Altar Calls

Walking the aisle for Jesus

By Bill Brenner

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Continued from Page One

Charles Spurgeon only directed people to Christ: "Go to your God at once, even where you are now! Cast yourself on Christ, now, at once, ere you stir an inch!"

Notice that he directed all attention to Christ alone. He also stressed urgency. He told his listeners that the time to repent and trust in the Lord as Savior was today, not tomorrow. He urged them with the passion of his heart to seek Christ alone because we have nowhere else to go. It is a matter of eternal consequence. He said these things without asking anyone to move physically from their pew to the front of the altar or to an "inquiry room" or "anxious bench." The altar call is an artificial, man-made invention that truly has no power to save souls. Only the gospel has that power, and only the Holy Spirit can convict a person of his or her need for a Savior. It has nothing to do with a physical action taken during a fleeting emotional moment.

Spurgeon realized that the altar call would cause many to enter the wide, comfortable gate by making a "profession" and then live as they liked, forgetting Christ and turning away from sin in earnest repentance. If asked if they were Christian, these people would quickly report that they were "saved" and had no further need of anything to get to heaven. The creation of false assurance is said to "send people to hell with decision cards in their pockets." Jesus demands that our faith be evident. He cannot be ignored or denied. To do so is to remain in sin and continue on a path of convenience to destruction.

David Martin Lloyd-Jones said, "Most would agree...that this method tends to produce a superficial conviction of sin, if any at all. People often respond because they have the impression that by doing so they will receive certain benefits." Many go away from the altar, told they are now Christians, but knowing that they have not changed a bit. Most show no signs of conversion even a few weeks after their decision. Their unbelief may then harden into skepticism about anything Christian.

Even Charles Finney had doubts about his own methods toward the end of his life. He witnessed how many of his "converts" continued to live godless lives.

We don't want people to think that they must walk the aisle to be saved. We want them to know that Christ can save them even while they remain seated. We must make our message clear that they must go to Christ with their faith, trust, and commitment, to the only one who can save their souls. It requires no physical movement or display of emotion. "Coming to Christ" means to turn to Him for refuge, receive Him into your heart, and we speak of matters of the soul. We do not want to confuse anyone into thinking that they must wait for an altar call to be saved. We want no one to think that if they failed to walk the aisle that they have missed their chance to be saved. They do not need the confusion of dramatic lighting, soft music, and a powerful preacher to make a difference. They can accept Christ as their Savior in the privacy of their own thoughts at any time. No mediator is required. No one needs to provide prayer instructions to be valid. God saves us through his Word. "For the message of the the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18).

We must invite people to come to Christ. However, the sinner must be taught to understand the great truths of sin, redemption, regeneration, repentance and faith. We must reach their minds if the heart is to be moved. We must not imply that they can have a Savior without making Him their Lord. There is no easy believism that saves without any demands. "Confessing Him before men" is not a single act, but an act of continually confessing Jesus. The message we preach is the power of God to save sinners, and that alone brings people to Christ. The preacher's duty is not to "get decisions," but only to proclaim the Good News and exhort men and women to go to Christ. That is enough. God is well able to do everything else. God cannot be manipulated in any way to grant salvation.

In summary, the altar call offers no required help, and can result in harmful temporary or false conversions with no depth. The dangers of such a method may outweigh the benefits that some claim. A return to the New Testament is the surest prescription to effective evangelism. Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16) Proclaim the truth, call men to repent and believe, and leave the results in the hands of the Holy Spirit, who alone can bring faith to the convicted heart.

Image Credit: reslifeweb; "23_Altar Call-155"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Salvation  |  Biblical-Truth  |  Church-Issues  |  Controversial-Issues  |  False-Teaching  |  Witnessing-Evangelism

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Published 5-15-17