Thinking Out Loud

July 23, 2015

The Calvinist and the Altar Call

I don’t want to take a lot of time over-introducing the video segment here, lest I fall into the trap of putting some spin on it; but in this 11-minute clip there is a strange juxtaposition between the revivalism of John Piper’s description of his traveling evangelist father, and the context of the Calvinist audience to whom he is speaking. If your mind and hearts are open, there is a moment of unusual transparency here where we learn as much about the speaker as we do about the place of pleading in the salvation process.

This clip was posted (or re-posted) by Free Gift Media, a new resource I am just being made aware of. To learn more check their Twitter and their website.

March 26, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Football Cross at MontanaWestUSA(dot)com

We’re back with another mid-week link meeting! Here’s what your brothers and sisters from random parts of the big ‘C’ church were up to this week. Clicking any of the links below will take you to PARSE, the list’s benevolent patron.

Stay in touch with Paul Wilkinson during the week on Twitter.

Our closing cartoon is rather interesting, don’t you think? The artist is Jess MacCallum and you can click the image to see more.

Evolution Cartoon at JessMacCallum(dot)com

March 12, 2013

“He said the prayer, that’s enough.”

Altar Call 1

The sinner’s prayer produces false converts.

I was going to use this as an item in tomorrow’s link list, but it truly deserves a much larger audience. This appeared at Arminian Today.

I remember once attending a Baptist church with a buddy of mine.  At the end of the meeting, the Baptist preacher gave a typical, “bow your head and close your eyes” type of altar call in which he asked people to “accept Christ into your heart today, before it’s too late.”  A young teenager “came forward to receive Christ.”  The preacher spoke to the lad, prayed with him, and then announced that the teenager was saved and was a candidate for baptism to which they had a quick congregational vote on the matter and a man raised his hand to second the pastor’s vote for the teen’s baptism.  They then asked us to come up and shake hands with the teenager and welcome him into the family of God.

When I got to the teen, I could tell that he really had no clue what was going on.  So I quickly said to him, “Do you understand what it means to repent of your sins?”  To which he said no.  I was just starting to explain to him what it means to repent when a woman pushed me out of the way and said loudly, “He said the prayer, that’s enough now move on.”

The teenager never came back again.

“The prayer.”  That is how many see salvation.  Just say this prayer and you are in.  Repeat these magic words and you’re in the kingdom of God.  Despite not one example of anyone “praying to receive Christ” in the New Testament and despite not one example from the ministry of Jesus where He instructed His disciples to do this, the modern evangelical church seems fixed on practicing this unbiblical practice.  One large church in Charlotte, NC likes to boast about how many “prayed to receive Christ” and they boast that thousands upon thousands have asked Jesus into their hearts for the first time through this church.  Yet not one New Testament passage is offered for such a practice.

Furthermore, compare the ministries of the great saints of God in Church History.  John Knox.  William Tyndale. William Carey. John Calvin.  James Arminius.  John Wesley.  George Whitefield.  Peter Cartwright.  Charles Spurgeon.  Jonathan Edwards. Not one of these men of God used the “sinner’s prayer” or exhorted sinners to pray to receive Christ.  They certainly used John 1:12-13 and called sinners to look to Christ alone to be saved but none of them had modern altar calls.  The modern altar call does not even appear until the late 1800′s and was especially used by men such as D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, and of course, Billy Graham. Charles Finney seems to be the first to introduce what he called, “the anxious bench” where seekers could come and hear more about how to be saved.  From here came the modern practice of “coming down front to receive Christ.”  Spurgeon would call his hearers to receive Christ but he would exhort them to go to a prayer room where a waiting Christian would instruct them on what it means to truly be saved.  This is also the practice of John MacArthur today.

I believe the modern altar call has produced countless false converts.  Since sin is rarely preached against or at least is not even biblically defined (1 John 3:4), many also don’t understand what it means to be saved in the first place.  Saved from what? Saved from whom?  Why must we repent of our sins?  Why does God require repentance?  The modern church seems to have forgotten also that salvation is a work of God (1 Peter 1:3). Regeneration is not a work of the flesh that comes from praying a prayer or saying words or raising a hand. Regeneration is a divine work of God (John 3:3; Titus 3:5-7).  We cannot save ourselves.  We must cast ourselves completely upon the Lord Jesus to deliver us from God’s just wrath (Romans 5:8-9; 1 Thessalonians 1:10).  To be honest, too often gospel messages spend too much time focused on our sin instead of the holiness and justice of God.  It is God whom we should fear and it is His laws that we have violated (Luke 12:4-5).  We should be preaching the justice of God in regard to sinning (Hebrews 10:31).

I do praise God that more and more are realizing after studying both the Word of God and Church History that the sinner’s prayer is not a biblical nor historical practice. It is not based on the clear examples of the New Testament nor upon the examples of great church leaders.  We find nothing in the early Church Fathers to suggest that they used a practice of altar calls.  The Church has preached salvation through Christ for 2000 years and this must be our message again if we are to see the lost saved (Romans 1:16-17). Salvation does not come by the tools of the flesh (1 Corinthians 2:1-5) but the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). Let us trust again in the power of the Holy Spirit to convict and save the lost (John 16:8-11).

…In sourcing the image that appears below, I ended up at an article by Caribbean pastor Thabiti Anyabwile.  Since I believe we linked to it back in 2011 when it was published, I’ll just include the numbered points in the middle of the piece, but you can read it all at this link.

1. The altar call is simply and completely absent from the pages of the N.T.

2. The altar call is historically absent until the 19th century, and its use at that time (via Charles Finney) was directly based upon bad theology and a man-centered, manipulative methodology.

3. The altar call very easily confuses the physical act of “coming forward” with the spiritual act of “coming to Christ.” These two can happen simultaneously, but too often people believe that coming to Christ is going forward (and vice-versa).

4. The altar call can easily deceive people about the reality of their spiritual state and the biblical basis for assurance. The Bible never offers us assurance on the ground that we “went forward.”

5. The altar call partially replaces baptism as the means of public profession of faith.

6. The altar call can mislead us to think that salvation (or any official response to God’s Word) happens primarily on Sundays, only at the end of the service, and only “up front.”

7. The altar call can confuse people regarding “sacred” things and “sacred” places, as the name “altar call” suggests.

8. The altar call is not sensitive to our cautious and relational age where most people come to faith over a period of time and often with the interaction of a good friend.

9. The altar call is often seen as “the most important part of the service”, and this de-emphasizes the truly more important parts of corporate worship which God has prescribed (preaching, prayer, fellowship, singing).

10. God is glorified to powerfully bless the things He has prescribed (preaching, prayer, fellowship, singing), not the things we have invented. We should always be leery of adding to God’s prescriptions for His corporate worship.

Altar Call 2

Upper image source  Lower image source via source

Related item here at Thinking Out Loud

April 27, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Link suggestions are welcomed.  Use the contact page or simply leave a comment on the previous week’s link list.  Not all suggestions are used right away.

  • Pastors think about things the rest of us probably never consider.  If the “invitation” or “altar call” at the end of the service is a spiritual make-it-or-break-it time, you want to do your best, and while pastors want to be spirit-led, there is a science to these things.  Steven Furtick takes us behind the scenes into his own thought processes on this as he prepared for Easter in a two part discussion on this here and here.  Both videos run about 12:00 total. They spared no expense on their welcome package for seekers, either.
  • And wow! Talk about behind the scenes.  Dan Bouchelle invites us to consider a handful of reasons Why There Are So Many Angry Pastors’ Wives. More things you probably never contemplated.
  • The ABC 20/20 show a few weeks back raised awareness of things done in the name of Christianity in some fringe conservative churches right here in North America. How about a baby getting beaten in the middle of a church service, with the pastor urging on the activity? I’d be most willing to dismiss this story were it not for other online confirmation. Actual quotation from this pastor: “My wife and I have a general goal of making sure that each of our children has his will broken by the time he reaches the age of one year.”
  • Colton Burpo, the central figure of the book Heaven is for Real is a little older now than he appears in the book’s cover shot at right.  USAToday caught up with him having lunch at T.G.I. Fridays and talks with dad Todd about the runaway success of the Thomas Nelson paperback.  BTW, Colton wants to be a musician someday.
  • Lots of stuff in this one that Canadians already knew, but for my American readers, Kevin Platt has a succinct summary of Crandall University’s Sam Reimer’s Five Differences Between Canadian Evangelicals and U.S. Evangelicals.
  • Cathleen Falsani notes the forthcoming movie based on Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, and suggests some other books that should be, or are being considered as feature films.
  • Just as The Shack brought critiques like Finding God in the Shack (both versions) so Rob Bell’s Love Wins begat Christ Alone by Mike Wittmer.  At least the introduction isn’t invective: “I respect Rob Bell. He wrote Love Wins to start a dialogue about the most important issues of our faith, and this book is my attempt as an evangelical to join that conversation.” Read more about the first of many responses to Bell’s book.
  • And if you can’t get enough of the R.B. debate, here’s a one-hour radio show from England that gets to the heart of the issues.
  • Listen to the Neue Magazine podcast featuring an interview with worship leader Kari Jobe.
  • Speaking of worship music, Daniel Jepsen posts all eleven verses to O, Sacred Head Now Wounded.   (I think it’s eleven, I lost count!)
  • Lets go three-for-three on worship:  Several bloggers have posted this powerful modern worship song, The Man Jesus Christ Laid Death in His Grave by John Mark McMillan; this posting at Vitamin Z has the lyrics, too.
  • In a rather tedious Q & A in the wake of a television interview released at Easter, Franklin Graham discusses politics, and the Obama Presidency in particular.
  • Tim Challies has been digesting a John Temple book, Family Money Matters and offers eight ways we can resist temptations to consumer spending.
  • Congrats to Jon Acuff on three years and 1,000 posts of the sometimes humorous, always thoughtful blog Stuff Christians Like.  Here’s the top ten posts.
  • Can you really preach powerfully and expect people to take you seriously when your standing — in your best suit — in a wading pool?  This guy thought so.

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