I ran across this article by Fred Zaspel the other day. I am very familiar with the practice that Pastor Zaspel writes about as I was part of many church’s that practice this. But my views have changed considerably as I have considered the absolute sovereignty of God and the fact that salvation is all of God and not of man. This article was very welcomed by me in defining and defending my new held beliefs in what is known as “The Alter Call.”
The “Altar Call”
Is it helpful or harmful?
by Fred G. Zaspel
Published by Word of Life Baptist Church, Pottsville, PA
copyright © 1998 All rights reserved
Copying and other reproductions are permitted for non-commercial use only.
It would be all but impossible to give an accurate description of the modern evangelical church without mention of the invitation system, or the “altar call,” as it is called. The altar call is a custom in virtually all Evangelical, Fundamentalist, Wesleyan, Pentecostal, and Charismatic circles. Immediately following the sermon the congregation will sing a hymn during which the preacher calls men and women to walk to the front of the auditorium (the “altar”) to make a public decision to “accept Christ.” Salvation is offered to all who will but come to the front and take it. Those who come receive the personal attention of a counsellor and are instructed what to pray, and so on. They may be taken to a private “inquiry room,” or they may kneel together at the front of the auditorium and speak together softly while the congregation is singing.
I say this is the custom. Indeed, it is all but universal in the evangelical world, and it is considered to be an essential part of evangelism. In fact, those who do not observe the custom are generally held to be “liberal” or at least “unconcerned” about evangelism. The invitation system is an essential feature of the modern evangelical church.
But in the thirteen years that I have been at Word of Life, there has never been such an altar call. I certainly do not want to leave the impression that those who observe the practice are not our friends, indeed, our brothers in Christ. But our refusal to adopt the prevailing custom makes us stand out as different, and as a result we are sometimes asked to explain “why.” Given that the custom is such a prevailing one today, the question is a fair one. Why do we not observe the altar call at Word of Life Baptist Church?
Where Did It Come From?
What is often shocking to many who use the modern invitation system is that the altar call is just that modern. The practice, although widespread, is a very new phenomenon in the Christian church. For nearly nineteen centuries Continue reading