What’s An Altar Call?
Over the past century it has been a practice in some American churches to follow the sermon with an “altar call”—an appeal for people to come to the front of the auditorium, pray a prayer, and receive Christ as Lord and Savior. In some churches, this may happen over a period of several minutes as the congregation sings and rejoices with each new person who comes forward.
What About Neighborhood Church?
At Neighborhood Church, it is our heartfelt desire and prayer that God would be at work before, during, and after our worship services to convict people of sin, to open eyes to truth, to turn hearts towards Him, and to cause people to embrace the life-giving gospel of salvation that is only possible through Jesus Christ.
Therefore, some people have asked why we don’t have traditional altar calls at Neighborhood Church. Before we mention some reasons why we don’t have altar calls, we’d like to say what we do practice in our services:
- Early in our worship services, we often pray that God will save people in our midst during the service.
- In our sermons, we make it a point to frequently share the main points of the Gospel message.
- Often whoever is preaching will invite those who would like to respond to the Gospel to talk with and pray with someone up front after the service.
- For those being moved to respond to the Gospel, we may also suggest other things to do such as spend time in prayer with God, pick up a tract in the foyer, or talk with a Christian friend or church leader.
So, Why Are We Cautious About Traditional Altar Calls?
While we don't necessarily think that those who have altar calls at the end of their worship services are wrong, there are several reasons why we are cautious about this practice:
- There is no example of such a practice in the New Testament. In fact, there is no example anywhere in Scripture of anyone saying a prayer to receive Christ! Instead, the Bible simply calls people to repent and trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.
- Altar calls were not known in churches until the 19th century in America. Thus, these have not been a traditional practice of church life through the ages.
- Under intense emotional pressure, people may easily make a profession of faith that is not genuine.
- People can have a false sense of assurance of their salvation based upon the fact they they once “went forward in church,” when they should find assurance of salvation through active trust in the promises of Scripture and the evidence of a transformed life.
- Altar calls can communicate the idea that people can only be saved in church under the direction of a pastor, when in fact people can be saved at any time in any place. A pastor need not be present.
A Concluding Appeal
Ultimately we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to draw sinners to Jesus through the Gospel whenever and wherever it is proclaimed. Please join us in praying that God would save many people both inside and outside of our worship services for His glory and eternal praise.