An Altar On Which to Die: A Case for the Invitation

I was raised in a church in which there was no “invitation,” a moment at the end of service designed to allow people to respond to God’s Word. To be clear, in light of the contextual mood of this post, this isn’t to say that this church is evil. I deeply appreciate my experience there. But, because of the lack of an invitation, I resultantly found myself wondering where I stood with Jesus. I remember feeling like I knew about him, but also feeling like I didn’t really know him.

When I was 16 I started attending a church that did offer an invitation. I’ll never forget how much it impacted me. Like my home church, the church sang songs and preached a sermon, but afterwards the pastor walked down to the front and said something like, “If God is speaking to you through this message, I invite you to come and respond.” It was exhilarating. Suddenly, God’s Word became more than a disconnected set of rules, but a personal story in which I could take part. It was also challenging because it meant that I was somewhat responsible for what I just heard.

Ultimately, at the age of 17, I did feel led to respond to the Lord and did so by going down during the invitation. Everything that I had spent my entire life learning became real. It wasn’t about how much I knew about Jesus, or even what I could do for Jesus, it was about what Jesus had done for me.

My life has never been the same.

ALTERING THE ALTAR

Most pastors invite the congregation to respond by coming to the “altar.” I remember once hearing a pastor say, “Don’t call it an altar. It’s a platform. An altar is something entirely different.” At the time I remember thinking, “That makes perfect sense. I’m going to start calling it a platform.” And so, for the better part of my ministry, I’ve invited people down to a platform, downplaying the idea of it being called an “altar.”

That is, until I read Leonard Ravenhill’s description of the church altar as, “something to die on.”

“We must alter the altar, for the altar is a place to die on.” -Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries

Ravenhill’s comment changes the way I view the invitation. I’ve always supported having an invitation at the end of service, mainly because I remember how important it was to me personally. But I viewed it as a way to publicly respond to the Lord, sort of like claiming that you aren’t embarrassed about what he is doing in your life. Now my understanding goes deeper. You see, I no longer want to invite people to make a decision on a “raised platform.” I want to invite people to make a decision on an “altar,” even if it is somewhat metaphorical. This is because an altar, as Ravenhill describes, is something on which to die, and that is exactly what should happen during an invitation. People should sacrifice something. We should, as Jesus says, lose our lives, whether it be in an initial decision to trust in him by allowing the old man to die and the new man to be born, or in some kind of rededication, where we lay down the things that have been ensnaring us.

Regardless the decision, it’s a place on which to make a sacrifice, a place on which to die.

To be sure, I think it is entirely possible for people to respond to God’s Word without an official invitation. It’s possible, for example, to make an appointment with the pastor after service, or later in the week, to discuss the way God spoke to you in the service. It’s even possible to go home to meditate on the message, and then make some kind of decision in the comfort of your own home. At the same time, however, I think there is something special about having a church altar that becomes open during the invitation. It becomes a metaphorically literal way to kill whatever it is that needs to be killed in order to find peace with God.

I know that for me it made all of the difference, and so as often as possible, I’ll offer an invitation, asking people to come to the altar and die, because in doing so, I believe they can live.

” … and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it” (Matt 10:39).

Comments

  1. says

    Hi Jared. FWIW I am not a proponent of an altar call or what is also commonly called the “invitation system.” That said, I do think Iain Murray is correct when he says “Wherever preaching has ceased to require an individual response and wherever hearers are left with the impression that there is no divine command requiring their repentance and faith, true Christianity has withered away.” So I am adamently for preachers calling for a response from hearers in every sermon.

    My question is this: What do you *say* when giving the altar call? What are you asking people to do?

    Thanks brother.

    • says

      Hello Les. Thanks for reading and responding. And thanks for the Murray quote. Good stuff.

      To answer your question, I tend to say something contextually appropriate to the message. For example, the other day I preached a message from John 20:19-23, which showcases Jesus entering a closed room. The passage portrays Jesus entering the room, speaking peace, encouraging them to leave the room, and to share the gospel with those outside of the room. Thus, my particular challenge that morning was to Christians who are living in a metaphorical closed room, and so I challenged them to come and allow Jesus to break through the walls.

      To be more specific, I think I can answer your question by saying that I want to bring a newfound respect to the “altar” on which we call believers to come during an invitation. I want them to know that it is a place to come and “die.” And so I hope to say something along those lines.

  2. Christiane says

    “When he opened the fifth seal,
    I saw under the altar
    the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God
    and for the witness they had borne”

    (Rev. 6:9)

  3. Louis Cook says

    I enjoys this article Jared. I am a layman in a small church without a pastor. I am on the Pastor Search Committee and it is and has been a long road looking for the Lord’s man to shepherd our church. Early in the process we interviewed a candidate and I asked about having an invitation and he brought up how Charles Finney created it, abused it and he would not use it. Fair enough but I struggled with his answer and the implications of it. We currently have an “invitation” but I honestly do not feel that any of our guest preachers have properly handled it during this time without a pastor.
    I have prayed and searched the scriptures wanting to make sure that I was not an “invitation” fan just because it is what was used in the church of my younger days. I feel strongly, better yet, I believe that the Gospel requires a response and it need not be at the end of a sermon but time should be given for a public response to be made at that time. I also feel that every sermon should present the Gospel and organically include the need for response in both an believer and an unbeliever’s life. Usually the invitation feels tacked on as a hasty addendum to a sermon and that is a mistake.
    I think of a pa her like Adrian Rogers, now he always gave an invitation not to suit his fancy but because of the importance of those listening to respond. His plea was to ” Come to Jesus.” If I am able to one day preach a sermon my invitation is already written,
    “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”
    Revelation 3:20

  4. Louis Cook says

    My apologies, it should have been I enjoyed this article and down below a preacher like Adrian Rogers. I forgot to proofread.

  5. Christiane says

    “When Christ calls a man,
    He bids him come and die.”

    (Eric Bonhoeffer)

    • Louis Cook says

      Thank you Jared. It is not an easy job but it is one that has brought me closer to the Lord and deeper into His Word. I trust in the Lord and will follow where he leads us.

      Also for clarification of another post, I am in the “and camp” meaning I believe in an invitation, private meeting, one on one at the coffee shop,etc. as times we can respond to the good news.

  6. says

    Jared

    Thank you my brother. I am in complete agreement with you. To be honest I do not understand the argument. First of all why does it have to be either/or? Could it be both/and? second, however one leads a person to taking that first step toward believing it is ONLY A FIRST step. The real work begins when we deal with the person AFTER that alter call, commitment card, appointment with the pastor or whatever.

    The invitation has been misused and abused. But that is no reason to scrap it. Offerings have been abused, preaching has been abused so do we scrap it or fix it? I say fix the invitation. Do it right. Keep in mind that it is a first step and work must be done after that incident.

  7. says

    DL and Jared,

    As I said, I am not a proponent of an altar call. But I am in favor of an invitation for sinners to respond to the gospel.

    One of the things I see when this is discussed is a conflation of terms, like “altar call” and “invitation.” Even here Jared, you are talking about your use of the altar call and then say, “To be sure, I think it is entirely possible for people to respond to God’s Word without an official invitation.”

    I hope you don’t think I’m being too picky. But those of us who oppose the use of an altar call (calling people to walk down front for whatever reason) are then often seen as opposed to a gospel “invitation.” No one I know who opposes an altar call also opposes an invitation. See Murray above.

    Do you guys see what I’m getting at?

    Blessings brother.

    • says

      Les
      Most definitely. Not picky at all, it is a matter of preferred procedure. For the record it is ridiculous for a man to say if you do not invite people to come forward you are not interested in seeing people come to Jesus. That tpye of statement wants to win an argument not arrive at a consensus.

      Most every Sunday for 27 years I gave an invitation/alter call/come to the front request. My son in 10 years never has, even tho he saw it modeled all his life. Funny thing somewhere along the way my boy became my Pastor.

    • says

      Les
      I hope I do not hi-jack this thread but one more thing re. your last full paragraph. The kind of response that you receive when you make that statement is what keeps us from gaining consensus on any issue that is controversial or has different possible answers. We are far to quick to say “well since you believe thus and so then you must be a whatever or don’t like little warm puppies or you are a liberal or whatever.

      I no longer engage people who do that. The reason is I believe they are not looking for debate as much as a fight. And i am not interested.

      Am I way off

    • says

      D L, thanks brother. I had a thought last night I was going to post to you on another thread but here is as good a place as any if Jared will allow.

      I had a meal last night with two elders from our church, our pastor, another pastor of another local congregation and a member of said church. We had a roaring good time over some superb beef and enjoyed talking on the patio for hours (there cigars involved but I shouldn’t mention that). Wait.

      Anyway, my thought about all the rancor on these blogs among brothers. If each of us sought fellow pastors, within and without our denominations, and some we agree with on these theological issues and especially those with whom we disagree, and had a meal together and talked and had good fellowship, on a regular basis…say monthly, I believe the rancor would dry up to a trickle. But it would take an effort and a commitment to really love one another and understand one another. What ya think?

      • says

        Les

        Yes. That would put the conversation on an entirely different playing field. In that context I get to know his heart and his passion. With that I may still disagree but now I know he is a brother who has the same goals as I. It would then be hard to call him a whatever or to assume the worst because he disagreed with me.

        The mechanics would be problematic, but if wanted badly enough it could be done like anything else we want badly enough.

        I heard a man (I think Richard Jackson) one time say that the only difference between some of our SB boards/committee meetings and the Democratic national caucus is the cigar smoke. Just saying….

      • Tarheel says

        Les, and DL….that ABSOLUTELY would tone down the rancor.

        Also, Les….I gotta ask….was it just cigars that you enjoyed with your steaks. ;-)

          • Tarheel says

            What does being Presbyterian have to do with it? ;-)

            (Shhhh…Don’t tell Volfan we are secretly talking and joking about this…) ;-)

          • Les Prouty says

            Well brothers, I was born a Baptist. The Presbys were very welcoming way back in 1992. Cheers!

          • Les Prouty says

            Well DL, the fruit of the grape would be no hurdle brother. But water? That could be bridge too far I think. :)

          • Carlston "Red" Berry says

            Years ago when Southern Baptists felt we had to have a new denominational motto every year, one year it was, “Every one win one.” The story goes (never was confirmed, s’far’s I know) that the Episcopalians decided this was a good idea, so their motto the next year was:

            “Every four bring a fifth.”

          • Carlston "Red" Berry says

            Re: Episcopalians and “Every four bring a fifth.” We also smirkingly called them “Whiskeypalians.” Is anybody else old enough to remember this? Or were you all more spiritual than the bunch I grew up with?

          • says

            Red, may I call you that?,

            I remember the whiskeypalians. Funny stuff. Also the fourth bring a fifth.

            Also, I grew up going to Gulf Shores, Alabama all the time, particularly a lot in the summer. Back in the day when bottled was called a “fifth” or 1/5, I remember a sign on the ABC store in Gulf Shores te week before the 4thof July that read: “If you want a 5th on the 4th you better get it by the 3rd.” Clever slogan.

          • Carlston "Red" Berry says

            Yeah. It’s a shame we keep this kind of humor all bottled up any more.

            ~(:<((

  8. says

    Jared,

    Can you state your case in one sentence?

    It seems your case is based on personal experience and preference. If so, then I’m not sure a tenable case has been made for the invitation. Also, such an argument may be used to make a case for almost anything. (Note: I am not saying altar calls and invitations should not be used.)

    • says

      I understand the question, I believe. Perhaps the title of the post isn’t the best choice. The post’s content isn’t really a “case” for the invitation, so much as it is a collection of thoughts about it based on a personal experience from both the pew and the pulpit.

      Thus, I don’t have a “case” I can state in one sentence, based on this particular post, but I do have a statement I can share in one sentence, which is:

      “The invitation can be a unique time to call the congregation to an altar in order that they might die to themselves, in response to God’s Word.”

      • says

        Thanks, Jared. If I understand you correctly, you are not arguing for an altar call for unbelievers as most do, right? Instead, you are calling believers to come and die, correct? If so, haven’t they all ready done so as evidenced by their faith? (I’m making sure I understand.)

        • Dave Miller says

          What would be the problem with inviting sinners to come to Christ? It would seem that both purposes would be in order here.

          Inviting sinners to the cross and inviting saints to take up their cross daily.

          • Carlston "Red" Berry says

            With or without an ‘invitation’ or an ‘altar call,’ whichever you choose to call it, we need to make the rubber hit the road and impress on our hearers that they need to deal with the truth they’ve just heard. The way Spurgeon did it (without an invitation) was through his people. He said they were trained to watch for “the wounded of the Lord” at the end of each service and speak to them. Those who were ready could come see him on Tuesday night at a time he appointed for that very purpose. Whether we like that procedure or think another one is better, the record proves it worked and many, many souls were saved.

          • says

            Thanks, Jared. And Dave, I was trying to make sure I was clear on what Jared was getting at.

            I would ask why is there a need for such practice for believers, if there is truly a need? In other words, what is lacking, if anything, in our fellowship with each other that we are not practicing exhortation among our fellow congregants to follow Christ?

  9. says

    I would say that the conflation is intentional, I suppose. The idea is that an “invitation” is a call to the “altar” at the end of the service in order that people might “die” to themselves.

    The church’s “altar” isn’t required for someone to make a decision for Christ. It’s just a unique opportunity that can cultivate an environment for someone to do so, if handled correctly.

    The intent of the post is mainly to share how the invitation can, if handled appropriately, become a unique time of spiritual sacrifice immediately following the announcement of God’s Word, which I think is special.

    Blessings to you as well. Enjoying the conversation.

  10. Tarheel says

    I personally like the idea of a “formal invitation” unless, of course, it is abused and becomes manipulative (I think we can all agree that this can happen.) Its been used in every church I have ever been in or served in pastoral ministry at.

    I also do not think it is the only way to call for a response – there are other ways to do so. Such as inviting those who desire to speak to someone to meet awaiting counselors in a predetermined and announced room after the close of the service, or encouraging them to make an appointment speak with a pastor. Perhaps even reminding people that they are welcome to come to the altar to pray themselves after the service.

    It is also important to convey to our people that a formal invitation with music playing/hymn singing or whatever is not required for a decision to be made relative to the sermon message…decisions are always made every time the word is preached…and the walking of an aisle, while can be a good thing, is not the only way decisions are made. “am I going to submit to God or not”, “what is the God, through the word, speaking into my life”, etc…

    Of course whenever the person who makes an appointment or is counseled in the counseling room is encouraged (as appropriate) to share with the church family what God has done in their lives. Present themselves for membership/baptism, or whathaveya.

    All of the above is, I think, a good strategy for “invitations”. Within local churches Pastor’s and church leadership should discuss, pray and talk it out and come up with what ‘strategy’ will be employed.

    The gospel cannot be presented without a call to respond…but I think the how of the ‘formal call’ is something that will and should vary from place to place..

  11. Louis Cook says

    We read in the Bible of Jesus calling his disciples. Never does he ask them to go home and sleep on it or respond later. The time to respond to Jesus was when he asked you to follow Him. Same thing makes sense to me to a church. When the Holy Spirit has convicted you of your sin, then repent and come to Jesus that day. Not all will, as we clearly see played out week after week in our churches but the call should be made to follow Jesus. Of his disciples Judas certainly did not follow Him to the end yet he was called and responded. Peter denied our Lord after his call but was forgiven and rededicated his life.
    Some seem worried over someone coming forward to accept the Lord, to be baptized, to join the church or to rededicate themselves and then producing no fruit. So all of those choices are handled as private matters but why? Can anyone opposed to an altar call explain why we should not ask someone to proclaim their intentions publically?

    • says

      Hi Louis. I’m one of those opposed to an altar call but not opposed to inviting, yeah even urging, people to come to Christ.

      You ask, “Can anyone opposed to an altar call explain why we should not ask someone to proclaim their intentions publically?”

      We do not do an altar call. Never have at our church, though I have in years past at other churches before I changed my view on it. To answer your question, we always urge sinners to repent and believe in Jesus. We recognize they can do that right there where they sit or later at home or next week while driving to work or really anywhere. In every case we know of, the person who did that comes to one of the elders and makes that known. He/she is rejoiced with and urged to join our next new members class and is of course followed up with regularly. They are urged to attend one of our small groups and assigned to an elder for follow up and follow thru. After the class and elder interview and approval by our elders for membership, they are presented publicly to the congregation in a regularly scheduled worship service.

      So we do have that opportunity for public proclamation.

      Blessings brother.

      • says

        Les

        I give alter calls, but yes you are absolutely correct. What you described is a viable process and has been time honored. I want to say again there are many ways to “invite”. The only people I take issue with are those who do not “invite”.

        • Tarheel says

          I agree DL, If they do not invite…then they are not preaching the gospel.

          I have no issue with how Les described the process they use…its certainly a call to repentance…I like you, when it comes to invitations, only have issue with those who call themselves preaching and presenting the gospel absent a call to repent and believe.

      • Louis Cook says

        Brother Les,
        I have attended churches with and without an invitation or altar call. Obviously my background and experience with one influences me as it does for Jared in his article. I just think in not having one we might be getting too smart for our own good. The candidate firmly opposed to them based his view on a 19th century preacher and times when the invitation may have been abused. I am certain that it has been abused and still is but it does not make it a bad thing.
        We probably all know of people who would never come forward due to fright but who have been saved. It is certainly not a requirement to walk the aisle. I would never agree with that belief. I see it as a proper end to a sermon. It can also be the beginning of a fruitful life of service to the Lord.
        One guest preacher offered the and option. He had an invitation but stated that you could also talk to him afterwards. In delivering his invitation he tied into his sermon. It sounded and felt natural and was not just a last minute addition. Sometimes it just great for the church as a whole to end with prayer that God’s Word would be applied to our lives. We can all agree that everyone needs to Come to Jesus.

        • says

          Louis, I agree our experiences often influence our practices. I’m sure you have been blessed in your experiences and been a blessing to others. I’ve been blessed in many services where altar calls were used in a tasteful and God honoring way.

          Many blessings to you brother.

    • Jerry Smith says

      Invitations may cause convictions, so it is, many churches never has an invitation for none of them want to have any convictions. Several years back a major denomination had advertisements on the TV, they stated, “What ever you may believe, come join us, we will not cause you to be uncomfortable nor to have convictions.” And now days that’s exactly what the world wants, churches that do not cause anyone to have convictions about Christ Jesus & them the opportunity to come to Christ. So many have turned against invitations.

      • Tarheel says

        Jerry, you said; “Invitations may cause convictions, so it is, many churches never has an invitation for none of them want to have any convictions.”

        Are you referring to conviction as in “the conviction of the Holy Spirit” or are you meaning conviction as in “a principled stand”?

        I am because your comments seems to refer to the former – while the example you cite (of the Methodist TV commercial?) seems to be referring to the latter.

  12. dr. james willingham says

    I have attended churches where an invitation is given at practically every service. I have also attended churches where no invitation as such is given. One rather large church (about 350-450 in attendance, never gave an invitation, but they had converts. Some churches like that have a problem as Jared has indicated. On the other hand, I have seen the invitation, as D.L. put it, abused. And there is such a thing as theological manipulation which can be used in either situation. God will get His people one way or the other. Some folks fear the invitation/offer as misleading so much that they will have no part with it, and then there are those who find a response opportunity helpful. I have found that I generally muted my invitations, due to the idea of misleading people and to the fact that I wanted them to come on their own. My son summed up my situation, when he said, “If you had sung one more verse (my usual has been two), I would have rededicated my life.” It didn’t matter; he did anyway. And now like D.L., our son is our pastor.

    There is an interesting story behind our being preachers and our sons being preachers, and it involves a dog. someday, with permission, I might share it with the readers.

  13. Dave Miller says

    A lot of this furor on blogs about altar calls is an example of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

    There is strong biblical evidence for calling people to respond, even forceful calls. At Pentecost, Peter exhorted his hearers to repentance with “many words.” In Caesarea, Paul attempted to persuade Agrippa “in a short time” to convert.

    I hate manipulative invitations. I despise invitations where plants come forward to prime the pump (I was involved in a “crusade” where I was “second wave” every night. It made me sick and I would never do something like that again). I despise sappy emotional invitations. I attended a revival (Sunday to Sunday) in which every service ended, just before the invitation, with a story about someone who almost came forward, went home and got hit by a bus before he had another chance (or some similar tragic death-bed story). That is unbiblical nonsense.

    But the fact that such tactics have been used does not nullify the use of the invitation. As a time to “die daily” as Jared said, it can have its effect.

    • Tarheel says

      Throwing the baby out with the bathwater is a good way to say it Dave.

      I too deplore overly emotional sappy invitations.

      Ever hear the one about the car wreck that killed the boy who had told the evangelist that he would get saved tomorrow?

      I have heard that one numerous times….seems a little odd that this exact story (interchange a male and female victim) has happened so many evangelists. ;-)

        • Tarheel says

          DL, There is another typo…or was it? (It’s TarHEEL) ;-)

          I am sure some fellow commentators would agree though!

          • Dale Pugh says

            Tarhell……hmmmmm……
            Not that others of us haven’t THUNK it that way before….
            (insert emoticon)

          • Tarheel says

            Come on Dale…you can do it…..it ain’t that hard….and it don’t even hurt!

            as Mark Dever said to Ligon Duncan at T4g…”come on in pal, the water is fine”!

            :-) ;-) :-) ;-) :-) ;-) :-) ;-) :-) ;-) :-) ;-) :-) ;-) :-) ;-) :-) ;-)

  14. Dave Miller says

    And, Jared, I appreciate that you know the difference between “altar” and “alter.” Well done.

    • says

      Thanks Dave.

      They’re is a reason that their is a difference between the words, and I’m glad I got there difference right.

      (snicker)

      • says

        Alright Alright you guys, I will proof better next time. You are going to actually make me think before i type ain’t you. I know it is “a” and not “e”.

        ……bunch of spelling nazis …..good grief…. :-)

  15. volfan007 says

    Jared,

    I really enjoyed reading this post. It’s good. We most certainly need to call people to “Come to Jesus.”

    David

  16. says

    Our church’s invitation typically functions to present people to the congregation as candidates for membership and baptism although it’s open to people who need to come forward for some other reason. Usually if special prayer is required, that happens at a time for the prayers of the church.

    As for calling it an “altar”, I agree with the linking of altar with sacrifice. As it goes, inasmuch as the congregation is a temple of God or individual people are temples of God, the altar is a figurative representation of our willingness to die to self both in salvation and for the service of God collectively and individually.

    • says

      Jim

      You have given another argument for the altar call/public invitation or whatever. Many different decisions are communicated at the altar, not only salvation decisions. I have had many people who come during the call to simply publicly testify to some way God has spoken to them during the service.

  17. says

    One thing that is odd about the hermeneutic used to support altar calls is that the Scripture often used is that which shows a call to believe taking place outside of corporate worship.

    As I recall, whether Jesus called people to himself one-on-one or Peter preached the gospel at Pentecost, both were situations where the audience were unbelievers addressed outside of corporate worship.

    So, I wonder, in light of the above observations from Scripture, if we might need to re-consider how that altar call is used during corporate worship.

    • volfan007 says

      Mark,

      We’re also not told in the Bible to NOT have an altar call in Church, either. Just because there’s silence in the Bible, doesn’t make it wrong, or bad. It doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. In fact, there could’ve been an altar call at every meeting of the Church, and it was just not written down.

      Anyway, I’m fer’em. I’m not agin’ em.

      David

      PS. I know how God used an “altar call” at a Youth Meeting, one time, in my own life. I had gotten saved the week before, but I wasn’t talking to anyone about it. I was numb, and trying to absorb all that had happened to me. It was like….I had to just go thru some days of getting over my old life of dope smoking, alcohol drinking hedonism, where my every thought and feeling was about having fun, and fitting in with the crowd, and running from guilt. But, at the Youth Conference, Dr. Adrian Rogers was preaching, and he gave a call for people to stand up, if they were really ready to be saved and walk with God. Of course, I got saved a week before, but I felt that God wanted me to stand up in front of my youth group, if I really meant business….if I was really serious. And, I stood up….with the rest of the youth group gawking at me in amazement, because they knew my life. But, the Lord used that time in my life to help me to live openly for the Lord, to die to caring what the “in” crowd thought, and not care what people would think about me. I stood, because I was truly ready to tell everyone that I was dying to the old David, and I was getting my heart and life right with God. So, yes, I’m glad about the altar call.

    • says

      Mark
      Definitely a correct observation and an interesting question. My question to you would be do we have to have a hermeneutic to support all actions one takes in a worship service?
      For the record I state I am a Biblicist, affirm inerrancy, and believe that the Bible is the final authority in all matters. When Scripture teaches against a practice or affirms a practice, it is incumbent upon me to obey. However that does not mean I need a verse to justify a practice. The practice of the public invitation I believe falls in this category. So no I do not think I have to reconsider.
      To me, while I want it to have dignity as any other part of the service (I do not insist on formality, but I do like dignity), the bottom line of the public invitation is asking, does anyone here want to talk about being a follower of Christ. If so come to the front. I don’t think I need a hermeneutic to ask that question at the end of a service.

      Mark and any others I am still a learner, feel free to push back on me.

  18. Dean Stewart says

    While Finney may have been the one who mastered the invitation and is the one most associated with the invitation he is not the inventor of the altar call. MBTS professor Thomas Johnston Ph.D. reveals this error in a short paper on the invitation of Claude Brousson.

    http://evangelismunlimited.com/invitation.php

  19. says

    Jared,
    Very good article about the invitation and altar call.
    I, of course, support the altar call in Worship services.

    I was saved during an invitation.
    I surrendered to preach during an invitation.
    I’ve made other significant decisions for Christ during an altar call.
    I pray more young preachers and evangelists will study the altar call, and use it.
    David R. Brumbelow

  20. Bill Mac says

    Count me among those who separate “altar call” and “invitation”. I’m not a huge fan of the altar call but don’t mind it if it is done properly. An invitation, however, should always be given. The Gospel itself is an invitation. For myself, I always present the invitation after the closing hymn, not before it.

  21. Tarheel says

    I appreciate the use of an altar call. I also appreciate the extending of a call for response without a “formal altar call”.

    I think whenever we get too tied to tradition in our services – whatever those traditions might be I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Traditions are not inherently bad but overly clinging to to them can be.

    Jared I am not suggesting that that your support for alter call in this article is doing that…. I’m simply saying that we should examine our extra biblical traditions regularly…. And not be tied to them exclusively.

    Some have posted here that they got saved our decided to go in the ministry or had other encounters with The Lord during altar calls…. But such anecdotal evidence does not necessitate that altar calls be the only way, (or even necessarily always the best way) to extend a call for response. I realized my call to the ministry in a cabin during a teen summer camp … At which time I went and found my pastor and talked with him about it……so does my experience mean that every service should and in a cabin at a summer camp in case someone is called call to ministry.

    This is why I said that an extension of a call to response is and should be an all of the above and not always necessitate the “formal traditional altar call”

    • says

      Tarheel
      You are correct in your observation re. tradition. The most extreme case I encountered was in a Bible study when a person, who was a member of a sister church, said he could hardly wait until the sunday invitation so he could “rededicate his life”.

      I was saved in an office. Tho I had prayed and wrestled with a call to ministry for a year it was at the “time of invitation” on a Sunday night that God chose to make very plain His call. So….office/altar call….it is both/and not one/or the other/or it could be a burning bush/perhaps a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee/or up on a sycamore tree/on the Damascus road/in a jail in Philippi….OK, now I am getting carried away. But you get my point.

  22. Carlston "Red" Berry says

    I’m a convinced Calvinist, (I do think it should be TULIPS, though, with a 6th point, the Sending of the Saints: “GO ye into ALL the world and preach the gospel to EVERY creature”) but I have NEVER objected to giving an invitation, and have always done so myself. The issue is not whether to give an invitation, it’s how you do it. The old SBC evangelists’ “progressive” invitation is the one that can put goats into the sheepfold: “If you know you’re a sinner, raise your hand; if you raised your hand, come forward; now say this prayer after me; good; now let me read you a scripture to prove you’re saved.” Then the next issue of the state Baptist paper shows there were 80 “decisions for Christ” in the “revival” meeting at Some Baptist Church . BUT to invite people to “come and die” as this article puts it, is as scriptural as it can get as far as I am concerned. Joshua’s challenge is a good one we can use: “Choose you THIS DAY Whom you will serve…” Then leave the decision-making up to God and those who come forward.

    • Tarheel says

      Amen!

      It’s not whether, its how that is the question.

      Calling people to respond to Christ is essential..both in evangelism and in discipleship.

      Like Dave Miler said, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater (Calling people to response is the baby, and examples of “altar calls” like you described above are certainly the bathwater!)

  23. Sean says

    Is not the command to repent and believe more of a summons from the King as opposed to an invitation. An invitation is something we can politely decline, but a summons we cannot. If I get invited to a party I can politely decline and choose not to attend and it’s not that big of a deal. But if I get a jury summons and fail to show up there are legal ramifications. To not come when summoned by Christ is to defy His Lordship. We must always invite people to Christ but we must also make clear that the gospel is more of a Summons from the King who commands not simply asks all people everywhere to repent and believe.

    • says

      Sean,
      I see it as first a proclamation of the truth. But it is a summons as well.
      We proclaim His death and resurrection and the consequence for turning away. We proclaim that man is to come and repent and surrender. And we invite them into our family.

  24. Clifton says

    I enjoyed reading this article. I am currently putting together a manual on altar worker ministry for my church. I came across this article while searching for articles on altar calls. 99% of everything I read online was against the use of altar calls or invitations. Thanks for a positive article on the subject.

  25. Jess says

    Wonderful article. We read where Abraham built an alter and pitched his tent. Today, many have turned these two steps around. They think Abraham pitched the alter and built his tent.