this is without rationale. The idea is to create an atmosphere which touches the emotions. Standing makes it easier to step out than sitting. In other words, in the wrong hands, it is very manipulative, which springs from a strong desire to elicit a response, sometimes at any cost.

    I have asked this question many times. Where is the altar in a Baptist church? What can we do there (if we can find it), that we can't do in our seats, or at home? I know, I know, we're making a public declaration.

    When I raised questions about the usefulness of invitations, the response was, "well, how do people get saved if we don't have an invitation?" Think about the implications of that question. Here's another: "Well, what if you failed to give an invitation and a lost man walked out of the church and got killed by a lightning strike." Think about the implications in that question.

    It is as if the Holy Spirit cannot illuminate, convict, draw and change a person's heart without that invitation.

    Look at the end of Pauls sermon on Mars Hill and you'll see how far we've strayed from a Biblical exhortation.

    And speculate on what it would be like for the preacher to call on the lost to repent and trust Christ-----and just shut up and wait. No music, no choir, no nothing, but silence.
     
  4. Jkdbuck76

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    We have them. Very few people respond, but they do.

    Most people are saved outside of an altar call. Praise God, I was
    saved on my friend's patio! A woman I know was saved in my
    other friend's kitchen when he and his wife shared the gospel.

    We had a man in our service come forward at an altar call
    a month ago.

    Sure, they didn't have altar calls in th NT church, but they
    didn't have padded pews. Cars. Meeting in a building that
    is not a home. Electricity. Glasses. Air Conditioning.
    Sound System. Pianos. Am I saying that the altar call
    is an innovatioin? YES.
     
  5. pinoybaptist

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    Short answer. None.
     
  6. Pastor Larry

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    An altar call is one of the ways in which the God's command to all people everywhere to repent is fufilled. It can be done, or it does not have to be done. There is no biblical reason not to do it though we normally do not do it here.

    the call for a response to the message is part of the worship. If you do not call for a response, then you are not worshipping. That response can be public or not.
     
  7. christianyouth

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    Excellent post! :thumbs:
     
  8. Tom Butler

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    Agreed.

    But every response does not have to be a public response.

    My main concern is the potential for abuse of the invitation. I have seen preachers so desperate to elicit a response that he will literally make up stuff to respond to.

    Exhorting the lost to repent and turn to Christ is always appropriate. But, how many times have you seen a preacher--failing to get much aisle-walking--will ask those to come forward who want to rededicate their lives; those who have prayer burdens (to the "altar" of course); those who need prayer (to the "altar," of course); if someone has been a blessing, go to them and hug them; or if just want to "shake your fist at the devil," come on down; or just to "show whose side you're on," come on down."

    You see, when you can get 'em to come down, you can report a bunch of "decisions."
     
  9. Hardsheller

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    We Southern Baptists are reaping the results of decades of altar calls. We have millions of members we can't even find and they all responded to altar calls - apparently without any change of heart.
     
  10. pinoybaptist

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    I have been under two pastors whose altar call was halfway as long as the sermon, they actually had five or six songs in their list that they repeat and repeat until the pastors stop the invitation.

    And this despite the fact that there were times we only had very few visitors.

    Oh, by the way, one was the "protege" of the other, if you know what I mean.
     
  11. tinytim

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    It's times like these you go forward just to get the preacher to shut-up!

    And that is exactly what some have done... resulting in a fake salvation experience.
     
  12. Pastor Larry

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    I agree. That's why I say that it doesn't matter. You can have a public invitation or not have one. I am concerned about the abuse of it as well.

    Pinoybaptist, FTR, this was not my comment as your post #10 attributes it. It was made by Tom in response to my post.

    Not many. But I didn't grow up in that kind of church.
     
  13. preachinjesus

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    we don't do altar calls. We don't believe they work for our situation. I'm sure they do in other situations, I've served in churches that use them.

    The foundation for the doctrine doesn't come from Scripture as much as just simple philosophy of ministry.

    I've got nothing wrong with anyone who uses them, we just don't use them since they don't fit our model. :)
     
  14. David Lamb

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    Like several others who have already replied, I would say that "The Altar Call" (in the sense of the preacher pleading with people to get up out of their seats, come to the front and accept Jesus as their Saviour) is not biblical, but encouraging people to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved definitely is biblical.

    However, one thing that hasn't been mentioned yet is the very name, "altar call". Such a name is misleading, to say the least. For example, the Wkipedia article "Altar Call" states:

    "It is so named because the supplicants gather at the altar located at the front of the church. Most altar calls occur at the end of an evangelical address. The invitation may be referred to as an "altar call" even if there is no actual altar present."

    I'm aware that anyone can write an article for Wikipedia, so the writer may have been wrong, but if so, I'm sure he or she is not the only person to be misled into think that way. Perhaps the origin of the name was the idea of Jesus Christ Himself being the altar, prefigured by the Old Testament altars and sacrifices. But to me,it still seems a misleading name for the practice.
     
  15. pinoybaptist

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    I stand corrected, Pastor Larry.
    My apologies.
     
    #15 pinoybaptist, May 26, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: May 26, 2007
  16. Tom Butler

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    Let me say a word in defense of many good pastors who do invitations. They do them because that is all they have ever known. They would strongly insist that they try not to be manipulative. They will point out that Jesus had something to say about confessing him before men.

    The majority of these are non-Calvinists, and see altar calls as perfectly consistent with their theology. They see human beings as having a power of choice, and seek to influence that choice in their appeals. As a Calvinist, I see some flaws, of course, but do not question their sincerity. Nor do I believe that God is boxed in by those flaws.

    I also know a couple of Calvinist pastor-friends who still use the invitation. But both tell me that they are very careful in the wording of the appeal. They say the appeal is purposely low-key. One of them will often not end a service with the invitation, but will open the doors of the church when he knows in advance that people will come to ask for membership.

    So I hold that it is possible to use invitations in a responsible manner, and that the biggest problem with them is their misuse.
     
  17. Tom Butler

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    Actually, I kinda like having my comments attributed to Pastor Larry. Makes me look a whole lot smarter.
     
  18. HankD

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    It would seem that even God Himself discourages "altar" calls.

    Matthew 5
    23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
    24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

    OK, so it's obviously "under the law".

    But what is the application for us in the 21st century?

    Well, if your brother (which implies the fatherhood of God and hence the new birth) has "ought" (something) against you, then you are required to at least try to make it good before you go to the altar with your re-dedication or comittment to service or "whatever".

    BTW, it seems that this is one place where God puts something/someone before Himself in the greater schema of things.

    I believe altar calls are biblical in the above NT applicable sense of Matthew 5:23.

    Generally and IMO, they are good for a call to salvation because folks do it publically. Of course that is one of the features of believers baptism in terms of a public demonstration of faith in and obedience to Christ.

    IMO, altar calls should be used sparingly, not prolonged with the requirements of the invitation clear and concise.


    HankD
     
  19. mcdirector

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    A saw an altar call terribly misused - I've seen others misused, but this one was outrageous.

    It was in chapel, a young youth minister did a nice service on body image and then did an altar call for the youth who were struggling with their body image. A few came down to pray with the staff that he'd arranged. He wasn't happy with this and harangued and berated until almost all were down there. The altar call was longer than the message. Nearly everyone felt badly about their body image -- boy's and girl's alike. Adults and teens. Wailing and gnashing of teeth could be heard out the sanctuary doors. He was quite satisfied with himself. There were teachers who were very happy that day. I was appalled.
     
  20. rbell

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    Hence my personal reluctance to use evangelists...until I've satisfied myself that:
    • They are not driven by response numbers (hence manipluative invitations).
    • I feel certain that the response to the Word will be such as to bring God glory, not the evangelist.
    • Whoever is speaking at anything regarding "my bunch" (yes, I know they're not mine, but you know what I mean)...they understand quite clearly that they are to listen to what I say regarding invitations, response/commitment time, etc. That is...if we do an invitation, and I think it's been extended long enough, the evangelist doesn't decide on his own to extend it. I'm not sure I said this clearly, but oh well...
    I'm not trying to insinuate that evangelists don't have their place...of course they do! But as far as the bunch I run with goes...it seems like my pastor & youth pastor friends are more sensitive to not being manipulative during commitment time. And being as my target group (predominantly teenagers) can be easily manipulated, I appreciate folks who are careful in that realm. I've had to clean up too many messes with those who would play on emotions, drama, etc., just to get a half-dozen more down the aisle.
     

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