the shape of leadership

Six Reasons to Do Altar Calls

Why an invitation for response should be a regular part of your service

Chris Colvin on September 27, 2019

In recent years, some churches have stopped having altar calls. Yet time in the service for seeking God is more than just a holdover from a bygone era. The altar call still serves an important function today, even if it’s called something different, like a “response time.”

Here are six reasons to call your people to the altar:

1. It’s an invitation to follow Jesus. An altar call is a call to follow Jesus, not agree to membership in a church or volunteer for some event. Altar calls echo the words of Jesus when He said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). People who come forward should be aware that they are responding to Jesus, not the preacher.

2. It’s an opportunity to decide. In Acts 2:38, Peter brought listeners to a point of decision: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” An altar call is also an opportunity to repent and turn to God, and that requires a decision. Responding to an altar calls can be as simple as raising a hand or as momentous as walking to the front of the church. Whatever the action, it’s important to involve people in the task of deciding.

Slow down, and offer your people the experience of waiting on God’s presence.

3. It’s a moment to pray. When He entered the Jerusalem temple, Jesus was disheartened to find what it had become. There was a greater focus on the monetary than on the spiritual. His response was to quote the prophets: “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’?” (Mark 11:17). The altar call can be a time to pause at the end of each service and make sure each person has had a chance to pray.

4. It’s a time to experience God’s presence. That moment of prayer should never be rushed. In Acts 1:4, Jesus repeats His promise to send the Holy Spirit, instructing them to “wait for the gift my Father promised.” Sometimes churches try to move too quickly through a set schedule. Slow down, and offer your people the experience of waiting on God’s presence.

5. It’s an appeal to obey. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made an appeal for obedience, saying, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24). Jesus repeatedly called people to respond to God’s Word with obedience. An altar call can be an opportunity for people to commit to obey what they’ve just heard from Scripture.

6. It’s a challenge to declare Christ publicly. The nature of altar calls has changed a lot over the last century and a half. One thing that hasn’t changed is its public nature. In Romans 10:9–10, Paul stressed the importance of proclamation. An altar call is just that: a public declaration of Christ! Why wouldn’t you want to challenge people to make this statement?

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