Sunday, February 28, 2010

Invitation to What?

Recently I've had discussions with folks on both ends of the spectrum as it concerns the "altar call". Some would argue that there is no place for it in the church worship service and others would argue there is value in offering a time of response. Some still would say it is necessary for the work of salvation to occur in a person's life. To that last assertion I would vigorously rebuke that thinking as salvation is wholly to the glory of God and wholly the gracious work of God. "Walking an aisle" or responding publicly to God's call to faith does not complete the work otherwise salvation would be as a result at least in part by a human work. Furthermore there is no argument for this or example of this in Scripture! Now what is the case against an altar call? First of all, it is not Biblical. There are no examples of this in the gathered worship of the church. If we believe in the sufficiency of Scripture and that it should regulate our what we do in worship then we need to seriously question the place of the "come forward invitation" in our worship services. I've got some of you nervous right now but hang with me. The second issue with the altar call is a point the great Martyn Lloyd-Jones brings up in THIS ARTICLE (which I encourage you to read) concerning one with "false faith". We never want someone to think responding to an altar call is the same thing as Spirit-regenerated repentance and faith. This misunderstanding has led to hosts of "false conversions" where true spiritual conversion never really occurred.

Is there a place for the "altar call". Firstly, I've never been fond of that term. The "altar call" originated in the 1820's under the ministry of Charles Finney (as did the "sinner's prayer"). In the scope of Christian history that is pretty recent to become a bedrock of church life and doctrine. However, I think it is appropriate to have a period of reflection after the sermon and at the conclusion of the service especially for Christians. As a culture we are always busy and always on the move. It is important to slow down and meditate on the Word that has been presented and how God intends for each to apply it. Also as I say at times if true conversion has occurred in a person's life I want to provide a moment for those to come meet with me briefly for prayer and encouragement. This always leads to an appointment for further discussion and testing of the faith. People don't join the church in that moment and we must wait to see fruit before confidently affirming salvation but I am not entirely oppossed to a public profession of faith if we are clear that genuine faith has already been produced by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. I've been challenged to be more clear by my words that the invitation is not to 'walk the aisle and be saved'. God's work of salvation doesn't need a 20 foot walk to be completed. I do want to invite people to "let their light shine before men" and not be ashamed to declare to others Christ is Lord. I want to also invite people to covenant with our congregation in membership so that we can watch each others' walks. Finally I want to invite people to stop moving so fast through the day and reflect on the weight of God's holy Word. That is an invitation we should all respond to.

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