Someone asked whether we should practice altar calls. It’s a question I’ve asked myself, especially since starting to pastor a new Baptist church plant. Do I continue the tradition of doing altar calls?
I am inclined against it.
Asking people to come up front for prayer, or to join the church, is a good thing. I have no problem with either of those, and I plan to do that.
Doing an evangelistic presentation at the end of the meeting is also a good thing. We should share Jesus’ promise of eternal life wherever and whenever we can.
But I hesitate to combine an altar call with an evangelistic presentation.
The message that people are saved by faith plus nothing, while simple, is hard for many to understand.
Human nature is deeply legalistic. It always wants to add its own works, efforts, and man-made rituals into the saving message. That includes altar calls. There is no doubt that many people have walked the aisle thinking it was a condition of salvation.
If anything, I would give an “anti-altar call.” That is, I would use the altar-call as an example of something you do not need to do to have eternal life. I would say something like this:
“I am not going to ask you to come up front today because I don’t want you to be confused about the one condition of salvation. There’s only one thing you must do to have eternal life: believe. You don’t need to raise your hand, walk an aisle, say a prayer, or kneel before the podium. Only believe in Jesus for what He promises: eternal life. You can do that anywhere. You can do that just sitting in your seat. All it takes is one second of faith in Jesus’ promise to have eternal life and be secure forever. So don’t walk down here. Don’t get up. Put your hands down. Don’t do anything other than believe in Jesus for eternal life.”