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:
- It is wrong to put direct pressure on the will.
- 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.
- The preaching and the Word and the call for decision should not be separate in our thinking
- The method of altar calls carries the implication that sinners have an inherent power of decision and of self-conversion.
- There is an implication here that the evangelist somehow is in a position to manipulate the Holy Spirit and His work.
- Alter calls tend to produce a superficial conviction of sin, if any at all.
- By having alter calls you are encouraging people to think that their act of going forward somehow saves them.
- 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.
Many students and teachers are currently getting geared up for school starting in just a few weeks. Many will be starting college for the first time exploring the intricacies of molecular biology, the beautiful rhythmic language of William Shakespeare, or the complexities of philosophy. Richard Baxter wrote in his book The Reformed Pastor the following quote which hopefully will challenge you to seek God in all areas of study. It does not matter if the pursuit is science, mathematics, literature, communications, arts, or religion itself. The pursuit of academic excellence is a great and noble task, however it must be fueled with our desire to know and cherish God. If not, it is all folly. Here is the quote:
Your study of physics and other sciences is not worth a rush, if it be not God that you seek after in them. To see and admire, to reverence and adore, to love and delight in God, as exhibited in his works - this is the true and only philosophy; the contrary is mere foolery, and is so called again and again by God himself. This is the sanctification of your studies, when they are devoted to God, and when he is the end, the object, and the life of them all.
And, therefore, I shall presume to tell you, by the way, that it is a grand error, and of dangerous consequence in Christian academies, that they study the creature before the Redeemer, and set themselves to physics, and metaphysics, and mathematics, before they set themselves to theology; whereas, no man that hath not the vitals of theology, is capable of going beyond a fool in philosophy. Theology must lay the foundation, and lead the way of all our studies.