Saturday, February 21, 2009

Where's the Altar Call?

Cedarbrook attracts a wide variety of people from diverse church backgrounds. You'll find a smorgasbord of experiences from Catholic to Pentecostal to Lutheran to New Age and who knows what else! It's that way by design. We want to be inclusive but people with strong church backgrounds always wonder why we don't do what they are used to doing. Like in the early days we got a lot of people asking why we never said The Lord's Prayer. (Short Answer: Jesus didn't give us the prayer as a ritual for church services. He gave it as a model for prayer.)

Someone just asked me why I never invite people to "accept Christ" at the end of the service or provide an "altar call" (inviting people to come forward as a sign of their commitment to Christ, ala Billy Graham). That is very common in evangelical churches (churches whose mission is to tell others about Jesus. I consider Cedarbrook evangelical) and something that was done all the time at the church I attended way back. This is what I wrote back...

Great question! I never do an "altar call" type invitation. I have nothing against it. For some church cultures it's very appropriate. Occassionally I'll call people to make a commitment to follow Christ. I've asked people to pray a prayer of commitment now and then. I could probably do this more often. What I'm trying to avoid is getting people to prematurely make a "decision" for Christ that only gives them some kind of false assurance of connecting to God. A disciple is someone who follows Jesus every day, not someone who prays a prayer once to relieve their guilty conscience. So I stay away from anything that implies salvation is an event and lean toward things that communicate that it is a 24/7 lifestyle. I think my messages regularly challenge people to deny themselves and put God first. If my ministry encourages people to develop this kind of lifestyle then I feel pretty good about the results.

Having said this, I do think that for many people there is a moment in time when a decision is made to follow Christ. I don't want to diminish this in any way. For some it's a gradual awakening. That's what happened in my life. For others it all gels in a moment and they pray and tell God that "from this moment on I'm yours".

I hope this helps. I'm happy to answer other questions. Fire away.