Let’s discuss the use of altar calls in church services. For the purpose of this blog post, an altar call is an event that takes place after preaching. It involves an invitation from the preacher to come to the front of the church in response to the message.
1) Faith demands a response. In Scripture, there are many examples of men and women who believe on the name of the Lord Jesus and respond with a decision. This urgency can be implicit in an altar call.
2) Our Protestant tradition records the use of altar calls for almost two hundred and fifty years. If you attended a service with Wesley, Whitefield, and Spurgeon, you could be comfortable with altar calls after the worship service. Public decisions in churches came before the regular use of musical instruments in English services.
3) Prayer and accountability play an important role in personal sanctification. Because Christianity makes forgiveness so accessible (1 John 1:9), it’s easy to take it for granted. The right kind of accountability helps to build consistent responses.
1) There is no explicit Scriptural reference to altar calls in the historical or modern form. The Bible doesn’t talk about coming forward to the altar or going to a decision director who assigns people to counselors.
2) Altar calls can be the result of emotion, not conviction. The Scriptures and the Holy Spirit are the means of change. Critics of the altar call will highlight the pleading of the minister over the application of the word. Mixed metaphors can also confuse the real source of change (the altar vs. the person and work of Christ).
3) The word of God changes everyone. You should be changing even if you do not make a public affirmation. By emphasising the public over the private, we can create a perception that “I don’t need to change today because I don’t feel convicted enough.”
I’ve provided three arguments for and against the use of altar calls. I would like your opinion on the use of altar calls (for or against). I’ll add my own conclusion in the comments section tonight.