Altar Calls?

Discussion in 'History Forum' started by ThankULord, Nov 7, 2009.

  1. ThankULord

    ThankULord
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    1. When did the practice of having altar calls first start?

    2. Are altar calls biblical, non-biblical, extra biblical, none of the above?
     
  2. Tom Bryant

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    There has always been a call to response to the Gospel. Acts 2 talks about Peter's call to belief. I doubt it was 5 stanzas of "Just As I Am", but there was some form of response for people to confess their faith publically by baptism.

    The public altar call is, I believe, a product of revivalism in the 1800's. I use them and think they are a good thing if it is coupled with trained personal workers.
     
  3. billwald

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    After the church lost its political protection as being a Jewish sect Christianity became outlawed. Meetings went underground and only trusted believers were given meeting locations. Don't think they needed altar calls.
     
  4. Revmitchell

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    Alter calls are not just about the saved. It can simply be a time of prayer for some who want the scriptural message to stay in their hearts, a time for recommittment, or even just a moment of praise.
     
  5. Jim1999

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    I never gave an altar call in all my ministry. I mentioned them in sermons, and did experience some people come forward in a meeting.

    Cheers,

    Jim
     
  6. ThankULord

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    Thanks for all your responses.

    Sounds like the general consensus so far is that the answer to question 2 is that its Biblical. Correct?

    Any idea how prevalent the altar call as we know it was between the apostolic times and the 1800's. (just trying to understand it in its historical context).
     
  7. billwald

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    It was probably almost unknown between Constantine and the Reformation. There is very little information about practice in Apostolic times to Constantine.
     
  8. Edward 1689er

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    Altar calls/inviting people to "walk the isle" are a recent man-made invention which was developed as part of the "new measures" of the later 18th century. They are un-biblical and are a major reason why we have church rolls filled with lost people who have "walked the isle" and therefore think they are regenerate.
     
  9. Salty

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    Nope - Alter calls are not un-biblical!, as they are NOT prohibited by scripture. If so, then electricity is also un-biblical.

    Personally, I do have a problem when you sing all 4 stanza of Just As I Am 4 times, esp when there are only a dozen of folks or so. I do agree that too many times a person thought a decision was made, simply by walking the aisle. That is the reason it is so important to have someone ready to counsel the individual.
     
  10. Edward 1689er

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    Dancing Bears are not "prohibited" in Scripture, so I guess you would say they are OK in worship also. Electricity is not an "element" of worship, but rather a "circumstance" of worship. There is a big difference between the "elements" and the "circumstances" of worship.
     
  11. Salty

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    Sorry, brother, you missed my entire point. One one hand, I think a point could be made that altar calls are not REQUIRED by scripture, but as I stated before that altar calls are NOT prohibited by scripture - therefore, they are not UN-biblical. If used properly, they can be effective, used inproperly, ... well you just have a lot of 3x5 cards filled out.

    Are dancing bears prohibited in scriptrue, not directly, but I suppose if you look at a verse such as I Peter 4:11 it would rule our your dancing bears.

    Salty
     
  12. Edward 1689er

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    Dear Brother,

    This is my point exactly. How do we determine what elements are to be included in worship? There are two approaches possible.

    The first is called the Regulative Principle of Worship, and is what Baptists have, in varying degrees, historically held. It states that God alone determines what is to be brought to Him in worship, and He has made it clear in the Scriptures. What He has command explicitly, and that only, is to be included. In this approach the Bible Alone "Regulates" worship. It would be a denial of the Sufficiency of Scripture to add to what God has commanded. If it is not command, then it is prohibited, and therefore un-biblical.

    The second approach, called the Normative Principle of Worship, says that in addition to what Scripture says, men may invent, create, and add to God's worship based on what men believe is good, enjoyable, smart in their eyes, or useful. This approach has historically been the practice of Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans. They do not restrict their elements of worship to what God has commanded in New Covenant worship, but rather add things based on tradition, human "wisdom," and patterns of OT worship (which has been fulfilled in Christ) Over the last 100 years, Baptists have slowly moved away from the first approach and increasingly adopted the second. Of course, most don't even realize this because of our general ignorance of history. This approach says, "If we think an altar call is good, then do it." It all becomes a function of human wisdom, pragmatism (if it "works" - do it!), and often "tradition."

    Think of it this way, if men must have a prohibition explicitly from Scripture for everything that cannot be used in worship, then just think how big our Bibles would have to be. In God's wisdom, what is commanded is to done in worship, what is not commanded is prohibited (and thus un-biblical). The Scriptures are sufficient!

    Blessings!
     
    #12 Edward 1689er, Nov 10, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 10, 2009
  13. Revmitchell

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    If people think they are regenerate because they walked the isle, the problem is not the walking of the isle but failure to communicate the gospel correctly. Walking the isle is inconsequential to salvation.
     
  14. Edward 1689er

    Edward 1689er
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    The problem is employing a practice which has no Biblical basis and which creates the false impression that coming to the front of the building is a part of coming to Christ. Of course, as you have correctly stated, altar calls are inconsequential to salvation. Salvation is of the Lord! Do the folks at the average Baptist church, believe in practice that they are inconsequential? In most of them, the altar call has become a sacred cow and the point to which the whole service is leading. To remove it would be seen as not being evangelistic, or concerned for the lost, or zealous to see God add to His church. I have actually had people say to me when this highly emotional issue comes up "Then how will people get saved?" or "Your not giving them the opportunity to make a decision!" (As if a person couldn't receive Christ right there in the pew).

    The fact is that the altar call has done much harm to the souls of men by pressing them to make a quick "profession," quickly giving them false assurance, and then adding them to the church. It is true, there are churches that are more careful than others, and not all are as "high pressure" as some. Yet, in the end, when men add to God ordained worship that which men want to do (regardless of sincere motives) the result is "strange fire" and error.

    The point is, how do we decide what elements are to be included in worship. Has God commanded that we call people to walk down the isle to the front of the building at the conclusion of the message, while the congregation softly sings "Just as I Am?" We are to call sinners to Christ, but not the front of the building.

    Blessings!
     
  15. Revmitchell

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    You place the blame on the wrong thing. Most of the evangelism done on the street is done in the same hap hazard manner as you describe with regards to the alter call. And I do not argue against that. I am with you on the quick and unscriptural manner in which we present the gospel. But throwing the alter call out does nothing to correct this. And it can be corrected while using the alter call. Of course alter calls are not just about salvation but are for and have always been for the saved as well.

    You made several claims of alter calls not being biblical or prescribed for worship but quickly move back to the failed presentation of the gospel. You seem to be all over the place with that. And I would argue that worship is not just a sunday morning meeting but a lifestyle.

    The gospel presentation is just that and steps down the isle do not effect it for the good or bad. Being given an opportunity to come down the isle and immediately respond to God is never a bad thing. There is nothing wrong with the alter call and no legitimate criticism has been given. But we do not need to be in a hurry to add people to the membership roles.
     
  16. Johnv

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    Usually about 45 mins into the service :wavey:
    Altar calls are neither biblically mandated, nor biblically condemned. It's up to each church to decide their own custom regarding altar calls.
     
  17. Edward 1689er

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    Dear Brother,

    I believe that ultimately this is an issue regarding ones view of worship. In modern times men have, based upon their own wisdom and cleverness, concocted a new element for worship which was not commanded by the Living and True God, and have boldly inserted it into worship. Again, the question is, who determines the elements of worship? Are we free to invent any new element for worship that we believe is helpful? It appears that this this what you believe.

    Again, I realize how much this recent man-made invention has become a sacred cow among the churches. Christ Jesus has not commanded us to include such a practice. That is the only "legitimate criticism" needed for me. May a day come when King Jesus is allowed to rule His church and govern its worship!

    Blessings!
     
  18. Johnv

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    Most of how we worship is man-made. As long as we're worshipping in spirit and in truth, then our most of our manmade customs are permissible. Doesnt' matter if it's altar calls, three hymns, a prayer, and a message, communion from a tray and cups, the use of hymnals, etc etc etc.
     
  19. Edward 1689er

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    If altar calls are not biblically mandated, then they are biblically condemned. It is not up to the church to "decide." How "democratic" is that? Let's just throw it up for a vote. The Living and True God is not a democrat! He alone determines what is biblical worship.

    Blessings!
     
    #19 Edward 1689er, Nov 10, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 10, 2009
  20. Johnv

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    By that reckoning:

    If the use of grape juice and crackers is not biblically mandated, they are biblically condemned.
    If the use of kneelers and pews are not biblically mandated, they are biblically condemned.
    biblically mandated, they are biblically condemned.
    If the use of musical instruments is not biblically mandated, they are biblically condemned.
    If hymnals is not biblically mandated, they are biblically condemned.
    If pressed and printed bibles are not biblically mandated, they are biblically condemned.
    If the passing of the offering plate is not biblically mandated, they are biblically condemned.
     

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