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.

The Power for Change

There is a sea of self help books in the book store. They are out there telling us the 10 ways to change our life.  In fact, it seems that the whole self help industry has sky rocketed over my life time.  Pop Psychologists like Dr. Phil seem to be every where. On our televisions, on our radios, and in our books. What is it about the condition of our own hearts that makes this self-help industry so huge? In an age where tolerance and a "be who you are" worldview is so widely promoted, you'd think there wouldn't be a whole industry of self improvement. It is almost as if we know that there is something incredibly wrong with us and we scavenge around looking for the quickest way to lose weight or the easiest way to repair our marriage or the painless way to break free from addictions, all the while we remain incredibly frustrated in our own reality. We want to cover up who we are. We want to improve ourselves so that the world can't see how filthy we really are. We need help, but no amount of will power, self-esteem, or pop psychology will fix this.  We need something more… We need the Gospel.

The Bible in Ephesians 2:1 states that we are dead in our trespasses and sins. We are so consumed with ourselves that there is literally no life. We are nothing but a corpse. We are Lazarus rotting in the grave. The stench and foulness of our condition is gross and disgusting. We try to fix ourselves, but there is no life.  If we are successful in change, we replace our sin with another sin, normally an arrogant pride, or we stay miserably addicted to our sin. Within in ourselves there is no power for drastic heart transformational change. The only hope comes from the same power that raised Christ from the dead, the resurrecting and regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus died on the cross, he defeated the power sin has over us. When the Holy Spirit comes upon us at the moment of conversion, we are given a brand new heart. A heart in which sin has no power. Ezekiel talks about this incredible transformation called by theologians, regeneration.

 "A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances." -Ezekiel 36:26-27

This miraculous heart change is a mystery to us. I do not pretend to fully understand it.  Jesus made it clear that "The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit."

I do know this however, that the only hope and power for change comes from the gracious gift of God found in Jesus. When we place our hope and trust in Jesus for Salvation this miraculous event takes place in our hearts. If you are not a believer in the Lord Jesus, He is your hope for transformation and new life, not Dr. Phil. Trust in Jesus today. If you are a Christian, you are not dependent on pop-psychology, you are dependent on Jesus for the power and source of change as you work out your salvation, "for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Phil 2:12-13).

As you begin to make your New Years Resolutions, be sure to trust in Jesus not yourself. You will fail, Jesus will not. However always remember, that even if you do fail, and lets be honest most of us will, your right standing with God isn't based on your performance, it is based on the blood of Jesus Christ. In Jesus you have a perfect righteousness credited to your account, therefore you have the freedom to fail, and that means the gift of 2nd chances, and 3rd chances, and 4th chances…