13 August 2009

Altering altar calls

by Dan Phillips

We had a great confabulation yesterday, during which I didn't much share my thoughts. So, here they are, enumerated for your dancing and dining pleasure, based on some of the Scriptures and argumentation provided so ably in the previous meta.
  1. The very term altar call should give any Christian pause. We don't have an altar here. We shouldn't be calling men to an "altar," we should be calling them to Christ... and there's no way in the world I'm going to start using the phrase "Christ call." [UPDATE: btw, a few hours after writing that, something occurred to me. Premise: the only "thing" we should care about calling men to isn't a thing, it's a Person: it is Jesus Christ. Observation: but if we were to stop calling it an "altar call," and dubbed it instead a "Christ call," then it might cease immediately. Because what Biblically-instructed pastor could ever with a straight face try to connect walking somewhere on earth with meeting the Lord Jesus? But if that isn't what we're calling them to, then why are we doing it? And if they don't need to walk an aisle to do it, why make it sound as if they do?]
  2. Though it is not determinative, it certainly is significant that (A) no evangelist in most Christian history felt the need to do it, and (B) the first to popularize it was the heretic Charles Finney.
  3. I've also seen horrid, endless, manipulative altar calls (almost but not quite "anyone who loves his mother, come forward").
  4. To bid people to "come forward and receive Christ" necessarily creates the impression that Jesus is waiting for them at the front of the church (which He isn't), that there's a tractor-beam of salvation located at the front of the auditorium (which there isn't), and that to meet Him they have to relocate their bodies (which they don't).
  5. "Altar calls" with big responses may or may not puff up a preacher, but altar calls with no response make Christ and the Gospel look pathetic and powerless, though neither is either.
  6. Further, the primary purpose of assembly is not evangelism but edification.
  7. Having said all that, the fact that many Calvinists are content to leave it there isn't a happy thing, and isn't adequate. Nor is saying (literally, or in effect) "Oh just let God save them" and "Let the Word do its work" and so forth. To be more specific:
  8. Simply to say (in effect) "Altar calls are unbiblical and Finneyite, church isn't for evangelism, let people find their own way to God" simply reinforces the (God help us, it had better be) false impression that Calvinists are (A) uninterested in evangelism, (B) indifferent to seekers, (C) cerebral, and (D) arrogantly self-involved.
  9. It is always better to point out a better way than it is just to fault the way it's done.
  10. Plus, aren't we Calvinists always big about always preaching the Gospel? If there's no Gospel in our preaching of Ephesians 5, Nehemiah 1, Genesis 12, or what-have-you, don't we all say we're doing it wrong?
  11. And, that being the case, unless we bar unbelievers or check their baptisms at the door, mightn't the Spirit of God awaken an unbeliever in the assembly?
  12. And if that's the case, shouldn't we be the first to scramble to provide the answer to the question "What must I do to be saved?", if it's being asked?
  13. And, though we have wonderful arguments against telling people to come forward to be saved, should we not constantly be issuing invitations — that is, urging our hearers to repent, turn, believe, be saved?
  14. And so should we not be eager to help anyone on whom the Spirit of God so moves?
  15. So I think providing elders and others after a service to talk with anyone moved in any way by the sermon is a great idea, and we should do it — make them available, tell folks they're available, urge folks to avail themselves of them.
Thus far my thoughts on the altar call. I plan related discussions in the near future, Lord willing.

Dan Phillips's signature


DJP said...

Yes, yes, I know, I know. I'm very sorry.

We'll all just appreciate Frank and Phil all the more when they're able to post again.

Matt said...

It is always better to point out a better way than it is just to fault the way it's done.

Thanks, Dan. The reminder is very good. I really enjoyed these two posts, and yesterday's meta. Seems that your meta-call today has been met with less sensationalism...

DJP said...

Ah, it's just been up a few minutes.

I'm afraid that Calvinists will (deserve to) be seen as political conservatives are seen:

Great critics
Poor builders

DJP said...

Oh, and if any pastor starts accepting texted "invitation" responses from the pulpit, I think everyone should come down the aisle — and remove him.

Anonymous said...

I like what you wrote. In seminary I was required to write a position paper on the "altar call." My conclusions were very similar to yours, that is, we should not give an invitation to an altar that isn't really old fashioned, it just started with Finney.

But we needed to provide a means for pastoral counsel. We have a place in our building that is near the sanctuary where people can meet an elder or an elder's wife for Biblical guidance. We are actually in the process of getting this set up.

The church must communicate to those who need counsel that we are here to help lead to Christ. Spurgeon would often invite those under conviction to meet him in his study.

On another note, Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote of a lost man who attending an evening service when he preached the gospel. That night the man was in tears, he would have responded had Lloyd-Jones given an invitation. The lost man left in tears, however, the next morning Lloyd-Jones saw him and he was back to his evil ways and even commented that he had not given his life to Christ.

Anyway, Lloyd-Jones goes onto use this story as a good reason to not employ the invitation, stating that if a man is under conviction on Sunday night he will continue to be on Monday morning. That is grace, and it is irresistible.

Jugulum said...

I love your summary, even though it's conspicuously lacking all of the wonderful puns.

DJP said...

Title?? Hel-lo-o?

NoLongerBlind said...

Great (EF!) follow-up post, Dan.

Re: pointing out a better way vs. merely criticizing the current method - that's edification in practice, right?

As my pastor has said, regarding "body life": You're either part of the construction team - building others up, or, your part of the destruction team - tearing others down.

We're called to "the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ"....

Us said...

"mightn't the Spirit of God awaken an unbeliever in the assembly?"

!!**!! YES !!**!!

providing elders and others after a service to talk with anyone moved in any way by the sermon is a great idea, and we should do it — make them available, tell folks they're available, urge folks to avail themselves of them.


!!**!! YES !!**!!

God saved me this way. Took over fifteen years. But at least I was IN church all those fifteen confused and deluded years. That way, when conversion rocked my world, I was able to call my pastor and ask "what does 1 John 1:9 mean? I mean, what does it MEAN, Pastor???

(or, "Pastor, will Jesus forgive me 70 x 7 times? Won't He get sick of me before then?")

My pastor gave me his HOME phone number and told me to call ANYTIME with questions. (after an initial three hour counseling session in which I wept bitterly over my sins). The week or two when I was being converted--I HAD QUESTIONS!!! I thanked God and my pastor over and over again, for being able to CALL him with spiritual questions. He typically spent about 40 minutes listening to me and explaining things. I am so grateful for his giving of himself in this way. Praise God for raising a servant like him.

Anyway, if I hadn't been convinced I was a saved person for so many years, would I have GONE TO CHURCH all those years? This is making my head spin.

(well, being a church pianist also kept me in the assembly. God is so genius)


That Conservative Dude said...

Thanks for the great post. I am looking forward to your next question. Oh, by the way, not all us political conservatives are poor builders.

Jugulum said...

*blink blink*





So... There are titles on these posts?

greglong said...

Amen, Dan! Great balance. I'm afraid some Calvinists are so against "invitations" (meaning altar calls) that they fail to invite people to receive Christ!

C. M. Sheffield said...

This has been very helpful to me. This something that needs to be thought through and feel that has been done here. For that, I thank you.

Penn Tomassetti said...

"6. Further, the primary purpose of assembly is not evangelism but edification."

Amen. We recently had a discussion about this at my little church, and since we are so small, the pastor decided to meet personally with new people to discuss with them the gospel and its call to come to Christ for genuine salvation rather than to one's own works or prayers or baptism or anything else.

So I agree, go out and preach the gospel, calling men to repent and trust in Christ, then meet together to edify the believers and to help those new to understand better.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Hypothetical scene: Jesus teaching in the temple.

"Jesus": “Now, with every head bowed and every eye closed, and with Andrew softly playing ‘A Dove on Distant Oaks’ on his harp, if you want to be saved, just slip your hand up in the air, no one will see…

Would the above scene pass the gut-level sniff test with anyone? I seriously doubt it (or, I hope not). If the idea of Jesus using such hokey tactics is so obviously absurd, it really makes me realize just how conditioned I’ve become to unquestioningly seeing nonsense in the church.

I wonder how many unbelievers have been repulsed by such practices? More than have been saved? Possibly.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. Good thoughts, I think. :)

I had a Christian brother tell me once that we HAD to have altar calls. His reason? He didn't know how else anyone would be saved. He responded to an altar call and thought that if there had not been one he would not be a Christian today.

Chad V. said...

The better way is the biblical way. Preach the gospel and tell people they must repent and believe the gospel to be saved. That's the better way. It's not that people who hold altar calls need to adopt a new way so-to-speak, they just need to keep preaching the gospel and remove the man made tradition from it. In other words, keep preaching the gospel, just stop with the altar calls.

If people think the altar call is a necessity to effective evangelism then they really need to ponder Christ's words in Matt 15:9 because what they have just done is erected a man made doctrine and Christ's condemnation on such a practice is quite severe. The fact that it bothers them that Calvinists don't have altar calls and that they believe it's needful for effective evangelism proves that they are wedded to a human tradition because there is no example or command in the whole of scripture for an altar call.

James Scott Bell said...

#15 - Agree completely. That's how we do it at our church.

Stefan Ewing said...

Well, we don't have altar calls at our church, either.

We do have a time for prayer after the praise and worship and before the sermon, when elders and other prayer leaders stand at the front and receive people who are going through challenges in their lives. My impression that as many (if not more) believing members go forward than non-believers, to be prayed for by their brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.

After that, while announcements are made, visitors are welcomed and told about the prayer cards in the pews in front of them, and told about the Welcome Centre—a room where ministry volunteers receive non-believers and new believers, answer their questions, pray with them, sign them up for discipleship classes, and so on.

All that being said, every sermon concludes with a call to repentance (since each sermon ultimately points to Jesus Christ, or our hopelessness without Him). During a few sermons on particularly challenging or noteworthy texts, the pastor may ask believers or non-believers who are ready to commit or recommit their lives to Jesus Christ to come forward after the service to pray with elders.

Likewise, we have monthly closed communion—which also serves as a Gospel presentation. Non-believers are asked to pass the elements by without feeling singled out, but are invited to repent and turn to Christ during the time when we all pray privately before receiving the elements.

And once someone does repent and surrender to Christ (which as often as not, does not actually happen in the sancturay, during the service), then the process of instruction and elder discernment leading to baptism begins, with the baptism being the new believer's public profession of faith (with public testimony)—and then and only then is the new saint's membership among the community of believers made public for the watching world to see.

James Joyce said...


That's how my church home does it.

After the sermon, which always has the gospel blended into it, our pastor lets everyone know that he and the elders are available for anyone who has questions, needs to speak with someone or desires prayer.

Stefan Ewing said...

Oh, and Dan: Your #8...

Is there any Calvinist in all of redemptive history who hasn't committed a similar misstep (or multiple such missteps!) at one time or another in his (or her) life, on some point of doctrine or practice? It must be one of the Lord God's many ways of reminding us that we're still sinners.

Associate-to-the-Pastor said...

Ironically enough, I am enrolled in an Intro to Expository Preaching class this semester and I just got my syllabus online- literally; I printed it of about 5 minutes ago. Anyway, I have as a required textbook Alan Streett's book on effective invitations. Throughout the semester, we will be required to stand in front of the class and deliver various invitations to sermons which the professor will provide to us, and graded on their quality, relation to the text, structure, and improvement over the course of the semester.
Should be about as fun as a Town Hall meeting with Arlen Specter. Perhaps a little less incomprehensible yelling.

Aaron said...

"I'm afraid that Calvinists will (deserve to) be seen as political conservatives are seen:

Great critics
Poor builders

Not at all a reference to "discernment" blogs I'm sure.

Scot said...

Oh Dan, I really look forward to this series. As someone who has wrestled with these issues for years (altar calls and evangelicalism), I eagerly await some good discussion on these topics. I really want to learn to communicate some of my disagreements in a firm but graceful way.

FX Turk said...

I love DJP.

This is why you can't get too much of him.

Aaron said...

I wanted to comment on your last post, but you created this one before I could. Your thoughts mirror mine almost exactly.

I believe the "altar" is a holdover from RC where they actually sacrifice Jesus. No self-respecting Protestant would ever have an alter!

Unlike some of the commentors from the previous meta, I don't think all Pastors that offer a call for salvation do so for the wrong reasons. I do think many Pastors do so with a genuine desire to see people come forward rather than be lost in the crowds after the service. There's a lot more to communicate about salvation than you can do during an altar call., which is the major reason why I don't like it, but that doesn't by necessity, make those who use the call prideful.

My Pastor does what Dan suggested, which is one of the reasons I commented before on one of Phil's posts, that I try not to take up the Pastor's time immediately after the service. I can quibble with him over minutia any day of the week, whereas the visitor may never see him again.

Lastly, I've come to realize that the responsibility of evangelizing visitors doesn't rest on the Pastor. I am personally guilty of allowing the Pastor to shoulder all the work with that respect. I should show up early to church, identify visitors, seek them out after church, and personally evangelize if they aren't believers. I don't do that and shame on me for it.

Aaron said...

I only read the meta to see the comments between Frank and Dan.


Terry said...

Great posts, but I do have a little quibble with #6. Further, the primary purpose of assembly is not evangelism but edification.

I agree as long as the lines between evangelism and edification are clearly drawn, but are they always so distinct?

The gospel that calls people to Christ initially is the same gospel that is the delight and refuge of the believer as well. We need to hear the gospel and a call to cling to Christ all the time in our meetings. I'm thinking along the lines of the Spurgeon quotes over at Tony Reinke's Miscellanies blog today (http://spurgeon.wordpress.com/).

I know you wouldn't disagree, but we must have the evangel even if we're not primarily evangelizing on Sunday morning.

DJP said...

Did you also read #10 and following.

Sir Brass said...

Dan, I actually AM happy to leave it where most of us calvinists leave it as far as the alter call.

However, that is the alter call, NOT invitations to come to Christ in faith for the salvation of sins. I think that if one's sermon touches naturally on a call to come to repentance and faith, then one would be completely remiss in NOT offering the free invitation to salvation through Jesus Christ. But that doesn't require an alter call.

When Peter preached on Pentecost, he didn't end it with, "Now, if you would like to be saved come forward and pray this prayer with my associates." He simply told them. I think that's an excellent model for how a pastor should preach the invitation: Just Tell Them! (akin to the famous Bob Newheart skit "Just Stop It!") No need for 17 stanzas of "Just As I Am" or a break in the sermonic flow, but a simple transition to emphatically preach the gospel once again as part of preaching through the text.

So, yeah, I'm fine with leaving the alter call where most calvinists leave it. But that's not to say that we should neglect the preaching of the gospel's invitation for whosoever will believe to do so for the forgiveness of their sins.

B/c as (well, not as he intended) Ergun Caner once said (amusingly, in a rant against calvinism): "He [Jesus] is a "whosoever" kinda guy."

Nash Equilibrium said...

We have Chuck Finney to blame for altar calls. We have Billy Graham to blame for popularizing them.

David Sheldon said...

DJP - Agree with you and many of the comments! After we study our theology of evangelism well - from Matthew 1:1 through Revelation 22:16 - we come to the 5th to the last verse of the New Testament.

"The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come' And let the one who hears say, 'Come' And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost."
Revelation 22:17 NASB

The only theology left after this is a warning against taking or adding to the words of this book and the reality of God's grace and the second coming of Jesus Christ.

So after we figure out all that theology we best figure out how we corporately as the bride of Jesus Christ and individually all say "Come"!!! I am assuming that word is there for a reason and not for our casual observation. We should EACH quickly figure out the way/ways God wants us to say it - as His witness - and then actually "say" it.

So I think the better idea for us is not "Go to Christ at the front of the church" - but the idea is and should be "Come to Jesus Christ to whom we bear witness" and invite them to come to Him.

If the Word and Spirit are at work in a human heart - we do not want to go to an opposite extreme and be "cavalier" of such a glorious work do we? Have we come to the place where the only word we can share with people is "I am glad you CAME - your good theology and fruit is obvious"?

Big difference: "HE/SHE CAME" or "COME!" To whomever God happens to entrust at attendance in His church worship service in which we participate. COME! Our lives, worship and speech should clearly demonstrate the call!

Michelle said...

This is very balanced and constructively instructive.

Now if we could just get word out to the altar callers et al that Rev 3:20 is not actually talking about Jesus standing knocking at the door of the sinner's heart longing to be let in. :)

mike said...

It seems to me that one of the reasons that these things can get so convoluted is the shallowness of our theological understanding within modern Christianity. You have one of the fastest growing non- denominations in America teaching that John 3:16 actually irrefutably disproves Calvinism. We have enormous youth response within professing Christianity for younger pastors whose greatest appeal is that they talk dirty and are rude to distracters. And we have great bunches of Christendom who think that studying church history involves the 60s and 70s.
Due to the pabulum level teaching and our unquenchable desire to be loved by those who hate God, we have grown to be a group who truly has little idea what the body of Christ should stand for, and on. We are crystal clear on what we want, and are willing to hear, but reject summarily the assertion that God is clearly God, and we are not.
So, the question is no longer “how can I, a wretched sinner, be reconciled to a holy God”? But literally what can I DO to be saved? And obligingly, we give them a key to the door of salvation, and a magic word that will oblige God to respond positively.
Better suggestion, teach them to call out to God through Christ, in repentance and faith, begging Him to choose you.

~Mark said...

I appreciate that you are encouraging believers to go beyond saying "that's bad" and to have not only reasons why NOT, but to know and be able to articulate better options.

Definitely a way to disciple and encourage and rather than leaving people feeling like there's a "looking-down upon them" it let's them know that somebody cares enough to offer a Biblically better way and clear up a fog.

I know teachability can be nurtured with that kind of thing, and walls are built with the other.

Props DJP!

~Mark said...

It also encourages actual "iron sharpening" debate. :)

~Mark said...

Plus (also in relation to what you're doing with this and planned future posts) I am so tired of people leaping to all the wrong conclusions the instant they learn someone is of the Calvinist persuasion!

donsands said...

Great teaching. This would be very helpful for those who think altar calls should never be altered.

I remember in my first Pentecostal church at the end of the service everyone would scury up front to knee and pray, BECAUSE the anointing was stronger up there.

Very manipulative to say the least. I remember another time when the preacher said, there's one more person in here that needs to get up here, God is speaking to you, and you need to come forward. Nobody else went up. But there were a lot of people who prolly felt guilty later on.

Solameanie said...

I'm as Calvinist as the day is long, but am not sure how I feel about all of this. I can understand the points and concerns about "altar calls," but am not convinced that it's always a wrong thing to do or is necessarily an unbiblical thing to do.

Having said that, I resonate the most with your point that the assembly is not primarily for evangelism. That misconception is -- in my humble opinion -- one of the reasons the church continues to fall for so many of these nonsensical, unbiblical fads like the Emergent bilge, church-growth pushes, seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven etc. The purpose of the assembly is for believers to worship God, fellowship with the saints and to be equipped for ministry. It's not intended for unbelievers. That doesn't mean evangelism can't happen at a worship service, but it's not the main point.

Evangelism ought to be done by each one of us out in the marketplace. We can't sluff it off on the pastor because we pay him a salary. If we're doing the job we're supposed to be doing in our daily lives, "altar calls" would largely be unnecessary.

Steven said...


Thanks for the nod in the title, if it was that.

So what is the consensus on what we call that thing after the sermon but before the benediction? If it isn't an altAr call or an invitation, what term should we use to describe it? The answer cannot be "alter call"!

I am still slightly uncomfortable with the more dogmatic position that worship is solely for believers for the reasons that you point out (see post point 11). The same word that sanctifies us also converts the unregenerate. It seems wise to have an opportunity to encourage and counsel with those that are called by the word during worship.

All this to say, I agree with your points and you were able to make them without any spelling errors. I commend you.


DJP said...


1. It was indeed a friendly nod
2. If I had made mistakes, the same bro who caught you would have caught me. (In fact, he did catch one over at mine own blog today.)

mike said...

i think at least here at this site we can say Calvinism does not by definition equal heartless people haters gleefully watching Hell fill up.
we should actually be prepared (if you are truly regenerated) to give our life so that a lost soul could be saved.
regardless, creating an alternative salvational "gate" than that which was offered by the Savior himself.
we should want the lost to be found with all of our hearts, but creating a shortcut or discounted offer makes no sense.
it is not unloving to withold a false offer or assurance of grace, infact the most loving thing we can do is to hold fast to the one true offer of eternal life with God through Christ.

mike said...

i am going to invent a post modern spellchecker and send the prototype to NLB.

mike said...

to prove my point;
3rd paragraph should have read

regardless, creating an alternative salvational "gate" than that which was offered by the Savior himself...

has NO value.

NoLongerBlind said...

I was wonderin' what you meant by that "sentence", Mike.

Thanks for finishin' yur thought!



That Conservative Dude said...

Blogger Steven said...


Thanks for the nod in the title, if it was that.

So what is the consensus on what we call that thing after the sermon but before the benediction? If it isn't an altAr call or an invitation, what term should we use to describe it? The answer cannot be "alter call"!

An opportunity? As in "after the service there will be people available to give you an opportunity to ask any questions about the service and/or salvation." Just my 2 cents...no change back needed...

danny2 said...

Great list, Dan.

Thank you for displaying that your convictions are not counter evangelism but that you have a heart for the lost!

Paula said...

NLB said, "As my pastor has said, regarding "body life": You're either part of the construction team - building others up, or, your part of the destruction team - tearing others down."

Your pastor better copyright that truism before Rick Warren gets latches on to it. That's right up his alley.

NoLongerBlind said...

Paula, are you saying that you don't agree with the point I was making?

Not sure that "America's pastor" is an edifying association, if you get my drift....

Paula said...

Nah, not disagreeing....just saying...frequent use of mnemonic device is a sign you might be drifting, to the dark side, if you get my drift. Some might even say anti-Calvinistic (tongue firmly in cheek) : )

MarieP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MarieP said...

As my pastor has said, "Coming to Christ is not a journey we make with our feet, it's a journey we make with our heart!"

I'm just waiting for this to happen:

1 Cor. 14:24-25 "But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you."

Or the cries like those in Acts 2 who stopped the preaching to ask what they must do to be saved. That would shake up our decorum a bit...

Although there was the time recently when a fairly frequent visitor from a non-Reformed background came up to the front of the pulpit during the time of silent prayer we have after the sermon to close the service. It wasn't like my pastor was going to say, "What?! Don't you know we don't do that here!" The man had come up to ask him how he could be made right with God. My pastor said it was glorious...

Rachael Starke said...

I loved this series.

If there's any doubt about what the world thinks of this whole deal, you need look no further than the company of high-tech God-mockers my husband and I work with. A semi-blasphemous derivative of the altar-call expression is used whenever someone is talking about having a serious meeting with a waffler to force them to commit to something.
My husband asked them in no uncertain terms to knock it off.

And "tractor-beam of salvation" just makes me laugh.

Sam Chevre said...

I'm not certain that "the assembly is for building up the body of Christ, not evangelism" is really an argument against altar calls.

Now note--I'm NOT in favor of altar calls.

But the response to the Gospel should be the same for believers that it should be for unbelievers. (Yes, unbelievers neither can nor wish to believe and obey without the supernatural work of God.) But for believers AND unbelievers, "Repent, recognize your utter helplessness to meet God's standard, and trust in Christ" is the message of the Gospel.

DJP said...

Yes, it really is an argument against altar calls.

Perhaps you've never been exposed to the dominant mindset of countless American churches.

That mindset (A) views church meetings as the primary means of evangelism of the lost, and (B) views "the altar call" as the primary means of "closing the deal" on an evangelistic sermon.

Sam Chevre said...

Let me try this again (and sign my real name this time).

I'm very familiar with the "altar call" style of evangelism. (I live in Lynchburg VA--how could I avoid it?)

And I disagree with both "church meetings as outreach" AND "altar call as deal-closer."

But even if you assume everyone in the assembly IS a believer: wasn't the right response for the Corinthian believers, and the Galatian believers, and Peter at Antioch, and us when we look into the Scripture and see what manner of men we are--isn't it the SAME response that is the right response for Joe Pagan?

I agree with your conclusion: I'm just not seeing how "the assembly of believers is not primarily for evangelism" helps you get there. (And 78.3%* of altar calls are aimed at believers who are 'recommitting their lives to Christ' anyway".)

Sam Steinmann

*A wild guess

mike said...

or as a pastro in one of the larger churches in our area likes to put it;
"if something in the words that we said, or songs that we sung, causes you to feel like you need something more, or if you doubt your eternal destination, or if you want to confirm, so that you can know that you know that you know, look up here at me and raise your hand."
it is an offer with no Biblical backing, therefore no true assurance.
it is almost approaching a watered down penance, (an action taken by said sinner to remediate said sin)we have little problem seeing this error in the RC, why are we blind to it in our house?

mike said...

Pastor, Pastor, Pastor, Pastor, Pastor, Pastor, Pastor, Pastor, Pastor, Pastor, Pastor, Pastor, Pastor, Pastor, Pastor,

NLB :p

DJP said...

I like "pastro," though.

mike said...

pastro: n, spanglish for guy who stands in front at church.

DJP said...

Me gusto.

BTW, NLB dinged me for a typo at BibChr today. Gotta go fix.

Angie said...

Great post. Comment #4 is my favorite.

Anonymous said...

I, too, have been questioning the validity of altar calls lately. I've witnessed spiritual/emotional manipulation from pastors before. I agree with so much that was stated in this post.

However, if you will allow this tiny, tiny rabbit trail, I confess a bit of perplexity. How could the altar call hinder the elect from salvation? And if a non-elect person responds (somehow) to an emotional appeal, God having no inclination to regenerate said non-elect indiviudal, then what does it ultimately matter as to whether or not one uses or abuses the "altar call"? The elect will come to faith in Christ and the non-elect will not.

But, back on topic, I do not appreciate pastors who use the "altar call" to engineer responses from God's elect. I've even heard two pastors confess that when people do not respond to the "altar call," they feel that they have somehow failed. Not good.

Jay said...

Calvin this, Calvin that..man everyone is so into Calvin on this site.
Doesn't anyone get into Hobbes? :)

Seriously though, good series Dan. Nothing like my word verification "dinge"

donsands said...

"..then what does it ultimately matter as to whether or not one uses or abuses the "altar call"?"

It's true God is the Potter and we are the clay, and he molds vessels as He sovereignly purposes to, but we had better remember how Paul said, he wished he could be accursed for his brothers the Israelites, and so we to should have hearts that want to see all sinners come to Christ, and be about preaching the Gospel to all, and remember what our Savior proclaimed: "Come unto Me ALL whom are heavy and tired...".

Anonymous said...

I've got plenty of thoughts on altar calls. But for now I just want to alert you that Bob and Charles and Charles and Bob have made a post on this series. I got an email that steered me over there.

I don't recommend it.

Thanks, Dan.

NoLongerBlind said...

Hey Mike:

"Vote for Pastro Pedro"

New T-shirt slogan?

(Only N. D. aficionados will understand.)

DJP said...

Mark, I may know what you refer to.

I wonder whether they'll ever read further than the title, then do some posts interacting with the actual contents.

But I don't wonder it much.

David Alves said...

Wow, Dan, thanks! I plan on giving an evangelistic message when I get baptized, and I was concerned about whether I should give an altar call or not. This helped.
Re: counseling--Paul Washer does that a lot. He'll say things like, "I'm not going to ask you to pray a prayer or sign a card or raise your hand. But I will stay here all night to counsel you if that's what it takes."
Anyway, this was a great post and answered some questions I had. Thanks again!

DJP said...

That's terrific, David. Praise God.

Thanks for sharing.

Bill said...

A tractor beam would be cool.

Tim Bushong said...


I must confess a bit of "idea plagerism" on my end yesterday- at the end of my sermon taken from Mark 8:34 I actually had an...alTER call. I *ahem* "borrowed" the idea from your previous post on this subject.


DJP said...

Well, our beleaguered brother Steven gets credit for being the ultimate hapless source.

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