Thanks for your thoughtful responses to my last post on altar calls. The consensus is “it depends.” So my next question is: it depends on what? Let’s talk about the factors determining methodology when the Bible is silent.

How does your personal experience influence your methodology?

Many of you referenced personal spiritual growth as a result of the altar call. You also perceived times when the altar call was more man’s pleading than the Spirit’s leading. Experience is both valuable and myopic. We cannot distill the two effects (King Solomon). We can remain humble and teachable allowing our own experiences to mature with Scriptural clarity, providential opportunities, and relationships. I love Jude’s admonition:

Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

What’s the correlation between frequency and effectiveness?

In most contexts, you would agree that greater frequency leads to more effectiveness. Don Bradman improved his hand-eye coordination using a stump and golf ball. Master teachers improve their ability to teach by teaching more often. So why do we argue that greater frequency in church methodology reduces effectiveness? If this is your position, how do you keep other methods from becoming overused? Here’s a couple for you: Should we have announcements after formal worship begins? Should we have services built around communion (instead of communion bolted onto the service)?

How much emotion is too much emotion?

Phillip Brooks defined preaching as “truth through personality.” The passionate communication of God’s word is endorsed (Jeremiah 20:9) and witnessed (take your pick) throughout Scripture. The danger lies in emotion divorced from Scriptural truth.

How does moderation improve church methodology?

This question is the flip side of the frequency/effectiveness debate. Moderation can improve method by allowing more time for refinement (for example, special music in church services). Many of you noted that moderation enhances reception. I concur.

Can you think of additional factors that influence methodology (denominational preference, hermeneutics, etc)?

share this article

About Jeremy Kwok

Jeremy grew up in Sydney before moving to the United States for tertiary studies. Jeremy completed the BA, MA (History), and M.Div degrees before returning to Australia with his wife Debbie. He currently works for Christian Education Ministries, a company that owns and operates private schools.


  1. Jason Harris 4 March, 2010 at 12:47 pm - Reply

    I think the single biggest factor in all of this is the theological factor. The “altar call” methodology tends to thrive in the context of decisional theology.

    Those of us who do not subscribe to the decisional mentality may use the same method, but we will almost invariably use it for different reasons.

  2. Jane 4 March, 2010 at 8:43 pm - Reply

    It depends on the leading of the Spirit of God. He is not a God who is tied to methods. Think of all the different ways He has called men to respond to His voice throughout history! Let’s not limit His work to a methodology. The altar call is far from the only method through which we may answer His call.

  3. Jane 4 March, 2010 at 9:21 pm - Reply

    PS on that last comment: if altar calls are for the gratification of the preacher (this many responded to my message, etc.), then how can they be a methodology that is led by the Spirit of God?

  4. Steve Warren 4 March, 2010 at 9:45 pm - Reply

    I guess that your methods would reflect your position on whether you think anyone can actually lead someone to the Lord or whether the Lord draws men to Himself. Surely this happens as we faithfully lay out the Gospel truth and God by The Holy Spirit calls people to alter their direction and focus from the world and self to God. The Gospel is clearly the power of God unto salvation but many men are inclined to resort to all sorts of emotional and theatrical hyjinks to give the Holy spirit a helping hand, as if He needed it? We are often results focussed and a really stirring evangelical service with the right hymns will certainly move people to come forward, some will be genuine but I fear many are moved by emotion rather than The Holy Spirit. Is it any wonder that so many fall away or continually seek greater and more spectacular “religious events” to recapture the euphoria of that first decision moment. Maybe I am just to cynical or influenced by the fact that God called me personally and quietly during an ordinary church service of dubious quality and no altar call was involved, but the Holy Spirit most definitely called me to alter my direction, focus and life. Having said all that I think there is still justification to issue a challenge from time to time and even to use emotionally stirring hymns but rather than spending countless hours of preparation for the perfect evangelistic service, the bulk of the time would be better spent in serious prayer. But God is infinitely good and I think sometimes he winks at our naivety and blesses and uses the most dubious of our methods to still call men and women to repentance and faith in Christ.

  5. Steve Warren 4 March, 2010 at 9:52 pm - Reply

    My apologies, forgot to capitalize Spirit in the second paragraph of the previous comment, possibly influenced by a certain new sign with similar grammatical ommissions!

Leave A Comment