Articles on Altar Calls/The Invitation System

A few bloggers at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary have recently began examining Altar Calls/the Invitation System:

Explore posts in the same categories: Doctrinal Issues

12 Comments on “Articles on Altar Calls/The Invitation System”

  1. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    I was once asked by a Pastor, “Then how do you present the call for repentance?” At which point I was stumped (at that time). But, doesn’t Acts 2:37-38, sort of answer that? We don’t expect someone sitting in the presence of preaching to ask the question out loud. We do understand that in the hearts of those appointed, the question is being asked. So, is it not then appropriate to say “What does the Lord require: ‘Repent and be baptized…?'” Or, to propose the question this way, “Are you repentant?Then come forward and be baptized?”

    What we must be clear about though is that the hearer knows that they have received and that is why they are asking themselve what must be done. Indeed, the sermon that Peter preaches includes all that is needed for faith to come by hearing. However, he answers the enquiry. How then do we fold this all together while avoiding the implication of decisional regeneration? I know of several ways this can be framed, even by Scripture reference or paraphrase. I’m just wondering what your take on it is?

  2. Barry Says:

    I think altar calls are fine if that’s what you’re into.

    However, from what I’ve seen, they appear to be more of a form of entertainment for the audience, and a form of empowerment for the pastor, than a sacred and solemn form of reconciliation or renewal.

    I have trouble just getting past the things I see on TV geared toward slow-witted and gullible people.

    I think confession is personal and doesn’t require being broadcast to others who are not directly effected.

    The question I have is:

    Are people feeling pressure within their particular evangelical church to either participate in this form of reconciliation or risk being thought of as someone on the outside looking in?

  3. Pat McGee Says:

    Altar calls are primarily a psychological manipulation rather than a spiritual exercise. It can also be annoying to hear “Just as I Am” 150 times on Sunday morning to get someone to go forward. I don’t think much of altar calls.

  4. Pat McGee Says:

    I just read Corey Reynold’s article after what I had written above. Interesting!

  5. Matt Svoboda Says:

    This has nothing to do with this post…

    I have recently become a new reader to strange baptist fire and I am suggesting that you all write and debate about eschatology. I would like to see eschatology talked about and discussed. Just a thought, from a fan!

  6. Barry Says:

    Well, why don’t you start us off Matt.

    Tell us your take on the “end times” and why it’s important to you.

    Maybe if not here, Andrew would be kind enough to grant your request in a new column.

  7. Sorry for the delayed response, guys-

    I don’t think we’ll address eschatology here, but SBF blogger Nathan White has addressed the issue on his site and I would encourage you to look at what he has written there.

    Re:“Are you repentant?Then come forward and be baptized?”
    -Looking to the examples in Acts, with the sermon you mentioned and with the Ethiopian eunuch, I’d almost be more comfortable if this was the model a church adopted- if baptism was immediate upon a person’s repentance, crying out to God in faith. I do think that we must guard against making “walking the aisle” another ordinance.


  8. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    Yes, I understand and agree Andrew. When I formulated that I had not considered the sublty of tradition.

    We are so bound by formalism and forms in time become traditions and traditions in time becomed normed as doctrine.

    So, would you suggest that invitation to conference with the leadership would be better? And how would you phrase that to the congregation? Or, would you at all, and leave it to the individual to “break the ice?”

  9. I would certainly not leave it to the individual to break the ice in the following sense(s)- The pastor should, as you mentioned, stress the need for the individual to respond to the Gospel call through repentance and faith as well as making this response known through baptism. I believe that church members need to make a concerted effort to communicate with visitors and ask meaningful questions that will lead to a conference with the leadership.

  10. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    People do not like the intrusive inquisitor appoach. And most people make church shopping like goin to Wal-mart and no one likes a pushy store clerk except when you cannot find what you like. It’s terrible, but that is really how many look for a church.

    Oportunities for interchange, open meals, coffees, etc., as ice-breakers? I think that a church should have its advertising out front, who they are, what the believe, and so on. Some where in plain view, a direct offer of the Gospel should be displayed. As well as welcoming signage that include invitation to confer with the leadership. Then, also, a visitors package with clear doctrinal statement and convenantal expectations, the process of membership application….

    These things and more could be done, yet that does not answer the question of what happens in the congregation during the sermon. And, I quess what I am saying is, we should not let them dangle. There has to be from the pulpit, since it is from there that the Word of faith is going forth, direction for the individual. At sometime, if it doesn’t happened outside the congregation, the heart of the individual is going to ask, “What then shall I do.?” And we have to be ready for that when it happens.

  11. Thomas:

    I agree with the “intrusive inquisitor” statement in your first paragraph above to an extent, but I do think that all our churches need to foster a genuinely loving community environment, and if a visitor has been “cut to the quick” by the preaching and is, at least internally, asking “what must I do?” then they shouldn’t mind a bit of ‘intrusion’ any more than the Ethiopian eunuch minded Philip’s ‘intrusion.’

    I agree with your second paragraph, though I do think that meals together should be a regular part of the meeting of the church, as eating together (i.e. “breaking bread”) is a community-building activity with a great deal of Scriptural support.

    As to the third paragraph, I think you make some good points. All I am trying to guard against is the possibility of the preacher in giving “direction for the individual” to go beyond his authority and to direct a person to a particular location in the sanctuary at a particular time- an activity not found in the Scripture. I think that you and I are fundamentally in agreement that the preacher can and should give instruction for the congregation on what Scriptural steps a person under conviction must take if he or she is to find salvation.

    In Christ,

  12. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    Yes, thanks-

    I am working this out in my mind. I didn’t mean to exclude that the Church should present it self open and inviting with hands extended in welcome. When the Scripture tells us to prepare a meal for those who cannot return the favor and who are not our friends and family, it instructs us to be prepared to give to who ever asks. Each congregation should be generally instructed and specifically among the deaconate and eldership, to be ready, presenting hospitality to the foreigner and stranger among us.

    As I examine this issue, I know too many times when individuals have been called to “give” themselves, or to come and pray to “receive” and it turns to a mechanistic instrumentalism. That is what we wish to avoid, any appearance that it is what we do, and not what Christ has done, that saves us.

    God bless,


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