Altar call

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An altar call is a tradition in some evangelical Christian churches in which those who wish to make a new spiritual commitment to Jesus Christ are invited to come forward publicly. It is so named because the supplicants gather at the altar located at the front of the church building. In the Old Testament, an altar was where sacrifices were made. So, the name "altar call" refers to a believer "offering" themselves on an altar to God, as in Romans 12:1:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.[1]

Most altar calls occur at the end of an evangelical address.[2] The invitation may be referred to as an "altar call" even if there is no actual altar present. Many preachers make use of the altar call; notable examples include Billy Graham, Benny Hinn, Franklin Graham and Reinhard Bonnke.[citation needed] Others in history consist of Billy Sunday and D. L. Moody.[3]

Congregations often sing a hymn, usually with a theme of invitation or decision, during the altar call. Some churches make use of the sinner's prayer, which people who come forward to be "saved" are asked to recite. It is sometimes said by the invitee that those who come forth are going to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior. This is a ritual in which the supplicant makes a prayer asking for his sins to be forgiven, acknowledges Jesus as the risen Son of God and pledges his/her devotion to Jesus and to live thereafter following Christ's teachings. This is often called being born again.[citation needed]

In Pentecostal churches, the altar is a place people can come and repent of their sins and pray to receive the Holy Spirit, which they believe is accompanied with the initial sign of speaking in tongues. It is also a place to go to pray for needs and to get a "touch" from God. Pentecostal altar calls often involve the laying on of hands, and many people will come up to pray for others to receive their need. Altar calls may also invite Christians to come forward for specific purposes other than conversion; for example to rededicate their lives after a lapse, to pray for healing, to surrender a new part of their lives to God, or to receive a particular blessing. It is also a place of dedication where callings are given (such as a call to the ministry).

History[edit]

Altar calls are a recent historic phenomenon beginning in the 1830s in America. Other early names for them was the "anxious seat" and “the mourner’s bench”.[4] They cannot be found in the Bible, but are an attempt to adapt the call for repentance to particular cultural contexts, where such a public show of confession may find greater response. One of the most famous 19th century revivalists, Charles Grandison Finney, "popularized the idea of the 'altar call' in order to sign up his converts for the abolition movement."[5]

Evangelical churches have taken this act of response to the proclaimed word from a corporate action and made it a private act. Many churches, particularly those that practice anabaptism, believe that one must make a public proclamation of faith based on scriptural passages found in the Bible in which Jesus states, "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven."[6][7] In addition to this reference that Jesus called people publicly, others reasons are given in support of alter calls: The publicity of the acts of raising the hand or walking down the aisle before a congregation reinforces the decision, alter calls are the best way for people to publicly profess Jesus and join the local congregation, and altar calls provide the congregation with evidence of the Holy Spirit's work in the church.

Objections[edit]

Some churches object to the use of the altar call for a variety of reasons. They argue that the Bible does not refer to any similar practice.[8] Others believe it is intimidating and therefore creates an unnecessary and artificial barrier to those who would become Christians but are then unwilling to make an immediate public profession under the gaze of an assembly.[8]

Some Christians object to altar calls in that they may mislead people into confusing outward conduct with spiritual change. In doing so, they argue, altar calls may actually give people false assurance about their salvation.[9] In addition to these three objections that alter calls have no scriptural basis, offer false assurance to many respondents and rely on manipulative techniques, Carey Hardy argues in support of four other objections: “They confuse the essence of the gospel. They often produce false professors. […] They don’t follow the biblical method for public identification. And they tend to deny the sovereignty of God.”[10]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Romans 12:1
  2. ^ Anyabwile, Thabiti. "What About Altar Calls?". The Gospel Coalition. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  3. ^ Hardy, Carey (February 21, 2005). "Chapter 8: Just As I Am: A Closer Look at Invitations and Altar Calls". In MacArthur, John. Fool's Gold? Discerning Truth in an Age of Error. Crossway Books. p. 132. ISBN 978-0860075714. 
  4. ^ Hardy, Carey (February 21, 2005). "Chapter 8: Just As I Am: A Closer Look at Invitations and Altar Calls". In MacArthur, John. Fool's Gold? Discerning Truth in an Age of Error. Crossway Books. p. 132. ISBN 978-0860075714. 
  5. ^ Wallis, Jim (January 1981). The Call to Conversion: Why Faith Is Always Personal but Never Private. HarperOne. p. 78. ISBN 0-06-084237-7. 
  6. ^ Matthew 10:32
  7. ^ Luke 12:8
  8. ^ a b Warren, Rick. "Communicating to Change Lives - Teaching Notes". Preaching for Life Change Seminar: International Version. p. 81. I want to remind you that Jesus never said you had to walk from Point A to Point B in a church to become a believer. In fact they gave no come forward, down the aisle altar calls for the first three hundred years of the church because they didn't even have church buildings for the first three hundred years of the church, so there obviously weren't any aisles to walk down. The come forward invitation is a method that's only about 180 years old. It was invented by Methodist churches in the late 17th century and later picked up and popularized by Charles Finney in the mid-1800s—and the majority of evangelical churches use that form today. There's nothing wrong with it. It's just not necessarily a biblical commandment. It just happens to be a method that was used frequently for the last 200 years. 
  9. ^ 1 www.9marks.org
  10. ^ Hardy, Carey (February 21, 2005). "Chapter 8: Just As I Am: A Closer Look at Invitations and Altar Calls". In MacArthur, John. Fool's Gold? Discerning Truth in an Age of Error. Crossway Books. p. 142. ISBN 978-0860075714. 

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