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'Just As I Am' - No More Altar Calls?

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  • 'Just As I Am' - No More Altar Calls?

    Is the American Church ashamed of giving invitations anymore (just because we're trying to be so PC)?

    Here are some more thoughts and some music: Just As I Am
    www.lowellhohstadt.com

  • #2
    Good question-

    I don't know what the deal is. I mean, if people don't have a strong enough constitution to stand up and make a decision, to step out and be a little uncomfortable, in a room full of believers whom have been there and done the same thing,then what will they do if their faith is really challenged? What will they do when they are put to a real test- like maintaining composure and taking the high road when everyone is waiting for you to falter so they can pounce on you? What will they do when finances are tight and they need to step out in real faith and do something like tithe or help others in need?

    It's interesting about how Paul often took churches and believers to task for still 'needing milk when they should be needing solid food'. People aren't growing in their faith. They aren't growing others.

    When I responded to the altar call, I thought it was the toughest thing there was- it was hard, but it was the gateway to real growth- and blessing.

    I am disappointed we are moving in the direction of less altar calls. If people are offended by alter calls, they aren't going to make it in the Kingdom very far...
    If we want to go places we haven't been, we will have to do things we haven't done.

    Comment


    • #3
      I personally take issue with people who assume all churches who don't have altar calls are scared of offending people, but hey, that's just from a guy who works in such a church and is probably biased anyway, so just ignore this comment.

      Nate
      Practical Worship

      Please Pray For My Wife

      Comment


      • #4
        If God is speaking to a person's heart about a needed life change, does the person have to come to the front of the church to do it? (I won't call it an altar, because we don't offer sacrifices there.) Wouldn't it be more beneficial to seek out the pastor and meet privately in a non-hurried atmosphere?

        I'm not against having people come to the front, my church does it, but there are many good churches who believe that if a person is serious about a decision they need to make, coming to the front isn't the important thing.

        Having said all that, I know that there are valid opinions on all sides of this issue, and God didn't think it necessary to tell us how it should be done.
        Tom

        Comment


        • #5
          I can only speak from my personal experience in a church where they played the closing song over and over and over until someone came forward. Someone walking down the aisle seemed to be proof the pastor was doing a great job. Even as a child I sensed this was manipulation. I know many people my age that went forward during an emotional invitation and have absolutely no evidence in their lives that they gave their lives to Christ that day...very sad. They seem to think that was all they needed to do.

          Comment


          • #6
            Well said, Lori.
            Tom

            Comment


            • #7
              I am not a big fan of the expected altar call. There are times when people will feel moved to step forward and have a pastor or one of the leadership team pray with them concerning something that is happening in their lives but to make a call awkward just to feel justified that your ministry is a personal success seems like it is stepping away from Christ somehow.

              Comment


              • #8
                I certainly agree that altar calls should not be an arm-twisting measure of success. The emotional aspect happens in all aspects of Christian life- and I agree that emotional does not equal change.

                If God is speaking to a person's heart about a needed life change, does the person have to come to the front of the church to do it? (I won't call it an altar, because we don't offer sacrifices there.) Wouldn't it be more beneficial to seek out the pastor and meet privately in a non-hurried atmosphere?
                No, they don't necessarily have to come to the front, but how is that harder than tracking down the pastor and making an appointment? It's easy to get sidetracked and not get the appointment ever made.

                In my own experience, I resisted the altar call a few times. But to me, responding to it was a step of faith. It's stepping out there, outside my comfort zone, against Satan telling me I'd look like an idiot and EVERYONE would be watching me with judging eyes. It was my first real growth experience.

                Reality is, real growth as a Christian will involve "awkward" situations where we are called outside of our comfort zones and often put on the spot. For example, which of us as musicians and song leaders has not had to overcome awkwardness to get on a stage or write a song or play a note? What about the times we have been put on the spot and sang new songs or went 'off the itinerary' as far as service order?

                As far as not calling it an altar because we don't do sacrifices there, that's interesting. When I responded to an altar call, that's exactly what I was doing. I was sacrificing myself being lord of my life. I was giving up my lifestyle and my right to do whatever I want. I ultimately sacrificed my friends, a big part of my lifestyle, my attitude, my gods of beer, smokes, money and women. So my perspective is a little different on the 'not making a sacrifice' portion of that statement.

                Now do I subscribe to 'real churches do altar calls'? No- but if people aren't doing it because it might make people feel awkward is not a very solid reason to me.
                If we want to go places we haven't been, we will have to do things we haven't done.

                Comment


                • #9
                  There is a significant difference in the awkwardness of a personal growth experience and one of coercion. The fine line is present in the hearts and minds of those placing the call. What are their intentions and what do they believe the expectation or expected result will be.

                  Stepping outside of our comfort zone in our faith is awkward yes, but it is not something that anyone person or group of persons can stage for you. Coming to Christ and furthering one's journey with God is a personal matter that will happen on a time table of individual proportions. God has a personal relationship with each one of us and although as leaders we feel compelled to lead our flocks everywhere, there are times when we need to step out of the way and allow God to do His work.

                  Altar calls are times when that work happens. People feel the need, a personal and deep need to seek Him and so they come to the altar to pray or have someone pray with them. When we place pressure on people to come forward we are essentially trying to assist God. He does not need our help. We just need to deliver the message and watch in amazement as He works on people. Lead by example. If you want to show people the meaning of faithful prayer, then show them how to pray by praying for them and with them. Go to them. Don't make them come to you all the time. Go to the altar call yourself. Lead by serving Him. Many people are nervous about coming forward because prayer is not a part of their lives. To make matters worse, they must now come forward in front of the whole church and in front of the leadership of that church... take the barriers away. Become a servant to them. "Wash their feet" in a manner of speaking by coming down from the perch and pray first. Have the choir or band or praise team or prayer leaders or Sunday School folks or whoever you have in leadership come forward and humbly pray and quietly wait. Play a soft hymn of gentle encouragement to ease people's anxiety about what they are feeling. If no one comes forward, ask them to join you in singing the hymn. This will allow you to move from altar call to worship setting and that is where are hearts should be focused.

                  Trust God to do His good work. It does not have to happen in the calls that we schedule. Serve our people long after the service by being available and reachable. Be real. Be genuine. Serve them well.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Seems like the most important part of an altar call is the follow up. If people aren't discipled on how to live out the Christian life and that it's more than a one time prayer prayed, the rate for actual conversions is probably pretty low.

                    Maybe that's part of the reason for less altar calls, especially in larger churches. Maybe the focus in churches is shifting from a response made in a potentially emotional moment with the right music being played in the background, in a large group, etc. to a more one on one, relational response such as might be made in a small group at a friend's house.

                    We do altar calls fairly often in our services, but they are very chill and not hyped up. There's simply an invitation to respond by raising your hand and then a prayer with the rest of the congregation. (afterwards they are invited to meet the pastor in the back and get connected) As a worship leader I love being able to see this response from the platform. One of my favorite things.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      While Worshipping Jesus in The Congregation one day, The Holy Spirit Swept over me and a few others. We broke down and just Balled! I guess thats kind of an alter call. Just not the alter in The Church. I dont oppose them, but as well I dont believe they should be instigated outside of the leading of The Holy Spirit.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        All of the above are great responses to the subject.

                        An ‘altar call’ during the course of a worship service is simply giving people an opportunity to do as Jesus said, “Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 10:32-33)

                        Does this have to happen at a certain place (i.e. a church building), at a certain time (i.e. the end of a worship service), or before a certain group of people (i.e. x,y,z congregation)? No.

                        Our kingdom is a spiritual one, not natural. In fact, it seems that the main point between the Old Testament and the New One is that we are part of something not natural (such as altars, temples, and physical acts of obedience to the Law).

                        As Jesus told Pilate before being delivered up to crucifixion, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” (Jn. 18:36)

                        The real altar (place of sacrifice) is in our hearts and our bodies are the new Temple (I Cor. 3:16, 6:19). The Apostle Paul describe a new paradigm of worship, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:1-2)

                        Yet the New Testament gives examples of physical ‘points of contact’ that help believers to touch the spiritual truths we live in such as baptism and communion. Even Jesus’ garment (Mk. 5:28), Peter’s shadow (Acts 5:15) or Paul’s handkerchief (Acts 19:12) and ‘anointing with oil’ (James 5:14) are examples of this.

                        These ‘points of contact’ (or metaphors of spiritual truths) help establish God’s Kingdom in our hearts. Without faith being mixed with these things, they are simply cloth, oil, shadows and water. Perhaps they are no different than a physical altar at the front of a church or an exact location known as the local church building.

                        There is something to be said for proximity, however, being together at one place at one time. After all, it’s how life begins in conception.

                        The local church building, service times, and the altar with invitations for salvation are unashamedly Christian.

                        Reversing these icons of meaning in our community could look like this:

                        1) No altar call
                        2) No altar
                        3) No specific church service time
                        4) No specific church meeting place
                        5) No specific beliefs or doctrines

                        I’m concerned at the end of all this, there will be no specific Church.

                        “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Lk. 18:8)


                        I have some more thoughts in my article Current and Future Worship Trends- My Vision- The Community. I hope you can check it out.
                        www.lowellhohstadt.com

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Couldn't agree more!

                          Originally posted by danielled View Post
                          Seems like the most important part of an altar call is the follow up. If people aren't discipled on how to live out the Christian life and that it's more than a one time prayer prayed, the rate for actual conversions is probably pretty low.

                          Maybe that's part of the reason for less altar calls, especially in larger churches. Maybe the focus in churches is shifting from a response made in a potentially emotional moment with the right music being played in the background, in a large group, etc. to a more one on one, relational response such as might be made in a small group at a friend's house.

                          We do altar calls fairly often in our services, but they are very chill and not hyped up. There's simply an invitation to respond by raising your hand and then a prayer with the rest of the congregation. (afterwards they are invited to meet the pastor in the back and get connected) As a worship leader I love being able to see this response from the platform. One of my favorite things.

                          I couldn't agree more. Your first point is so important! We always teach the kids the ABCs of becoming a Christian, but what about the next "C" - Commitment? And then the "E" - Education? I agree with that entirely.

                          We also still do the ancient alter calls. I love watching it from the platform as well. It's great to see people come up together to pray - not just to make a profession of faith. It has become a great chance for us to pray with each other in service.

                          I am really torn on this topic. I think everyone brings up great points and perspectives. But there is something really moving about seeing someone move to the front to work something out with God. It give some people the courage they need to perhaps do so quietly from their pew. Coming up front isn't for everyone, but for some people it does give action to their prayers and commitment. So I guess I would still fall in favor of leaving it in.

                          In another interesting twist, I visited a contemporary worship service where they did the altar call as one of the first things in the service! Clear your hearts to worship God completely, and hear the words he has for us. It was EXCELLENT. It was a reminder that our hearts should be clean and true for an unexplainably connected worship! We have tried it a couple times. It rocks the boat some for our crowd, but was overall received with open hearts and minds.

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