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EDITOR:
Steve Van Nattan

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The "Altar Call"
Is it helpful or harmful?
Works, Worry, or Will Worship?

Someone has said, and it might have been me, that the only
difference between the Roman Catholic Mass and the Baptist
altar call is that the Baptists don't serve refreshments.
Steve Van Nattan

By Fred G. Zaspel
Published by Word of Life Baptist Church,
Pottsville, PA


Introduction

It would be all but impossible to give an accurate description of the modern evangelical church without mention of the invitation system, or the "altar call," as it is called.

The altar call is a custom in virtually all Evangelical, Fundamentalist, Wesleyan, Pentecostal, and Charismatic circles. Immediately following the sermon the congregation will sing a hymn during which the preacher calls men and women to walk to the front of the auditorium (the "altar") to make a public decision to "accept Christ." Salvation is offered to all who will but come to the front and take it.

Those who come receive the personal attention of a counsellor and are instructed what to pray, and so on. They may be taken to a private "inquiry room," or they may kneel together at the front of the auditorium and speak together softly while the congregation is singing.


I say this is the custom. Indeed, it is all but universal in the evangelical world, and it is considered to be an essential part of evangelism. In fact, those who do not observe the custom are generally held to be "liberal" or at least "unconcerned" about evangelism. The invitation system is an essential feature of the modern evangelical church.

But in the thirteen years that I have been at Word of Life, there has never been such an altar call. I certainly do not want to leave the impression that those who observe the practice are not our friends, indeed, our brothers in Christ. But our refusal to adopt the prevailing custom makes us stand out as different, and as a result we are sometimes asked to explain "why."

Given that the custom is such a prevailing one today, the question is a fair one. Why do we not observe the altar call at Word of Life Baptist Church?

Photo Credit:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bike/

 

Where Did It Come From?

What is often shocking to many who use the modern invitation system is that the altar call is just that modern. The practice, although widespread, is a very new phenomenon in the Christian church. For nearly nineteen centuries no one had ever heard of the practice. Such well known evangelists as George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, and even John Wesley had never even heard of such a custom. And Charles Spurgeon, that passionate winner of souls par excellence, although well acquainted with the practice, firmly refused to adopt it and even criticized it severely.

Ironically, "the old fashioned altar call" was unheard of until the nineteenth century. It first came into being by the influence of Charles Finney, the pioneer of modern evangelistic methods. In Finney's crusades (c. 1830) seats at the front were reserved for those who, after the sermon, would respond to the challenge to come to the Lord's side. Those who were thus "anxious" for their souls were invited to walk forward to the "anxious seat" where counsel and prayer would be given them.

The following quote from Finney's Lectures on Revival explains his view well.

  • "Preach to him, and at the moment he thinks he is willing to do anything . . . bring him to the test; call on him to do one thing, to make one step that shall identify him with the people of God. . . . If you say to him, "there is the anxious seat, come out and avow your determination to be on the Lord's side," and if he is not willing to do a small thing as that, then he is not willing to do anything for Christ."

The practice was designed to force decisions, to get results. So it did, and with slight variations the new method spread with increasing popularity through Finney and, later, Dwight L. Moody, and finally into virtually all of nineteenth and twentieth century evangelicalism. Peter Cartwright, Sam Jones, R. A. Torrey, Billy Sunday, Bob Jones, Gipsy Smith, Mordacai Ham, John R. Rice, Billy Graham all employed the method with impressive success. The invitation system had come to stay.

In all fairness, it is important to observe that the practice was not born in the apostolic church. It is not found in the ministry of Jesus, His apostles or even the church of the post-apostolic period. We do see Jesus and the apostles "inviting" men and women to Christ and to be saved, but never by means of this particular method. "Invitations" they give, to be sure! But not altar calls. The altar call is "old fashioned" in only a very relative sense. It is old fashioned to us at this end of the twentieth century, but it first arose more than eighteen centuries after Christ.

Now this may not prove that the altar call is wrong, but it surely demonstrates that the non-practice of the altar call is not wrong. If neither Jesus nor His apostles employed the method, and if they never commanded such to be done by the church, then it obviously cannot be wrong to decide against the more modern method. It is not a question of Biblical necessity but of modern custom and convenience. A church which refuses the practice can never be criticized for that refusal; indeed, such a church is at that point more in line with the apostolic church than are those churches which have adopted it.

So then, the altar call is not a matter of Biblical command or precedent. Our Lord does not require it of anyone at any time.

What remains is the question of the propriety of the alter call and the invitation system in general.

 

Supporting Arguments

As you might expect, advocates of the modern invitation system do offer some arguments in support of the practice. Some of these arguments are of a strictly Biblical nature, and others of a more theological nature. Following is a survey of these arguments with some evaluation of them.

Scriptural Invitations

First, it is often noted that the Scriptures abound with invitations to salvation. Such offers as, "Come to me!" and "Come to me and drink!" and "Be reconciled to God!" are well known, and they deserve to be. These are marvelous offers of life to those who will trust Christ.

It should be noted further that these offers are freely and sincerely given. The apostles did not hesitate to hold out Christ as Savior to all who would listen to their message. "Repent therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out" (Act 3:19). They preached indiscriminately, "Be reconciled to God!" (2Corinthians 5:20) and "testified both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21).

With all this every Christian should not only agree but also rejoice. Christ is the perfectly suited savior for all who will come. Moreover, we should all be careful to learn from this that we also are entrusted with the responsibility to proclaim the good news of God's saving grace to all. This is our part in the divine enterprise of salvation (Matthew 28:19). We can go to any man or woman anywhere and with all sincerity say to them, "Christ is just what you need, and He is all you need. If you will trust Him, you will be saved!" The gospel is to go out to all men everywhere. Jesus saves!

But all this really says nothing about the propriety of the altar call. The altar call is for a man to physically move from one point to another. The gospel call is for a man to flee to Christ. The gospel call is for a man to spiritually identify with Christ through faith, to reach out with the hand of faith and lay hold of Him Who is life. Accordingly, the duty of the evangelist is to command and even plead with men to run to Him for refuge. But this must never be confused with a command to move anywhere physically. Neither Jesus nor His apostles ever instructed anyone that in order to be saved they must "come to the front" or "come for prayer" or "go to the inquiry room" or go to any geographical location. They needn't go anywhere. They were exhorted to go to Christ and nowhere else. Moreover, they are exhorted and assured that going to Him they need go nowhere else.

Everyone acknowledges that Charles Spurgeon emulated well the New Testament practice of evangelism. It would be difficult to find anywhere in the history of the church a man who was more passionate concerning the salvation of the lost and whose preaching brought more into the Kingdom. Yet in his preaching to sinners he refused to direct anyone to an "altar" or to the front of any building. He directed them only to Christ. "Go to your God at once, even where you are now!" he would insist. "Cast yourself on Christ, now, at once, ere you stir an inch!" Spurgeon's practice was according to the Biblical model exactly. He would allow nothing to confuse the direction of the sinner's attention: it must be to Christ, and to Christ alone they are instructed look and go. Nor would they be allowed to entertain any notion that they should go somewhere else first. No! "Ere you stir an inch! Cast yourself on Christ now!"

What a better and more Biblical invitation this is!

Scriptural Exhortations

It is similarly argued that Scripture also exhorts men to be saved. "Compel them to come in!" and "I beseech you, be reconciled to God!" are two examples of these exhortations.

But again, it is difficult to see how this lends any support whatever to the modern practice of calling sinners to the front of a building. We have already seen that sinners are freely invited to Christ. Here the invitation is only more urgent. There is a command or an entreaty, a begging if you will. And we should learn from this also. It is our responsibility and privilege as evangelists to press on our loved ones and friends the awful urgency of this matter. They must trust Christ or they will perish! And so we may confidently tell them so. We may say so with the authority of Christ and "command" them to believe. We may urge them with all the passion of our hearts, "Run to Christ! You have no where else to go!" Our evangelistic methods are not cold or detached from our emotions. This is a matter of eternal consequence! Run! "I beg you, run! Run now! Go to Christ! There is no other savior!" We are to exhort men and women to faith in Christ.

But as before, this entreaty or command is to flee to Christ. And this says precisely nothing in support of a physical movement from a church pew to an inquiry room. The exhortation has to do with the attention of their souls away from themselves to the Lord Jesus Christ. This has nothing whatever to do with feet or church aisles or "old fashioned saw-dust trails." It has to do with faith.

Scriptural Requirements for Public Professions

In support of the modern invitation system it is often further argued that Scripture plainly requires public profession of faith. This, it is said, is what the invitation system fulfills. Matthew 10:32-33 is the primary verse in view here. Jesus says,

  • "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven."

These are important words from our Lord, and they speak well to a glaring weakness in the "Christian" church today. Far too many believe that they can enter the wide and comfortable gate, make a "profession," live as they like, forget Christ, and still make their way to heaven. Not so, Jesus warns. There are demands. Faith must be evident. True saving faith shows itself by loyalty to Christ. He cannot be denied. To deny Him is to remain in sin and take the broad road of convenience to destruction.

Saving faith is a pledge of allegiance to Christ. This pledge is visibly and publicly demonstrated first in water baptism and then in all of life. Whatever else a Christian is, he is one who belongs to Christ; and if his faith is true, this will be evident. "If we deny Him, he will deny us" (2Timothy 2:12).

But as before, this says nothing about the altar call. A man or woman "walking forward" down the aisle of a church building is obviously not what our Lord had in mind. A man's willingness (or unwillingness) to come to the front of a church building says nothing about his willingness to come to Christ. Walking in front of a crowd has nothing at all to do with the conversion process, and we have no right to create such a false category of "public declaration of faith" and thus pronounce the Biblical requirement fulfilled. We have every right indeed, we have divine right to require baptism as this outward and public profession of faith. And we have every right to expect that faith to continue to be evident in life. But the altar call is another matter entirely. It is an artificial, man-made requirement which, by virtue of its human origin, is a matter of no consequence whatever.

TINKERING WITH SOVEREIGNTY

The article by brother Zaspel may sound a bit Calvinist. This would be because you are a bit Arminian, and I will prove it.

Jesus said:

John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

You, and all alter call junkies, are not satisfied with the work of the Holy Ghost. You believe that if you do not plead and beg sinners to repent and kneel at you altar, you will answer to God for it. You may even believe, as many pastors do, that if you don't convince the sinner to come to salvation, YOU are the one responsible.

What a puny god you have. Your god is an alien to the King James Bible. He is totally dependent on YOU to get sinners saved. Do you see what a blasphemous offense this is to Jesus and the Holy Ghost? You have shoved them over in the corner, and YOU will convince the sinner of sin and righteousness and judgment. You don't know who is elect, but you will call them to YOUR altar anyway.

The way alter call junkies justify their blasphemy is by citing the results. "People are being saved," you say. Are they now? So, thousands walk the aisle, but only dozens end up faithfully in attendance in a couple of weeks. Why? Is it possible that you are not quite as good at the work of the Holy Ghost as the Holy Ghost would be if you stayed out of the way?

Billy Graham [who in his old age claimed that Buddhinsts are saved if they were sincere, though they never confessed Chrsist as Lord and Savior] called millions of walk the aisles of his crusades. Where are they. In all my experience in a pastor's home, on the missionfield, and as a pastor, I have met only ONE saint who walked forward at a Billy Graham crusade and was found later in a local church. I must assume, by his fruits, that I do not know Billy Graham as a Bible believer.

Matthew 7:20 (KJV) Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Jack Hyles, who I fear is screaming for water in hell right now, talked thousands down the aisle. He boasted that a cool million were "saved" by his methods. "Hold my hand while I pray for you." Where are they? I have heard many stories of people being spit at when they tried to "follow up" a Hyles type "conversion." This is because the sinner figured out the sales tricks used on him after he got home, and he now hates God.

What happens in the classic Baptist altar call is that you convince sinners to walk the aisle, whether they are elected unto salvation of not, and later you have sinners who are damned to hell, and will never be saved, sitting in the pews and making all sorts of trouble for you. That is why you need "pastoral rule" to keep control. You are trying to shepherd a flock of sheep and wolves, and YOU made the wolves into local church members. What a smart fool you are!

Coercion, begging, threats have been the hallmark of the Whore of Rome since Constantine's priests tried to persuade the Donatists to join up and have their names put on the Whore's list. Centuries passed, and the process was fine tuned until the Inquisition was used to very effectively make "converts." I have heard many stories of Jews who joined the Whore of Rome in order to avoid the inquisitor's tools of persuasion. It claimed that Christopher Columbus, of the Jewish Colomo family in Portugal, was a Catholic in word so that he could gain the blessing of the Spanish crown. It worked.

And, when you coerce the sinner into a response by threatening to push him away, or by talking down to sinners and talking sweetly to saints, you are no different than the Whore Church. It is only a matter of degree. In fact, I have seen much worse coercive tactics used by Pentecostals and Fundamental Baptists than I have ever seen by Catholic priests. I have about 50 years of memory at work on that, including the battle zones of California, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas, Arizona, and East Africa.

I believe the backslidden, or those perceived to not be right with the preacher are treated the worst. God is referred to, but you better convince them that the jack boot up in the pulpit has caught them, right?

They are flogged and threatened with things the preacher could not carry out if his life depended on it. If anything goes wrong in a saint's life, the preacher will have a few pointed words to imply that all trouble in a saint's life is due to not responding to the altar call. When the preacher gets cancer, or course, that is different-- that is testing of a mighty saint, you see.

So, if you continue with your wailing and hollering and raging at sinners in your altar calls, if you keep intruding on the sovereign predestined will of the Godhead, and if you keep kicking the Holy Ghost over in the corner while you rush the victims to the altar, I must conclude that you just do not give a damn.

You are a hireling, and you just want a body count to add to your bragging session at the next preacher's camp meeting-- a better and better looking resum�.

Matthew 23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

The damnation of these sinners you talk down the aisle, who are not elected unto salvation, will be on YOU. Your damnation will be monumental. And, you will spend eternity with these sinners whom you made fools of, and they will hate you forever.

Revelation 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

So, Jesus, with the Holy Ghost quickening sinners and speaking to the mind IN the saint, cannot get the job done. YOU have to add your tricks and sales pitch, right?

Matthew 15:14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

I guess you might as well make yourself a collection of lost sinners who have not been elected to salvation, for Jesus himself said the narrowest people of his day, those with the highest standards, were as damned to hell as the sinners they gathered to themselves.

It is YOUR turn, preacher-- Are you even born again?

No man can be born again who absconds with the work of the Holy Ghost, be he Benny Hinn or a graduate of Crown College, Pensacola Chr. College, Hyles Anderson, or Tennessee Temple.

 

"But then how will people be saved?"

After the supporting arguments fail the next question which arises, often in honest and sincere frustration, is, "How then will anyone be saved?" If we cannot invite them to step forward to the "altar," how will they ever make a profession of faith at all?

We should be patient with this frustration. When people are taught that "this" is the way people are saved, it will be confusing at first to think any differently. But only a little thinking will clarify the matter easily. How will they be saved? They will be saved just like every Christian was saved for eighteen-plus centuries before the invitation system was ever heard of. They will be saved just as so many since have been saved. They will look to Christ. They will turn to Him in faith and believe. It may be as they are with a friend who shows them the gospel. It may be while listening to a man preach the gospel. It may be while they are home alone reading the gospel. It may be in any of a great number of circumstances. But all that is required of him is that he look to Christ, trust Him, and he will be saved. We need not and dare not complicate the matter with any other considerations.

John Wesley was a champion of a brand of theology which in our day promotes the invitation system. Such was unheard of in his day, of course, but it would be a fair guess to say that if Wesley were with us today, he would employ the newer methods. His later followers did and still do. At any rate, it is instructive to see how Wesley himself handled the question. He had no such modern convenience to provide any immediate tally of converts. He records in his Journal how he thought about the matter.

  • Preached at (such and such a place). Many seemed deeply affected. But God alone knows how deeply.

Whatever we may think of Wesley's theology generally, at this point his thinking was exactly Biblical. His concern was for God to do the work of regeneration. We do the preaching. In fact, we do the pleading. But then we are done. God alone knows the heart, and He is well able to take His Word and affect men deeply with it even long hours or days or perhaps years after the sermon is over. If they will be saved, it will be by looking to Christ whether or not there is an aisle in front of them when they do.

In other words, we all know that God is not restricted to this modern method. He can save any man anywhere at any time. Under-standing this, we all realize at least one reason why the altar call was not instituted by our Lord or His apostles: it is unnecessary.

"What about those who have been saved as a result of an altar call?"

First, we must clarify the question. No one is ever saved "as a result" of an altar call. We are saved only as a result of the gospel. The question, as too often asked, betrays an awful misunderstanding of this most important point. But with that clarification made, we may pass over this question very quickly. If and when God truly saves a man during the time of public invitation, then we all say "Amen!"

But this does not argue in support of the practice. It only argues that at least at times it has witnessed conversions.

"What if a man leaves a service without making a decision?"

This question is faced equally by people on both sides of the discussion. What happens to a man who leaves a service without making a decision? Sadly, they go away as they came in: lost. "He that believes not is condemned already" (John 3:18).

And this observation highlights again the urgency of the matter. We must press them to close with Christ. We must warn them, urge them, plead with them. But our warning and our pleading is in reference to Christ and not an aisle in a church building. We don't want them to think that in order to be saved they must walk an aisle. No! We want them to know that if they look to Christ even while they are seated they will be saved. And so we must tell them that. We must make the message very plain that they must go to Christ, and to go to Him requires no physical movement whatever only a look of the soul. Faith. Trust. Commitment. A reaching out with the hand of the soul to lay hold of that One Who alone can save. Yes, that One Who will save all who come.

 

Some Dangers in the Invitation System

So far in this discussion we have primarily given our attention to the weaknesses of the arguments that are used in support of the modern altar call. These observations have demonstrated at least that the altar call is unnecessary.

But there is more that must be said, negative though it may be. In all honesty to the Scriptures we must point out that there are dangers involved with this practice which undermine some very important aspects of our faith. We will survey these dangers now.

A Confusion of the Meaning of Faith

First of all and perhaps most importantly is this matter which we have emphasized already. The emphasis on "coming forward to receive Christ" confuses the meaning of faith.

What does it mean to "come to Christ"? We all know that it is a matter of faith. Luther used terminology such as "closing with Christ," and this terminology is exactly Biblical. We are to "look" to Him, "run to Him for refuge," "receive Him" all these Biblical expressions speak of matters of the soul. They speak of faith. And they allow nothing else. "Come here to receive Christ" is an awful confusion of the object and nature of saving faith. Why should we confuse the issue and ask men to come "here" for Christ? Where do we find Biblical justification for such a thing? God is not concerned whether a man walks down an aisle in a church, and neither should we be concerned with it. The only concern is that they look away to Christ and to no one else. And this is precisely where we must direct their attention. "Come, Ye Sinners," we sing. But to where are they to come?

  • "Venture on Him, venture wholly!
    • Let no other trust intrude!

    None but Jesus, none but Jesus, none but Jesus

    • Can do helpless sinners good!"

We want none who hear us preach to go away thinking that if they had done something walk an aisle, go to an inquiry room, whatever then they could have been saved. No, we want nothing to confuse or distract from this: they should have and still must look to Christ, the only savior of sinners. This is too important a matter to erect needless obstacles or distractions. They must be directed not to a geographical location in a building. They must be directed to Christ.
 

A Confusion of Mediators

The modern altar call further runs the risk of confusing the idea of mediatorship. Who is our only mediator? With whom does the sinner need to do business if he is to be saved? Must he talk to you? To me? No, he must do business with Christ, for He alone is the one who can bring us to God. But instructing a man to "come and talk to a personal worker" may well confuse matters. It again distracts from the One of Whom he should be thinking. The sermon itself is the invitation, and it gives direction to Christ and to no one else.

This is our great argument with Roman Catholicism. We need no priest but Christ! There are no other mediators, living or dead. We must go to God only by way of His Son or we will never reach him. This concern, it seems, was uppermost in Spurgeon's criticism of the practice.

  • Let me say, very softly and whisperingly, that there are little things among ourselves which must be carefully looked after, or we shall have a leaven of ritualism and priesthood working in our measures of meal. In our revival services, it might be as well to vary our procedure. Sometimes shut up that enquiry-room. I have my fears about that institution if it be used to permanence, and as an inevitable part of the services. It may be a very wise thing to invite persons who are under concern of soul to come apart from the rest of the congregation, and have conversation with godly people; but if you should ever see a notion is fashioning itself that there is something to be got in the private room which is not to be had at once in the assembly, or that God is more at the penitent form than elsewhere, aim a blow at that notion at once. We must not come back by a rapid march to the old ways of altars and confessionals, and have a Romish trumpery restored in a coarser form. If we make men think that conversation with ourselves or with our helpers is essential to their faith in Christ, we are taking the direct line for priestcraft. In the Gospel, the sinner and the Saviour are to come together, with none between. Speak upon this point very clearly, "You, sinner, sitting where you are, believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, shall have eternal life. Do not stop till you pass into an enquiry-room. Do not think it essential to confer with me. Do not suppose that I have the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, or that these godly men and women associated with me can tell you any other Gospel than this. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life."

Spurgeon's words proved prophetic; what he feared has come to pass. Spurgeon himself never adopted the modern method. He only warned against it. For those who desired further help Spurgeon often made himself available on Monday morning; if they were in earnest they could return for further instruction. But his message on Monday was the same as on Sunday: "Look to Christ. You must go to Him." We must be very careful never to confuse this matter.

A Mistrust of the Power of the Holy Spirit and the Preached Word

God has made it plain to us that He saves by means of the Word that is preached. This is the tool in His hand in the saving of sinners. Paul expounds this at some length in 1Corinthians 1. "Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel" (v.17). "For the message of the cross . . . is the power of God" (v.18). "It pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe" (v.21). This message which we preach is "the power of God" in saving sinners (vv.23-24); it is the instrument He uses in bringing men and women to Himself.

Accordingly, the apostle Paul said that he was very careful to allow these considerations to shape his ministry. "I came declaring the message of God about Jesus Christ," he said, "confidently relying on the Holy Spirit powerfully to take that message and make it effective, so that men and women would turn in faith to God and God alone" (vv.1-5).

In other words, Paul was confident that God would save by means of preaching. Preaching is the event in which God works, and we all who are saved know this to be true! Well we know how God has often taken the message and mysteriously but so obviously worked within us to call us back to Himself. The Puritans sometimes referred to preaching as "the chief means of grace." So it is. It is the usual way God works to save. More often publicly but also privately, God works through preaching.

Our problem today is that we really don't believe that. It is after the message that we come to "the most important part of the service." At pastor's seminars instructions are given how to use the invitation time to "sneak up" on people and "get them to come forward" and "make a decision." All of this betrays a woeful mistrust of God's appointed means of grace. Not so with the apostle Paul. He was very careful not to allow anyone to believe merely because he said so; he labored in such a way that their faith would be directed only heavenward (1Corinthians 2:3-5).

God has said that He would save via preaching. He in fact has saved through preaching, and He does save through preaching. We needn't doubt that He can and will. And we needn't invent new means to help Him do what He does so well all by Himself. We are obliged to trust Him to work via the means He has promised to bless.



A Misunderstanding of the Role of the Preacher

The modern invitation system further reveals a misunderstanding of the role of the preacher. The preacher's duty is not to "get decisions." His duty is to proclaim the good news and exhort men and women to go to Christ. This is the means which God uses to save. We preach, and God Himself uses the word preached to "get the decision." (What a woefully inadequate term that is! Saving faith is so much more than a "decision." It is running for rescue!) These roles must never be confused.

Charles Spurgeon often warned against the invitation system, even in his public preaching to the lost. It was not uncommon to hear him warn,

"God has not appointed salvation by enquiry-rooms. . . . For the most part, a wounded conscience, like a wounded stag, delights to be alone that it may bleed in secret."

The role of the preacher is to exhort men and women to faith in Christ. That is all. And that is enough. God is well able to do everything else.

A Confusion of Profession of Faith with Saving Faith

Saving faith is not a decision that is made, and it is not a mouthing of a certain formula. Even if the formula is recited in prayer, this is not saving faith. Manipulating a person to say go through certain motions and say certain words does him no good whatever. This is not saving faith.

This is dangerous indeed. Can a man really be saved by saying "yes" to a series of questions? Have we done them any favor by allowing them to think so? This is a misunderstanding of saving faith. It is a confusion of professed faith with true saving faith.

This mistake has resulted in the unprecedented number of false converts which this century of evangelism has produced. Decisions and numbers there are, but the "converts" are notoriously unconverted. This is a direct result of confusing decisions with true faith, and it is a blight on the church. As Lewis Sperry Chafer said,

Careful students of evangelism have noticed that where the necessity of public action as a part of conversion has been most emphasized there has been a corresponding increase in the God-dishonoring record of so-called "backsliding"; and this is natural.

It is also inevitable. And it is shameful. And it is harmful, for we have convinced unconverted people that they are safe.

We must not mistake mere professions of faith with true, saving faith. Whether in formal preaching or in private witnessing or in special counseling, our instruction must not be directed to "decisions" but to Christ. We must show our hearers that Christ is the Savior, and we must exhort them to trust Him. This saving look to Christ may well be an event which you witness. But it just as well may be something that occurs later on when the person is alone with God. No matter. We give them the gospel, and we urge them to trust Christ. But there our work ends and God's work begins.

VIOLENCE AGAINST JESUS CHRIST

Matthew 11:11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.
15 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
16 But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows,
17 And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil.
19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.

Verse 12 makes is clear that the kingdom of heaven, the works of God on earth, were attacked violently from John the Baptist until Jesus was speaking. That violence matured into white hot hate when the Pharisees and Jewish religious elite succeeded in killing Jesus Christ. After a brief lull in the storm after the ascension of Christ, the Jews again tried to take the kingdom of heaven by force, and the Gospel was spread to the Gentiles.

Who, in the context of Jesus' comment, was using violence and force against God? Answer: The Pharisees, the religious Fundamentalists of Jesus' day. Today, we have the Fundamental Baptists and other alleged Bible believers doing the very same thing.

These who claim to be the End Times Philadelphia church, holding on to the King James Bible during the Laodicean church age, waiting for the rapture of the Bride Church-- They are now resorting to all manner of violence against anyone who does not follow their Baptist and mongrel traditions.

Are you part of the problem, or are you part of the solution?

Are you one of those who looks around at other churches, unsaved people, fellow workers, and even people in the pew in front of you, and you say, "These people are not right with God-- they do not do as I do and as my pastor does." That is the word from hell and Satan. YOU, my dear jerk, are NOT the standard, and if your pastor even implies that your local church is the right way, the standard, the good path, he is a "bastard," not a son (Hebrews 12:8).

Let me shock you I fear-- I am going to prove to you that your church, your movement, your Baptist friends, and your tin plated preacher, are NOT the standard:

John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.

If you have gone one step beyond that standard, your present standard is taking you to hell. The Pharisees are all burning in hell right now except for Nicodemus, Paul, and possibly one other Jesus won. They were Bible believers-- loved Moses law-- and went to hell. They believed they were the standard, and when they met Jesus, they killed him. This is why you are AGAINST so many people you meet and despise them-- You are your own savior.

Revelation 2:5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

It is time for you to go outside the city and be crucified, AND DON'T GO BACK INTO THE CITY.
Jesus didn't.

If that means you have to leave the Baptist church you are in, and if that means you have to walk away from the Baptist preacher who taught you to be an arrogant slob, is your soul in eternity important enough to walk?

Damn "our standards".....
Follow Jesus.

LAST THOUGHT TO PREACHERS:

Preacher, nearly ALL the Pharisees burned in hell.

The Fundamentalists! You too could burn in hell if you will not stop exalting things Baptist, including your damned Mishna of novel traditions. You must repent and return to the simplicity found in Jesus Christ.

And, if you refuse and cling to the safe zone, the Satanic resum�, when you get to hell, you may be shocked to find Lee Roberson, Clarance Sexton, and many other "great Baptists" there because they exalted "Bubtists" above the revealed Word of God.

I am told that Sexton is right now building a monument to "great Baptists" at his kingdom in Tennessee, and Jack Hyles, who was a better Catholic than Baptist, is included. You see, you Baptist boys are more loyal to your own pals than to Jesus Christ.

While you Baptist jack boots scratch one another's backs, Jesus says to you, I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.

You will see Jesus by and by ONLY if you die now.

Simon the Pharisee liked to have Jesus close by, but he did not want to waste too much time on Jesus. After all, Simon had standards, and this raggedy Rabbi from Nazareth was often seen eating and drinking with winebibbers, publicans, sinners, and visiting with good old boys down at the round table at the local cafe. You cannot be too careful these days.

For the record, God heard my groaning this last week. I was telling the family that all I seem to get for my zeal to reach Fundamental Baptist preachers with the message of repentance is terrorist actions to destroy my peace. Well, this last week one preacher was moved to cleanse himself of one of the classic Baptist traditions, the altar call. He said he had not liked it for many years, but he was frightened of the people if he did something biblical. He asked how to make the trip back to the Apostolic model. God bless that brother, and thank you Jesus for letting me know the message is getting out there and getting some fruit unto righteousness.

Friend, if you want to start a great movement, do NOT try to convince preachers to get right. It is a lonely business. But then, Jeremiah and Amos didn't have many people stay to pray either. :-)

A Creation of False Assurance

Moreover, this modern practice has tended to promote false assurance. We must frankly acknowledge that the modern invitation system has become a kind of third sacrament in the church. We all know so many who "know" they are Christians, because they were baptized as infants or as adults for that matter. The same is true of countless people who have "walked the aisle."

They were assured that if they would "come forward" and "make a decision" they could be saved. They came, and there some well-intentioned personal worker convinced them that because they came and answered "yes" to the various questions and then prayed "the sinner's prayer" that now they are saved and no one should ever make them doubt it! Then they left. And they went back to the same old life they had. They made no real public profession of Christ, but because they did as they were instructed they "know" they are safe. This is a needless problem which we have created.

Once more the example of Charles Spurgeon is instructive. In his preaching he would address the sinner, saying, "Go home alone, trusting in Jesus." Then he would enter dialogue with the sinner,

  • "I would like to go into the enquiry-room." I dare say you would, but we are not willing to pander to popular superstition. We fear that in those rooms men are warmed into fictitious confidence. Very few of the supposed converts of enquiry-rooms turn out well. Go to your God at once, even where you are now. Cast yourself on Christ, now, at once, ere you stir an inch!"

A Wrong Focus

All must admit that the modern invitation system has resulted in a shift of focus. The focus has shifted from the spiritual to the physical, from the internal to the external. The meeting was "wonderful" because so many people "went forward." We know that "God was working" because so many people responded to the altar call. And in all this our attention is drawn away from God and His work in the human heart to a spot at the front of a building. All this when in reality God may not have been working at all; we really have no way of knowing yet. Or He may well have been at great work accomplishing wonderful things in the hearts and lives of many of His people when no one at all responded to the altar call. We just cannot know yet. Which simply points up the fact that this shift in focus is a misleading one.

A False View of Human Ability

One more item of immense importance is the question of human ability. Can a man be saved by walking an aisle, correctly answering a series of questions, and then praying a prescribed prayer? Put more plainly, does it lie within our own power to "decide" for Christ? Can we be the cause of our own conversion? Can walking an aisle contribute anything to conversion?

This question is crucial, for it will determine the direction of our efforts and of our faith. This issue shaped the Protestant Reformation. The Roman Catholic Erasmus' treatise On the Freedom of the Will (1524) and Luther's On the Bondage of the Will (1525) stated the differences between the two views of salvation: the Roman Catholic believes that man has ability to participate in his own conversion, and the Protestant believes that man has no such ability at all. For Luther, this was foundational. Is salvation free, or is it somehow achieved?

Luther went to the Scriptures to answer the question. Can we effect our own conversion? No, no, a thousand times no! "It is not of him that wills or of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy" (Romans 9:16). "Of His own will he begot us by the word of truth" (James 1:18). "No man knows the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son wills to reveal Him" (Matthew 11:27). "No man can come to me except the Father draw him (John 6:44). "The carnal mind is enmity against God and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be. So then, they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Romans 8:7-8). Man "dead" in sins must be brought to life by God before He can do anything at all that is of spiritual good (Ephesians 2:1-5).

These who believe unto salvation first were born of God (John 1:12-13). Salvation comes entirely from God's side; it is given freely at His own will (Romans 9:16; James 1:18). Salvation cannot in any way be caused by anything a man can do. We therefore reject any notion of decisional regeneration as strongly as we reject any notion of baptismal regeneration. Salvation is a work of God alone (Jonah 2:9). What men need is rescue, and that rescue only God can give.

All this brings us to the same conclusions we have already reached. 1) Our whole focus in evangelism must be heavenward. We must wait on God to do the saving, for only He can save. 2) The sinner's whole attention must be the same. He must never be allowed to look to himself his will, his efforts, or whatever. In our evangelism, no man needs to hear that he has the ability to do something to effect his own conversion. No. If he is to be saved there must be no feelings of self-reliance remaining. He must know that he is helpless but that there is a Savior from heaven Who has come and Who is mighty to save. He must be directed to Christ Who alone "reveals the Father" (Matthew 11:27). We must never, never, never do or say anything that will confuse this issue. We must direct the sinner to Christ and to Christ alone. With no feelings of self-help reserved he must run in desperation away from himself to Christ. And with all of his props removed and nowhere to direct his faith but God, he has been well evangelized.

In short, salvation is not gained by walking anywhere or by correctly answering a series of good questions or by praying anyone's prescribed formula prayer. Salvation is given freely by God. We must never leave the sinner with the impression that he can in any way manipulate God into granting salvation. We must leave him with the impression that he is desperate and that he can only run to God for mercy.

Summary

There is much more. But these are the most important considera-tions. There are serious dangers in the modern invitation system. It is not a Biblical practice but a relic of nineteenth-century American evangelical tradition. It confuses the nature and object of saving faith. It confuses mere professions of faith with true, saving faith. It fosters false assurance. It distracts thinking away from the workings of God in the inner man. It mistrusts the God-appointed means of preaching and the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word. It mistakes the role of the preacher. And it rests on an unscriptural view of human ability.

 

Conclusion

We will not get into questioning the motives of all who practice the altar call, and we will not question the genuineness of the faith of many Christians who trace their conversion experience to a church building. We will only say that the practice is of extra-Biblical origin and that it has many dangers. It offers no help at all but only harm. A return to the New Testament practice is surely best. "Till our latest breath," we will talk of the glories of Christ, His ability and willingness to save, His desirability, and His availability. We will urge all men and women who will listen to run to Him and to Him alone, for He is the great Savior of sinners.

  • Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched,
    • Weak and wounded, sick, and sore;

    Jesus ready stands to save you,

    • Full of pity, joined with power!

    He is able, He is able, He is able!

    • He is willing; doubt no more!

Copyright � 1998 All rights reserved
Copying and other reproductions are
permitted for non-commercial use only.

_______________________________________________

 

Quote & Unquote

More from Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1882)

"Sometimes we are inclined to think that a very great portion of modern revivalism has been more a curse than a blessing, because it has led thousands to a kind of peace before they have known their misery; restoring the prodigal to the Father's house, and never making him say, 'Father, I have sinned.'

How can he be healed who is not sick?

Or he be satisfied with the bread of life who is not hungry?

The old-fashioned sense of sin is despised, and consequently a religion is run up before the foundations are dug out. Everything in this age is shallow. Deep-sea fishing is almost an extinct business so far as men's souls are concerned.

The consequence is that men leap into religion, and then leap out again. Unhumbled they come to the church, unhumbled they remained in it, and unhumbled they go from it."

 

From David Martin Lloyd-Jones (1971)

"Most would agree with my sixth point which is 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. . . .

"Or take another illustration out of my own experience. In the church where I ministered in South Wales I used to stand at the main door of the church at the close of the service on Sunday night, and shake hands with people as they went out.

The incident to which I am referring concerns a man who used to come to our service every Sunday night. He was a tradesman but also a heavy drinker. He got drunk regularly every Saturday night, but he was also regularly seated in the gallery of our church every Sunday night.

On the particular night to which I am referring I happened to notice while preaching that this man was obviously being affected. I could see that he was weeping copiously, and I was anxious to know what was happening to him. At the end of the service I went and stood at the door. After a while I saw this man coming, and immediately I was in a real mental conflict.

Should I, in view of what I had seen, say a word to him and ask him to make his decision that night, or should I not? Would I be interfering with the work of the Spirit if I did so? Hurriedly I decided that I would not ask him to stay behind, so I just greeted him as usual and he went out.

His face revealed that he had been crying copiously, an he could scarcely look at me.

The following evening I was walking to the prayer-meeting in the church, and, going over a railway bridge, I saw this same man coming to meet me. He came across the road to me and said,

'You know, doctor, if you had asked me to stay behind last night I would have done so.'

'Well,' I said, 'I am asking you now, come with me now.'

'Oh no,' he replied, 'but if you had asked me last night I would have done so.'

'My dear friend,' I said, 'if what happened to you last night does not last for twenty-four hours I am not interested in it. If you are not as ready to come with me now as you were last night you have not got the right, the true thing. Whatever affected you last night was only temporary and passing, you still do not see your real need of Christ.'

"This is the kind of thing that may happen even when an appeal is not made. But when an appeal is made it is greatly exaggerated and so you get spurious conversions."

 

VISIT THE SITE OF ORIGIN OF THIS ARTICLE

 


 

A PASTOR SPEAKS OUT

The "invitation" or "altar call" at the end of a service has become such an accepted tradition in today's religion that those who do not sing "an invitation hymn" and invite people to the front of the church to "get saved" are branded with all sorts of names and charges.

It never seems to trouble religious people that this "altar call" is nowhere to be found in God's Word; that the great majority of those who "come forward" usually "go back" into indifference and worldliness; that coming to Christ is not a physical move at all but a heart commitment to the Redeemer; that the Scripture presents BAPTISM as our public confession of Christ, not "shaking the preacher's hand"; that the gospel is a COMMAND to repent, believe, and follow the Lord in baptism, not a mere invitation. The King of kings does not invite His subjects to obey and believe Him - He commands them!

I preach to you the Word of the living God! In the preaching of His Word the holiness, justice, and righteousness of God are declared. The truth of our fall, sinfulness, and inability is clearly set forth, as is mercy and grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ. Are you a sinner? Confess that fact before God, not before me! Do you need mercy?

Tell God you need mercy, not me! Do you believe the Lord Jesus Christ is the only Redeemer and righteousness and sin-offering for one such as you? Then settle that issue before the throne of grace, not at the front of the church! Has God spoken peace to your heart in Christ? Do you now rest in Him alone as your Lord and Saviour, your High Priest and Mediator? Is the old man crucified with Christ, buried, and you are risen with Him a new creature? Then ask the pastor to assist you in believer's baptism that you may declare publicly what God has done for you personally!

 
Henry Mahan, Pastor
13th Street Baptist Church

Ashland, KY, USA


[Paul, in 1 Corinthians 2] didn�t use techniques that excite and stir, and move people�s emotions to achieve results. He preached the Scriptures to the mind. Many preachers today know how to move people to respond without the Scriptures being the issue. They can manipulate them emotionally, and frankly, that kind of stuff really prostitutes the preacher�s stewardship, because it makes him no different than a secular persuader.
John MacArthur


Faith (by those using the invitation system) is represented as something to be done, in order to gain salvation; and pains are taken to show that it is an easy thing. I know well the tendency there is, at a certain stage of anxious inquiry, to ask, �What is faith, that I may do it?� It is a legalist�s work to satisfy that craving; but this is what is done in the �inquiry room.� Explanations of what faith is are but trifling with souls. How different is the Scripture way! The great aim there is to �set forth� the object, not to explain the act, of faith. Let there be conviction, illumination and renewal, and faith becomes the instinctive response of the quickened soul to the presentation by God of His Christ; and without these, no explanation of faith can be helpful to any one. The labor to explain it is too often the legal spirit. It were wiser to take pains in removing ignorance and error regarding God, and sin and Christ. Help them know these, if you would not build them up with �untempered mortar� in a false peace. If you would be wise, as well as kind, work in that direction, rather than hurrying them to belief.
John Kennedy-- Nineteenth Century pastor


We must be patient to allow the Holy Spirit to work conviction in the heart. That may happen in a few moments, a few hours, days, or even years. To be biblically evangelistic, we must be certain that what we do leads men to faith, not just to decisions.
John Ehrhard


It is interesting to note that the Bible account focuses attention on the object of our faith, Jesus Christ, and His life and work, when presenting the gospel to those who do not believe. There is virtually no explanation of the nature of repentance and faith; merely its mention seems to be enough. Why is that so? It is because of this wonderful reality. When the Word is preached and the Spirit is at work, the sinner is brought to conviction of sin and he cannot love his sin anymore. He must repent. And when the Word presents Christ as the only hope and the Spirit is at work in the sinner, he sees no refuge for his soul but Christ. He must believe. Where else could he possibly go?

On the main, evangelism, after laying out the awfulness of man and his sin, and the consequence and offense against God, focuses its gaze on Christ and His work on behalf of sinners. And the people simply believe. There is no emphasis on anything else. They just believe�no laboring of mechanics or methods or perfectly worded prayers, or walks to the front. They believe it is all they can do.

You may not agree with my assessment, but it is my contention that our use of the alter call and the accouterment of a �sinner�s prayer� is a sign of our lack of trust in God. Do we really believe that God can save, that His gospel is powerful, that His Spirit is effectual in His work?
Jim Elliff


Robert Dabney, one of the great theologians of the nineteenth century, made some very penetrating observations concerning the disillusionment of people that have been counseled for a decision. Some of these individuals, he said, "feel that a cruel trick has been played upon their inexperience by the ministers and friends of Christianity in thus thrusting them, in the hour of their confusion, into false positions, whose duties they do not and cannot perform, and into sacred professions which they have been compelled shamefully to repudiate. Their self respect is therefore galled to the quick, and pride is indignant at the humiliating exposure. No wonder that they look on religion and its advocates henceforward with suspicion and anger. Often their feelings do not stop here. They are conscious that they were thoroughly in earnest in their religious anxieties and resolves at the time, and that they felt strange and profound exercises. Yet bitter and mortifying experience has taught them that their new birth and experimental religion at least was a delusion. How natural to conclude that those of all others are delusions also? They say 'the only difference between myself and these earnest Christians is, that they have not yet detected the cheat as I have. They are now not a whit more convinced of their sincerity and of the reality of their exercises than I once was of mine. Yet I know there was no change in my soul; I do not believe that there is in theirs.' Such is the fatal process of thought through which thousands have passed; until the country is sprinkled all over with infidels, who have been made such by their own experience of spurious religious excitements. They may keep their hostility to themselves in the main; because Christianity now 'walks in her silver slippers'; but they are not the less steeled against all saving impressions of the truth."



 

 

 

COMMENT: Steve Van Nattan

The altar call in most churches is a psychological trick. The preacher asks everyone to stand. He then says, "Every head bowed and every eye closed." This aligns the preacher with Almighty God who now looks down on the masses of sinners to see who is wicked. The Baptist confessional is open for business.

The preacher then asks you to raise your hand if you know you are born again. This is to get you to take action-- it gives a feeling of compliance. Salesmen know the value of getting a response to ANY question. Telemarketers will ask you if you are the home owner. The truck is to get you to say "yes" two or three times to move you in a positive direction.

The hand raising to affirm salvation also gives the preacher a chance to see who does NOT raise the hand. He can then do the work of the Holy Ghost and talk any sinner out there into submission.

Next, the preacher will talk about taking action. Everyone still has heads bowed and eyes closed. As the world is shut out, you are mentally worked about sin, dedication, church membership, baptism, or anything the preacher feels is needed. This, in sales, is called the "pitch." It has nothing to do with the Holy Ghost and everything to do with the preacher's abilities of persuasion.

Finally, you will be asked to take a hymn book and sing. While singing, the preacher will bark into the microphone various encouragements and threats of damnation and opportunities missed. He has now run the Holy Ghost off and is "convincing men of sin and righteousness and judgment." He has kicked the Holy Ghost out of the church and clearly does not trust God to change men by the teaching of the Word alone. The Glory has departed, Ichabod!!

Finally, you will be virtually threatened because you raised you hand and you are not walking to the front. You thought no one was looking. Now, you are a spiritual rebel, wimp, or dog because you will not openly walk forward and visit the altar.

Where is this in the Bible, in the Gospels, or in the Epistles?

Nowhere. It is modern mind control, nothing else.

Al Fezmire, pastor of Battle Creek Bible Church, was traveling somewhere, and he had to return on Sunday. He decided to stop at some church along the way and worship with them so he would be with the saints on the Lord's Day. He saw a Fundamental Baptist church, and he decided that it should be sound enough and good for the soul. He parked and walked in, realizing he was somewhat late. The sermon had just begun. Being a pastor, and as he stood momentarily in the foyer, he at once figured out what the sermon was about and was please.

Al entered the meeting room, and not wanting to make a ruckus, he sat in the back pew against the back wall. The pastor immediately abandoned his sermon and changed to preaching the Gospel. All the rest of the meeting, the preacher preached at Al Fezmire, not knowing who he was. At the close, the preacher gave a knock down drag out invitation and altar call. Several verses of a hymn were sung, and the preacher was getting desperate and pleading with Al to come forward. Finally, Al Fezmire walked forward. The preacher was elated and shouted and met Al in the aisle. Al said to the preacher, "You can end the service now, I am born again and love the Lord Jesus." The poor preacher lost his composure completely according to Al, and he could hardly get his act together to even close the service.

Al Fezmire's experience shows how stupid some men are. They have no instinct to feed sheep. They want the rush of seeing a full altar, and they will abandon the Flock of God to get it.

I personally belive that the most evil aspect of the Altar Call is this "every head bowed and every eye closed." There were NO secret responses in the Bible from Genesus 1 to Revelation 22. All calls to God's people to choose or respond in any way were public.

Joshua 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. 16 And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods;

Matthew 10:32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

Psalms 107:2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;

Psalms 119:46 I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed.

Psalms 107:31 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
32 Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

When Jonathan Goforth, missionary to China, finished preaching, he bowed his head in prayer, and often said, "It is time to pray." Soon, Chinese men, not ladies, would pray in turns crying out to God for power and for renewal and zeal. Some confessed sin to God in prayer, and these responses could go on for a long time. All this time, Goforth stood with head bowed as he prayed silently.

I have ended many messages by asking if any of the brethren have some thought to add from the Word or a word of exhortation. Very often, godly men would speak of our need to respond in some way, or they would take us to a Bible text I had not found on the subject at hand. These were some of our most precious times, for the message left me and became the possession of the assembly as the Holy Ghost used other men of God to enlarge the teaching of the Word. I would not trade these times for an alter full of a thousand blubbering people.

We cannot close this page without noting another use of the alter call. I am 100% convinced that many preachers use the altar call to drive away those who are thinking and discerning the Word of God. These preachers know very well that they could not defend the altar call game if their life depended on it. So, they thrash the thinking saint by trying to figure out where he is weak. They may know very well where that saint is weak, and they hammer and hammer that sin until the thinking saint either submits to the altar call or leaves. Thus, Fundamental Baptists, Pentecostals, and many other allegedly narrow churches are filled with compliant cur dogs who are easily manipulated by the preacher.

Perhaps this is not all bad, for many godly folks will be delivered as the Fundamental "KJV only" jerks bash them out the door. These people will be the founders of real local churches as we come down to the end of the Age of Grace. It has happened before so many times, and in the spirit of Luther and Gresham Machen these people will carry the Glory on down the road with them. And, ironically, they will be the ones actually using the KJV to guide their church life.

We also need to note the frightening similarity of the Fundamental Baptist altar call to the Roman Catholic Stations of the Cross. The Catholic follower either goes to the confessional, or they find in themselves some sin, and they head for the church building. They cannot confess the sin in their living room. They have to be at the right real estate. Sound familiar? Once they arrive at the Roman Whore's real estate, they head straight for the altar and kneel and pray. Hrmph! After this, they will do the stations of the Cross. These are in the form of plaques around the room and represent the passion of Christ, that is, various scenes of the end days of Christ's life. Prayers are said before these, and anyone else in the room will see that the penitent has had a problem, and "Father" has assigned them to do the ritual in the prescribed manner.

The Roman Catholic victim has no confidence in confession of sin while he is alone in a quiet place. He saves up his sins and goes on Sunday to take care of them. Some Catholics do the stations of the Cross, while others pray to saint and Mary images in the Catholic real estate. Others will talk to the "Father" who will then give them so many Hail Marys to do, or some other ritual.

I recall tuning a piano in a Catholic church in Fremont, Michigan. While I tuned, a lady came in every half hour, weeping, and flung herself on the altar. She prayed for a while, and then left. This went on as long as I was there. This lady could not pray to God at home. She was convinced that the Whore's altar was where she could communicate with God and deal with her troubles. Another story-- Margaret C. of a church I pastored in California came from Boston and a Catholic family. She told of a wicked old drunken sinner dying with heart trouble. The man had not been to Mass in many years, and just before he died, his family rushed him, not to the hospital, but to the altar of the Roman Catholic church nearby so he could die on the altar platform.

Sound familiar?

So, the Fundamental Baptists, courtesy of Charles Finney, DL Moody, and Billy Graham, have come to see the power of real estate. Being there "every time the doors are open" is paramount, and making the trip to the altar is the point of unloading sin and dedication to sin no more. If it worked, we could have some patience with it, but we have watched and realize that those who faithfully hit the altar when the bishop demands it of them ARE WOLVES IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING. With only rare exceptions, the people found at the altar the most arrogant repeat sinners.

Why?

Answer: These people are depending on a man, a preacher, maybe a fat rebel adulterer, to call them to holiness. What a deal! The high calling of life in Christ Jesus is no longer the standard. Romans 12:1-2 is supplanted by a short walk once a week. "Cheap holiness," I say. They only need to respond to any sin the preacher manages to talk about, and no one knows. They never have to confess to men, as the Word teaches us. If they will hand their brain to the preacher, and kneel under his holy gaze from on high, they can walk away absolved. "Go in peace, my son," says the "Father".

Lastly, it is a rare event to see a preacher kneel at the altar call. The song leader is rarely there either. The preacher's wife never kneels with those dirty sheep. Why? Well, if the preacher is going to convince the saints of sin and righteousness and judgment, he better be infallible. Do we know anyone else who claims to be infallible? A good old boy in Rome maybe? If a preacher ever kneels in repentance, he will kneel at the deacon's bench on the platform, NOT down with the filthy sheep. After all, they are real sinners, and he is the mighty godlette.

What will the average preacher do when he reads this page?

Answer: Curse me and damn me to hell. I like it like that.

Preacher, when is the last time you confessed sin to a saint in your assembly?

Hebrews 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

If you are bashing sheep and manipulating their minds, and if the result is a bigger and bigger church, and a bigger and bigger belly, then you are a bastard. Jesus Christ will take any preacher who abuses sheep to the wood shed for a sound thrashing. If you are prospering well in your games and tricks, you are damned to hell, and your accusations of me are a big joke.

 

A few keys for those who don't want people saved in their altar calls.

By Ray Comfort- Way of The Master

Comment by Steve Van Nattan:
Be careful, preacher! You will read some of these and say, "Amen, I would never do that." But, I dare say some of them will hit home hard. Do you want to just carve notches on your gun, or do you want Christ to be rewarded with souls he died for?

Psalms 139:23 (KJV) Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

1. Present an unbalanced message. Only let them see the heart-warming part of God's character. Preach God's love but leave out His holiness and justice. That way they'll think He'll let them into heaven no matter what.

2. Don't mention repentance until they're repeating a "sinner's prayer." Just get them to say, "I repent of all my sins" while they're echoing you. They won't know what they're saying and they won't count the cost.

3. Above all else, be dignified. Don't get heart to heart with the people. They would get something out of what you said.

4. Skim over the gospel and push the prayer. Pretend the lost naturally understand what Christ has done for them.

5. Preach Jesus as a life enhancer not a life rescuer. Tell them how Jesus can improve their life but don't show them Jesus as the only One who can save them from Hell. People will think if they reject Him they're only losing out on a spiritual high.

6. Try to please the people instead of convert them. Tell them what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear.

7. Compromise the message to speed up the process. The Christians who have heard it a hundred times before will be pleased with that. The quicker they get out the quicker they can get to the restaurant.

8. Give them the impression that God is so good He won't send anyone to hell. Don't present the whole counsel of God or they might realize He is so good that He'll see to it that justice is served and that all unrepentant sinners will be punished in the fire that is not quenched.

9. Speak to sinners as though they were saints. They'll think they're God's children instead of the enemies of God they've made themselves into because of their sin. You'll give them false assurance and mislead them.

10. Don't mention sin or man's guilt. Resist the urge to explain what Christ came to deliver us from. Don't show them their need for the Savior. Otherwise it may all make sense.

11. Don't look to the Bible for the substance of your altar call. Only mimic other preachers with large congregations.

12. Tell the lost not to feel bad about their sins. That way you will work against the Holy Spirit who's convicting them Whatever you do, never mention Judgment Day. Your audience might take spiritual matters seriously.

13. Tell them Jesus is the only way to heaven but don't explain why. They may think it's nothing more than fear tactics and leave offended instead of enlightened.

14. Confuse the call. This is a great way to botch up an altar call. Don't let people know you're asking them to commit their life to Christ. Be vague and general in what you're saying. Neglect to mention following Christ in your evangelistic altar calls and say things like, "If you don't feel you're as close to God as possible raise your hand," "If you feel lonely come to the front for prayer," "If you want more of God this is your time," and, "If you have struggles and need the answer come down." Just get them to raise a hand. That way no one will be able to count the cost and you'll even get saints to respond to salvation altar calls, making the results look more successful.

15. Only give them half the story. Tell them Jesus died to forgive everyone but overlook the fact that they must personally receive Him to partake of that forgiveness.

16. Present the truth as though it isn't. Be so funny when you share Christ that you belittle the seriousness of the matter.

17. Preach forgiveness without repentance. That way no one will know how to be forgiven.

18. Be unbiblical. Present repentance and faith as an offer instead of how God does as a command (Acts 17:30).

19. Let them think next Sunday is the day of salvation. Don't make them feel it's urgent to respond today.

20. Never warn of hell. Dangle heaven in front of their nose but rarely mention hell, certainly not as much as Jesus did.

21. Only do altar calls inside the church. Never take the gospel where sinners congregate. The lost might get saved. Added by Steve Van Nattan: Give the impression, like the Roman Catholic church, that "getting saved" is geographical-- in your case, the ten by twenty foot area of carpet in front of YOUR pulpit.

22. Use churchy terms. Use words like, "saved," "repent," and "born again," without any explanation. That way your hearers won't comprehend what you're saying. If they can't understand it, it's probable they won't be changed by it.

23. Give false assurance of salvation to unsaved Christians. Assure church folk that they are saved even if they bear no fruit. So that you don't offend the unsaved pew warmers never quote 2 Corinthians 13:5: "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith." You could lose some financial supporters and have to depend on God.

24. Never mention the wrath of God. If you mention it, people might be awakened to flee to Jesus who "saves us from the wrath to come." ( 1 Thess. 1:10)

25. Study how the apostles preached and witnessed and do the opposite. Don't explain Jesus' suffering death on the cross. Otherwise they may think of running to Him for forgiveness. Don't speak of His burial or resurrection or they might realize He is God. Refrain from commenting about the hundreds of eyewitnesses who saw Jesus after He rose from the dead. That way they can go on thinking He's a fairy tale. Overlook talk of the messianic prophecies Jesus fulfilled or they might realize that the Bible is true. If they see it's the truth they may see that following Christ is the logical decision. And whatever you do, avoid what the apostles did when it came time to call people to obey the gospel. Don't tell them to trust Christ and live for Him. That is too accurate. If they know how to get saved your altar call will be a success.

26. Put more emphasis on the"sinner's prayer" then on repentance and faith. Satan will smile over your departure from Biblical instruction. We are never taught to use a "sinner's prayer" throughout the entire Bible. If you decide to use it and put more emphasis on the technique than on what we're commanded to preach: faith and repentance you'll certainly botch things up. A "sinner's prayer" doesn't equal salvation, only faith in Christ and repentance toward God do.

27. Let Christians think you're the only one who can do it right. Always leave the impression that they should only invite friends to church and never actually witness themselves. It will keep you in business and the lost unsaved.

28. Don't let the lost know they are. Disregard subjects like Judgment Day, God's holiness, man's sinfulness and justice. That way the lost can continue to think they're "good enough" to get into heaven.

29. Rely upon psychological techniques to manipulate people into responding to the altar call. Don't rely upon the Holy Spirit or they may actually get saved.

30. Make sure you're the main attraction. Remember the goal in botching up an altar call is for people to leave and say, "What a wonderful preacher," instead of, "What a wonderful Savior." Draw all possible attention to how great a speaker and person you are. Otherwise people might see Christ in your preaching and get saved.

31. Don't focus upon Jesus. Finally, the best way to botch up an altar call is not to preach the gospel. Just get people to lift up a hand and pray a prayer with you. Resist the urge to speak of the only One who could save them.

Added by Steve Van Nattan:
Put them in terror of the moment of the altar call. Say, "If you don't come forward now, you will not get saved out there." Do not put them in terror of the law of God they have violated and his justice to judge them. You don't want some unimportant "layman" to give them the Gospel and take the credit away from you for being a "great soul winner."

 

 

LINKS:

HELL'S BEST KEPT SECRET

Here is the height of madness leading up to an altar call.

A Pentecostal Complaint (Disclaimer NIV quotes)

The cults use altar calls

"IT IS GOOD FOR A MAN NOT TO TOUCH A WOMAN" Well, except when the woman is gushing at the altar.
DITTO

Comment:
When I first posted this article I had many links to altar call scenes and apologetics. In 2012 I had to drop and rework nearly all of them. This means that at least several of them were dropped due to persecution. To question the altar call is the height of blasphemy in Independent Fundamental Baptist circles.

 

VIDEOS:

WELL DONE, VERY MOVING, AND..... SO MUCH UNILKE JESUS

THE GOSPEL OF DRAMA

PLAYING TRICKS ON CHILDREN AT HILLSONG

This creep does not take his hat off when he prays. He is a devil.

THE SINNER'S PRAYER

 

ARE YOU BORN AGAIN?

WHATEVER YOU DID OR PRAYED, EVEN WITH EMOTION AND SINCERITY.....
IT WAS NOT JUST A MAGIC CHARM.
DID THIS HAPPEN, AS THE TEXT TEACHES?
IF NOT, YOU WERE DECEIVED INTO THINKING YOU WERE BORN AGAIN.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;

What has happened to the "old things" in your life? Is your life now all about Jesus Christ?
Are the issues of life changed for you..... all things?

If not, you need to learn what the Gospel really is.

THE GOSPEL

IF YOU NEED TO TALK, SEND MAIL.

 

 

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