Should Pastors do Altar Calls?

There’s no need to ask em, by the time I’m done preaching, every head is bowed and every eye is closed.
@FailingPastor

 

 

I have never done an altar call.

I have no problem with other people doing altar calls. I’m not one of those guys who feels a need to mercilessly mock people who do evangelism differently than I do. Do what you need to do before the Lord with a pure conscience.

I have seen altar calls done very poorly, but also quite nicely.

One of the worst I saw was at a junior high camp chapel service. Summer heat had raised the temperature of the chapel to approximately 174 degrees. The junior highers were hot, restless, and choking on sweaty sock stench.

The evangelist concluded his message with an altar call that went something like this:

“If any of you would like to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior tonight, you can go outside where it’s cooler and meet with some counselors. They have cookies and juice available as well, so you can take your time and really talk things over.”

The Holy Spirit fell on this group of kids. There was no rushing mighty wind (except the normal rushing mighty wind associated with junior high boys) or tongues of flame, but so sue me if 90% of that group of kids didn’t run out the doors to get saved.

Now it’s possible some of those kids had a legitimate spiritual desire for Christ that night, I won’t say it wasn’t possible, but I guarantee you the speaker went back to his sending church and told them he saved a hundred kids that night. He won’t mention anything about cool evening air outside an oven-like chapel nor juice and cookies being offered. Nope, just saving the masses.

This kind of thing nauseates me. I’ve spent enough time at Christian camps to know this is fairly standard operation. You’re lucky I haven’t started an anonymous Christian Camp account. Good Lord do I have things to say about that.

An older gentleman once asked me if I did altar calls after each of my sermons. “No,” was my answer. He shook his head in disappointment and never talked to me about church again.

Apparently we need an altar call to convert pastors to do altar calls.

That’s the church environment he grew up in, spent 70 years with an altar call after every service. For him altar calls are part of the deal. To not do them is to fail at doing church.

On the other side are the ones, mainly Calvinists, who mock and belittle anyone who ever does anything remotely close to asking people anything about committing anything to God. “You do altar calls? Are you some kind of Pelagian? You think you have the power to save people?”

You lose with someone no matter what.

So, whatever. Do what you gotta do. My approach is to offer an opportunity here and there as I feel led, to tell people they can talk to me. I don’t use emotional music or repetitive appeals guilting people into responses. But I also think a little bit of persuasion has its place. Read Acts, there’s plenty of persuasion going on. “Knowing the terror of the Lord we persuade men” Paul says later.

People who go to extremes on this issue—mocking it or always doing it—I think are missing crucial components of ministry, components like the Holy Spirit and personal attention. All things to all people; not one thing to all people.

Figure it out before the Lord and go for it.

 

For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.
–Acts 26:26-28

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