Monday Morning Insights

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    Ahh…. the altar call.  I remember it well…

    Ahh…. the altar call.  I remember it well…

    Growing up independent fundamental baptist, I've sat through my share of altar calls, feeling an overwhelming sense of guilt at over half of them.  When I was growing up, I thought "Just as I am" had 327 verses.  I remember rolling my eyes when so and so went forward (like they did every Sunday).  And I remember being upset when someone waited until the 326th verse of Just as I am to FINALLY go forward.

    The traditional altar call is gone from many churches (and I'm not so sure that is a bad thing... at least the way we did it growing up).  But thanks to YouTube, you can now re-live all the glory that was 'the altar call' with this new release.

    Take a look:

    I'm wondering... does your church still do altar calls?  Why or why not?

    If not... what has replaced the altar call at your church?  Do you still look to the Sunday service for most people to make their decision for Christ, or does that happen somewhere else in your church life?

    Oh... if I only had a dollar for every time I heard the phrase "Heads bowed, eyes closed".  (I thought that was actually a Bible verse.)

    Love to hear your thoughts on this one...


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    1. Ron Carter on Mon, January 10, 2011

      Hey, it worked pretty well for Billy Graham.

    2. gsharp01 on Mon, January 10, 2011

      I am thankful I didn’t grow up in a church that seemingly has caused so much “emotional stress” to so many as I find on this sight.  We were definitely conservative, probably even fundamental in the approach to God’s Word, and had a proper understanding of the grace of God.  We had, as does the church I am currently in, a time of commitment following the message.  It wasn’t forced or unnatural and included the offering collection.  No one ever sang or pushed it to go any longer than it seemed it should, based on the response of those present - sometimes this is brief and others it is not.

      It’s easy for anyone to look from the outside of an organization and find what they do odd, laughable, or offensive.  The real question is what in my life would fall in those categories?

    3. Phil DiLernia on Mon, January 10, 2011

      Todd I agree that there are many ways that God’s Spirit can call people to faith ... altar calls are just one of them.  You may not think so but your short article did seem to be making fun of that particular method.

      I’ve watched God call many people to Him in many different manners (one person told me they came to Christ after watching The Bodyguard) and I love every single testimony.  My own person testimony is coming forward at a Billy Graham Crusade ...

      It has been my experience that when messages are focused on Jesus and teaching the difference between Jesus’s Kingdom and His enemy’s kingdom that non-believers will respond ... not because of the gift of the speaker but because of the working of God’s Spirit. 

      It is my opinion that God is seeking more focus on Jesus in the Church (I know that sounds crazy but we don’t focus on Him enough in our preaching and teaching) and when we do God’s Spirit does what God’s Spirit is always ready and willing to do.

      Just my opinion only.

      God’s peace!

    4. Jim B. on Mon, January 10, 2011

      I am amazed that some of you had the Reader’s Digest version of Just As I Am with only 327 verses.  Some of us had the entire, unabridged version that went around 520 verses.  Plus, I heard no mention of the “tragic train wreck” story that accompanied the long version.  Because it seems every evangelist who came to our church when I was young all told the story of the man who did not respond to the altar call, but he then died on the way home from service when his car was hit by a train.  I was always amazed at how many of the “unrepentant” were hit by wayward trains after church services. 

      Through the years, I’ve asked many who attend churches with revival services if they have ever heard the train story, and almost all have said they have heard it by different evangelists.  What a coincidence! 

      So, I’ve concluded that anyone who attends revival services, and who has to drive over train tracks on the return trip home, must surely endure the long version of “Just As I Am”, so that they have every opportunity to repent.  Because if they don’t, their numbers are definitely up…... So, keep singing; there is a train waiting for them somewhere down the tracks.

    5. Pastor Rick on Mon, January 10, 2011

      We sing an invitation hymn every Sunday, at which time I’m trying to bring us as a congregation - under the leadership of Holy Spirit - to the “So What?” portion of the meeting. As in, “based on what I’ve heard today, this is what I need to do about it”. The length of the invitation varies (usually no more than 2 verses of a hymn), the goal is always to give people a chance to publicly respond to God’s prompting, not mine.I’m rarely surprised by those who do come forward, as we’ve usually talked beforehand. But I’m not a big fan of the 327 verses of emotional blackmail either.

    6. Phil DiLernia on Mon, January 10, 2011

      Whenever I come back to these blogs I’m reminded of why I leave them for prolonged periods. 

      I am so saddened that so many have such bad memories of church.  I never attended a church until I was saved at one of those horrible altar calls at a Billy Graham Crusade at the Veterans Memorial Stadium in Philadelphia.  I was 32 years old and didn’t have these negative experiences to grouse about.  All I had was the shame of my own sin to look back on with no church and no person to speak to me about Jesus.

      I would encourage a read of Jonah.  Passing on God’s Words, Jonah tells the Ninevites that they had 40 days to repent ... or in this context 40 days before their train came to hit them!  While we shouldn’t use ‘force’ or ‘compulsion’ in presenting Jesus’ Gospel to others ... there is a proper place for allowing others the opportunity to think about “I’ll just deal with God after I’m done screwing around.”  That is horrible thinking and they may in fact not be around long enough to have their hearts softened.  If it was done hokey in your church I am sorry.

      It’s no wonder that God’s Church in the U.S.A. is in such trouble ... to many of us really don’t like it all that much.

    7. Phil DiLernia on Mon, January 10, 2011

      Ooops ... just as a matter of point.  We don’t use verses or hymns during our invitations.  We recount (very short) and sometimes slightly re-construct the message in a sentence or two and invite those who are sensing God’s Call on their hearts/minds to respond and confess. repent, ask, receive and to begin a brand new life with Jesus.

    8. Lori on Mon, January 10, 2011

      I grew up with not just ‘Just As I Am’ but all 153 verses of “The Savior is Waiting” and boy howdy, did He have to wait on some Sundays.

      Our church now does not usually have an altar call.  A commitment song, prayer and one more song as a close.  The pastor is always available to pray with as well as elders.  Once in a while we will have an altar call but it is rare.

    9. David on Tue, January 11, 2011

      I am sorry Todd, but the video just wasn’t funny. Not that I was offended by it or anything, I just didn’t think it was funny. I do think we need to be careful making fun of each other in God’s family though.
      I do have what some might call an alter call only I call it a crosscall because I believe I am inviting people to the cross more so than a banaster. Sometimes I even tell people they can come past the alter and right to the cross on the wall if they chose.
      Just this past Sunday we had ‘family’ at the alter where I invited the entire church family to come and pray together. It might seem hokey, but the alter is a great place for the family to come together to fight some great battles for one another.
      We also have a crosscall before reading of the Word and the sermon so our people can clear the air between them and God and remove any obstacle that may hinder them from hearing God that day. We call that Foot of the Cross time and it gives people a way to share prayer needs & praises as it leads us into pastoral prayer.
      Alter calls, hokey maybe; but many a great victories have been won at an alter, mine was.

    10. Steve Long on Tue, January 11, 2011

      Rick, I kinda view confessing Jesus Christ before men as something that happens in the way we live..not something that happens in the gathering of the local congregation. Confessing Christ at an alter call in the midst of mainly beleivers does not do much to advance the Good News in the world, but living what we beleive is a meaningful and powerful confession before beleivers and non-beleivers. The alter call in some respects may be a way for us to think we have covered the next thing on God’s checkoff list (confessing Christ before men so He will confess us before the Father). Jesus is constantly advocating for us before the Father so every moment of our lives should probably be a fervent confession of Him.

    11. pezz on Thu, January 13, 2011

      This is kind of bizarre.  Altar calls are nothing more than offering a decision point for someone.  You kind find those type of “come to Jesus” moments all throughout scripture.  Why not have one in church?  Perhaps it’s because so many, preach so poorly, that if they did have an altar call no one would respond.  What sealed the deal for me was an altar call.  When I was in seminary I was having a conversation with someone 10 years my senior and I asked him why he had come to seminary at this particular point.  He said, he had grown up in a presbyterian church and always knew he should be saved, and that he wanted to be saved.  But it wasn’t until a friend invited him to a revival at a Baptist Church and at the conclusion of the sermon he invited people to come forward and accept Christ with a prayer of repentance and faith.  He said, ” I did, and now I’m studying for ministry.  I would have gotten saved sooner if someone would have just asked me the question and been willing to show me the way.  I like the way the Baptist Church did it, better than the way you don’t.

    12. John Burton on Thu, January 13, 2011

      I think it’s often an extension of the way the service was leading… the ‘encountering God’ focus during worship, teaching, etc. will lead people to crave that… it’s very different than a simple, intellectual response to what was taught.

      Also, for some reason church services have defaulted to being ‘teaching centric’... the sermon has become the focus. What if we had one giant altar service from beginning to end… intermixed with intercession, worship, scripture reading, etc.?

    13. gsharp01 on Thu, January 13, 2011

      In agree with PEZZ…to even mention this as being “odd” does seem bizarre. The fact that some do it in an odd way makes THEM odd, but having an altar call or time for commitment, decision, etc. isn’t. It is an extension of worship.

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