Ten Reasons Not to Do an Altar Call


Interesting thoughts. I think that there are times when an altar call might be an effective device to use–and thus I’m not as pessimistic about them as the author of this post–but most of us know that there are many, many churches where all manner of heresy might be taught as long as the altar call remains intact.

10 Reasons We Don’t Do Altar Calls


  1. Jack Brooks on November 3, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    100% thumbns up to the writer. The altar call is the Protestant version of the Catholic Mass.

  2. Hefe on November 3, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    One thing that Doxa church promptly left behind…along with the book series of the same name.

  3. Don on November 3, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    “We should always be leery of adding to God’s prescriptions for His corporate worship.”

    I’m always amazed how contemporary churches are so good at pointing out the religious trappings of traditional worship all the while ignoring their own man made additions to corporate worship. Let’s face it, folks, nobody’s immune. Just because we may boast of abandoning such archaic traditions (gasp!) as an invitation, doesn’t mean we haven’t adopted certain other “sacred cows” in the name of so called authenticity that we would loath to do without.

  4. Don on November 3, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    In all honesty, no. I can’t speak for others, but in my own personal experience I can’t relate to a single issue he raises. Not a one.

  5. Don on November 3, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    Arguments 1 and 2 could apply to other things that have been adopted in corporate worship over the past 20 years as well. If you’re going to take that tack with the invitation, then lets at least be consistent. As for no. 5, I’m sorry, but my whole life I’ve NEVER known anyone to confuse an alter call with baptism as the NT symbol of faith. If you know of an instance, I’d sure love to hear it. That strikes me as being more of a hypothetical strawman.

  6. Byron on November 3, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    @Don: Sure, I’d agree, but what about the points he makes re the altar call? I think some of them are valid, don’t you?

  7. Byron on November 3, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    @Don: Well…it isn’t mentioned in the NT (no, I know, that’s not enough reason of itself not to do it, but I’d say you can relate to that one). #2 is the historical beginning of the matter, and I think he’s right there. Theologically, I think he’s onto something about #5 as well; I’m not sure that he’s totally correct there, but the point he’s making is that baptism is the NT symbol of faith, not a “profession of faith” absent such. So there’s at least three of his ten that are fairly hard to argue, it seems to me.

  8. Byron on November 4, 2008 at 10:57 am

    @Don: I don’t think so, Don, and my point is this: the term “profession of faith”, meaning that a person, often after responding to an altar call, etc., makes a verbal profession of faith in Christ, has gained great usage in evangelical circles. We hear it all the time, use the term, etc., but it seems clear to me that, Romans 10:9 notwithstanding, the chief symbol of one’s faith in Christ is following Christ in believer’s baptism. I really think that it happens an awful lot, more than it ought to. It’s not so much “confusing an altar call with baptism” (uh, you don’t get wet in an altar call…), but rather diminishing the importance of baptism as the symbol of faith. And yeah, I can concede you’re right about arguments 1 and 2, but they are not without substance.

  9. Byron on November 4, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    Here’s a good piece on the history of the altar call:

    Walk the Aisle

  10. Don on November 5, 2008 at 8:37 am

    “Diminishing the importance of baptism as the symbol of faith?” Come on, Byron, you’re really having to stretch. Again, you’re arguments are hypothetical. Please, give me an example where you’ve actually seen this taking place, where the importance of baptism has been diminished because someone was compelled to walk and aisle.

  11. Don on November 5, 2008 at 10:22 am

    I can’t speak for you EV Free boys, but speaking as a Southern Baptist, I’ve never heard of anyone being confused over the importance of believer’s baptism as the biblically mandated public profession of our faith because they were asked to walk an aisle. Baptism is kinda what we do.

    Here’s the problem I’m having in all of this. To me the use of the “alter call” or the invitation as we would choose to call it (we don’t use an altar) is less of a theological issue, as Zach Nielsen’s pastor suggests, and much more of a cultural issue. Fact is the invitation truly isn’t found anywhere in the NT. Of course neither is the use of multi-media, drama ministry or praise bands. Question is, is this really a valid argument for why we shouldn’t do something. I think you know the answer to that question. So while we can’t legitimately find a biblical mandate for why we SHOULD use the invitation, by the same token there is no legitimate theological reason why we shouldn’t. That makes this a cultural issue.

    In 1 Corinthians 8-10 Paul deals extensively with the issue of Christian liberty in behavior that is not specifically forbidden in Scripture. Paul writes, “Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do” – 1 Corinthians 8:8. This to me is the best approach to the invitation. If it is culturally beneficial to us the invitation in a worship service, fine. If you choose not to that’s okay too; you are no worse off or better off one way or the other. Personally I’m equally comfortably either way, but please let’s not make this into something far greater than it really is. It’s a tool, plain and simple. Use it or don’t use it.

  12. Byron on November 5, 2008 at 9:58 am

    I must not be making myself clear; let me try again, because I think that this happens all the time. Perhaps at Northside, it doesn’t, and if that’s the case, then great. But all the time we hear Christians say, “so-and-so prayed and received Christ, made a ‘profession of faith'”; often this is outside of church, not tied to the “altar call”, of course, but a “profession of faith” nonetheless. Baptism is the “profession of faith” that the Bible calls for, I believe. Further, there are people who come forward at the altar call, profess Christ as Savior, yet never follow through with baptism. I think that’s the problem.

    Look, as I said, there’s nothing wrong with an altar call; I’ve used them, and I’m sure at some point will again. But you’d have to admit, I think, that something I said is true: in some churches, pastors can do a lot of ridiculous things with the text of Scripture, but leave out an altar call, and their people will string ’em up.

  13. Byron on November 5, 2008 at 11:53 am

    I agree with that conclusion. I guess the point that I’d make is just that, as I think you’d agree, there are many churches in which the invitation is sacrosanct, when in fact, there’s no Biblical basis for (or against) it, and thus it does come down to a practical level. For this fellow, there are some practical reasons he chooses not to use it. But like O’Reilly, I’ll give you the last word (if the horse isn’t already beaten to death).

  14. Don on November 5, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    And I too would agree that making the invitation “sacrosanct” is a mistake. My previous pastor would have taken that position. I guess the difference for us today is that we don’t treat it as the be all and end all of the service. It’s not a “goal line” so to speak that we need to cross in order to score, nor is it the yardstick by which we measure our success.

    But by the same token, just because some have chosen to misuse or abuse the invitation doesn’t make it invalid or inappropriate. We just believe in giving people an opportunity at the end of the service to respond to however the Spirit of God may be moving in their hearts. It’s not a time to brow beat or tug at people’s heartstrings. For us it’s mainly a time of prayer and reflection. It also provides people with an opportunity to join the church if they so desire. We don’t drag it out unnecessarily. We leave it in the Lord’s hands. When it’s done, it’s done. It’s just a tool.

  15. Flash McDirt on November 6, 2008 at 7:00 am

    I’ll never forget the time when I was in college and an old Preacher Man (Baptist, of course!) was the guest speaker for our daily chapel service. Gave a message that, quite frankly, was a good time to read the day’s mail. Well, he finished up and was certain that someone, ANYONE, in fact, needed to respond to his alter call. 27 verses later of “Just As I Am”, and he was STILL convinced SOMEONE needed to respond. I think he hit 32 verses before someone from the admin came in and quietly ended the service. (Probably after some profs called down to the office wondering why NO ONE was in the scheduled class…)

  16. Byron on November 6, 2008 at 10:48 am

    That was YOU he was waiting on, and your whole life would be different had you responded, you sluggard.

  17. Kenneth on November 7, 2008 at 12:52 am

    Missing you so much I thought I would visit your blog.
    Interesting subject, but I am with Don on this one. There is much that occurs on Sunday mornings that we can not find in the Bible. If you get a chance read Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola.

  18. Laurie on November 9, 2008 at 3:27 am

    I vote for the altar call. At the church I attend those who come forward to accept Christ are directed to a room to speak with a prayer counseler, who explains whatever they don’t understand.

    People’s hearts are tender when they’ve just heard God’s word – I’ve seen people who were hurting when they came forward for prayer leave with joyful hearts.

    When it’s done right, an altar call can be a wonderful thing.

  19. Byron on November 9, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    It can be; I’m not “against” it, but rather against elevating it to a position as highly as some churches/pastors seem to. There are some good reasons for it, and some good against it, and there are plenty of methods which work better at one time than another. It can be a wonderful thing, and it can be a perfunctory thing. I’ve seen both.

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