Should We Have Altar Calls?

The great preacher Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones had the practice of not having altar calls at the end of his sermons.  Today, it is a practice that takes place almost every Sunday in many of our churches today.  The practice of altar calls is a relatively new idea in the history of Christianity.  Charles Finny began to practice them as we know them today during the 2nd great awakening.  As a result, we need to think carefully about the practice.  In his book Preaching and Preachers, Dr. Jones lists out his reasons why he never did alter calls.  I share them with you in hopes that they might challenge your thinking like they did my own.  The following are the Doctor’s arguments for not doing altar calls:

  1. It is wrong to put direct pressure on the will.
  2. Too much pressure on the will is dangerous, because in the end the man may come forward because he has been swayed by the personality of the preacher, but has not been swayed by the truth.
  3. The preaching and the Word and the call for decision should not be separate in our thinking
  4. The method of altar calls carries the implication that sinners have an inherent power of decision and of self-conversion.
  5. There is an implication here that the evangelist somehow is in a position to manipulate the Holy Spirit and His work.
  6. Alter calls tend to produce a superficial conviction of sin, if any at all.
  7. By having alter calls you are encouraging people to think that their act of going forward somehow saves them.
  8. Does it not raise the whole question of the doctrine of regeneration?

The opinionated preacher from Wales is bound to step on some of our toes.  I encourage you to buy the whole book and read it.  It is fantastic.  What do you think? Do you disagree with the Doctor on altar calls? Why?  What are the dangers of practicing altar calls?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Numb to the Gospel

For those who have been Christians for a while, our senses can begin to get dull. As we sit and listen to sermons we fail to be moved at the preaching of the Word. A lot of times we tend to blame that on the Pastor. Well he doesn't teach with enough passion, or he is not intellectual enough. Those are the excuses we come up with to explain away our calloused hearts. The sad truth is that many live their lives numb to the power of the Gospel. When a pastor clearly lays out the travesty of sin and the beauty of what Jesus has accomplished by his death on the cross, we get bored and stare at our watches. It is so strange, that in some way we think we should graduate from the Gospel. That as a mature Christian, we think we no longer need to hear the Gospel. We are not interested and not moved by its power. Well I suggest to you that your failure to be moved by God's Word has little to do with your pastor's preaching and more to do with you numb hearts. Martin Lloyd-Jones makes a bold claim in his book Preaching and Preachers: "What I am asserting is that there must of necessity be something wrong, radically wrong, with one who claims to be a Christian who does not come under the power of this glorious Gospel every time it is presented, and in whatever form".

If you fail to be moved at the power of the Gospel there might be something seriously wrong with your spiritual condition. A true Christian never tires of hearing the proclamation of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation for all who believe. The power of the Gospel doesn't decrease with Christian maturity, but rather grows in strength as we see our even increasing need for a savior.

Next time you have the privilege to listen to a Pastor who boldly and unashamedly preaches Christ, may the power of God be felt time and time again. So often in sermons we become guilty of being critics as if we judge the pastor as if we are critiquing a movie. As Martin Lloyd-Jones says:

I can forgive a man for a bad sermon, I can forgive the preacher almost anything if he gives me a sense of God, if he gives me something for my soul, if he gives me the sense that, though he is inadequate himself, he is handling something which is very great and very glorious, if he gives me some dim glimpse of the majesty and the glory of God, the love of Christ my Saviour, and the magnificence of the Gospel. If he does that I am his debtor, and I am profoundly grateful to him.

Don't stop being in awe of the Gospel, and thank God for all those pastors who in their feeble attempts, they make much of Christ. We are in their debt. May we have the respect and decency to stop being so critical of the messenger and hear the beauty of the message.