11/18/15 at 11:27 AM 0 Comments

Ten Problem With Manipulative Altar Calls

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From Chapter 10, “Judge Not” by Todd Friel,available now at www.wretchedradio.com/store/judge-not

The music weeps, the preacher pleads, “You have a God-shaped hole that only Jesus can fill. Won’t you please ask Him into your heart?”

Then comes the predictable, “Who is going to break the ice? Who will be the first to come to this altar and make Jesus your Lord and Savior?”

As souls shuffle to the front of the church, we celebrate another successful harvest. But not for long.

Three months later, nobody has seen our new “converts.” The fol- low-up committee calls them and encourages them to attend a Bible study, but to no avail. They have no interest in the things of God. We label them backsliders and get ready for the next service.

Maybe it’s time to rethink the nineteenth-century invention we affectionately dubbed “the altar call.”

Ten Problems with Manipulative Altar Calls

1. Not biblical. Altar calls are neither prescribed nor described in the Bible. While this is an argument from silence, it is noteworthy that we don’t see Peter at Pentecost or Paul in Athens telling listeners to “bow their heads and close their eyes” while people slip up their hands.

2. Emotional manipulation. No matter how you slice it, heartstrings get tugged during altar calls. Between the music, the dim lights, and the pastor’s tears, the altar call is an excellent way to emote people down an aisle.

3. Neglected intellects. Modern-day altar calls almost entirely neglect the intellect. If pastors were addressing the mind and not the emotions, they would not play distracting sentimental music.

4. Wills are rarely addressed. When was the last time you heard an altar call that commanded people to bow the knee to God or His wrath will continue to abide on them?

5. Parental pressure. How many kids have walked to an altar only to please Mom and Dad, who they knew were watching?

6. Legalism. There is a clear and present danger of adding to grace alone by telling someone to do something to get saved. With so much emphasis on walking the aisle, it is not inconceivable that someone might think they must go to an altar in order to get saved.

7. Misplaced hope. People who lack assurance of their salvation are of- ten asked, “Do you remember when you went to the altar? Then don’t worry, you are saved.” It is understandable that some might put their trust in the altar call and not in Jesus.

8. Deception. Did you know some churches plant “aisle walkers” in the audience? When the pastor proclaims, “I am going to count to three and I want you to run to this altar,” prearranged plants stand up and dash to the front to be “saved,” even though they are already Christians. This ploy supposedly breaks the ice and allows those who are hesitating to not feel embarrassed, and is a practice that has been done at major crusades for years. Steven Furtick also does this at his annually scheduled “spontaneous baptism” service.

9. Pride. While pastors and members try to suppress this emotion, it is hard not to feel either pride or disappointment when an altar call succeeds or fails.

10. Statistics. The “fall-away rate” of altar call converts is atrocious and should cause our hearts to sink. The following are taken from Ray Comfort’s excellent book God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life:

> In the March/April 1993 issue of American Horizon, a major U.S. denomination disclosed that in 1991, 11,500 churches had obtained 294,784 decisions for Christ. Unfortunately, they could find only 14,337 in fellowship. This means that, despite the usual intense follow-up, they could not account for approximately 280,000 (95 percent) of their “converts.”

> Between 1995 and 2005, Assemblies of God churches reported an amazing 5,339,144 decisions for Christ. Their net gain in attendance was 221,790. That means that 5,117,354 (over five million) decisions could not be accounted for.

> Pastor Dennis Grenell from Auckland, New Zealand, who has traveled to India every year since 1980, reported that he saw 80,000 decision cards stacked in a hut in the city of Rajamundry, the “results” of past evangelistic crusades. But he maintained that one would be fortunate to find even eighty Christians in the entire city.

Enough already 

It is unbiblical to condemn all altar calls. But maybe, just maybe, there is a more biblical way to make disciples—like preaching the gospel, calling listeners to repent and believe, and relying on the Holy Spirit to convert people. Right in their chairs.

And let’s be honest, the modern-day altar call is so predictable it has become downright tedious. For the sake of the congregation and the lost, manipulative altar calls have to stop.

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