Conservative Theology

August 20, 2008

Missions and Evangelism / Should We Do an Altar Call Every Service?

JB

Craig Groeschel recently blogged about 10 Reasons Not To Invite People to Follow Christ at Your Church as a follow up to his post 10 Reasons to Invite People to Follow Christ Every Week At Church.  Now, based on the reasons he gave, his more recent post was basically a put-down to all Churches who don't do altar calls every week.  Normally I love Craig's posts, but this one went way too far and had far too much "our way or the highway" feel to it, without bothering to understand what other models might be thinking.

Now, I should say that I love the fact that LifeChurch does altar calls every week.  I think it's great.  I think it works great for them.  However, I think the reason that it works so well for them is that LifeChurch is not so much a Church as it is a weekly revival gathering.  And I have no problem with that.  The problem I have is that not every Church is or should be a weekly revival gathering.

In the New Testament model of Church, the Church is the place where believers come together to worship.  You never hear about altar calls during Christian worship in the New Testament, simply because the NT Church is a place for believers.  Paul often goes out into the streets and calls people to follow Christ.  But this is done outside the Church.  Therefore, a more Biblical model of Church would not do altar calls every week, or maybe not at all.

Now, the rise of nominal Christianity does mean that we probably need to do altar calls every once in a while, even if  the worship service is only geared for believers.  But the point is that an New Testamen-based worship service doesn't include the altar call, so it is awful to call names at Churches which operate this way.

I think a better use of such a list (for which I think would help myself and the rest of the Church a lot more), is if we used that very same list as a list of 10 reasons that we don't share Christ with our friends and coworkers.

  1. You are afraid of rejection.
  2. You think everyone at church is already a believer.
  3. You wouldn’t dream of offending someone.
  4. You don’t really believe the gospel changes lives.
  5. You are so busy preaching about “sex” or “how to have a better life” that you don’t have time to present Christ.
  6. You would rather tell another joke than spend time explaining the gospel.
  7. You don’t want to be criticized for being narrow minded.
  8. You care more about everyone feeling welcome than about their eternity.
  9. You are embarrassed to talk a lot about Jesus.
  10. You don’t really really believe the gospel yourself. 

Ouch.  Now that's really painful, but much more Biblical.

As I said, I think the weekly altar call works for LifeChurch, but it works precisely because their weekly worship service is not so much of a Church worship service as it is a weekly revival.  They leave the more Church-ish stuff to their LifeGroups (which, please note, that Craig is not complaining about LifeGroups who don't do weekly altar calls).