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The pastor had just finished giving a powerful message about the necessity of turning from sin and following Jesus. As the altar call was given, several people in the audience were compelled to act on his invitation.

Too many times, at this crucial point, perfectly normal worship services turn into The Phantom of the Opera.

Making Mistakes

For the past 15 years, I've traveled the country speaking at churches, camps and other events. Because I'm an evangelist at heart, I've shared the gospel in just about every situation imaginable with just about every type of crowd imaginable. Nothing amps me up as much as seeing people respond to God during an altar call and commit their lives to following Jesus.

Consequently, there is nothing more frustrating to me than seeing someone fall between the cracks at such a pivotal moment because of missed opportunities and careless mistakes.

Unfortunately, there are many potential mistakes that can ruin an altar call and negatively affect a person's decision to follow Christ. Though all of us have made these errors from time to time, the good news is we don't have to ever again! Here are the seven biggest mistakes pastors and church leaders make during altar calls and a few simple ways to correct them.

Mistake #1: Let people stay in their seats.

I know this is going to sound old-fashioned, but the first way to ruin an altar call is to let people remain in their seats during the time of commitment. Sure, we might ask them to raise their hands or instruct them to pray in their seats, but what we're really doing is allowing them to remain anonymous. If we don't make them move, we can't counsel them, pray with them or follow up with them.

That's not good.

Looking at Scripture, it appears as though Jesus' version of an altar call was to say, "Follow Me." Peter and Andrew weren't allowed to stay in their fishing boats; Matthew was not allowed to stay in his tax collecting booth. Jesus made His would-be followers move. We need to do the same. We can't let them stay in the pews.

By the way, if they're honest, some pastors will admit they don't ask people to move because they're afraid no one will. They want to avoid the embarrassment of having no one respond, so they remove accountability in the name of making it easy to become a Christian. What these pastors really need to remove is their egos. Then they can preach boldly and biblically, trusting God for transformation.

Now that we've addressed the first way to ruin an altar call—not making people move—let's look at the second best way to ruin an altar call: Making people move to the wrong place.

Mistake #2: Make people do business with God in front of everybody.

We conduct financial business with our banker privately. We do health checkups with our doctor privately. So why do we insist on making people do their spiritual business with a pastor publically? This is the most important decision people ever will make, so why force them do it in front of hundreds of people, many of whom are strangers?

Just because we ask people to move from their seats doesn't mean we have to make them stand in front of the whole church as they process their emotions, their sin and God's call. If we want them to make an informed decision about following Jesus—and we do, don't we?—then we need to give them the proper time and place to do so. At the front of the church, with hundreds of eyes on them, with the organist playing the fourth verse of "I Surrender All" is not the best time or place.

Instead of making people carry on such an important conversation in such a distracting environment, consider having them meet with counselors in the pastor's office or some other designated meeting space that can handle adequately the task of impacting eternity.

Speaking of counselors …

Mistake #3: Only have a few counselors available.

It's happened way too many times. The preacher gives an invitation to follow Jesus, a few dozen people move to the designated area … and two counselors bravely wade into the sea of sinners. The pastor then says, "Alright, all you guys go with Bill. All you ladies go with Margaret."

These poor counselors are as outnumbered as King Leonidas at Thermopylae!

Why do churches have so few counselors? Do they not understand the importance of well-trained counselors? Do they not expect God actually to stir people's hearts to repentance?

Regardless of their reasons, the results of having too few counselors are terrible. People usually don't get the attention and help they need. Further, they're forced to choose between sharing their deep dark sin in front of the counselor and several other people or not sharing anything at all.

Guess which one they usually pick.

This mistake is so easy to avoid. Prayerfully select enough men and women from your church so that potential respondents can have a one-on-one conversation with someone of the same gender.

You're not out of the woods yet. There are other counselor-related mistakes that can ruin an altar call.

Mistake #4: Use untrained and unprepared counselors.

In trying to avoid mistake #3, some pastors use anybody they can get their hands on to counsel others. Any Christian can do counseling, right? After all, they've sat through hundreds of altar calls. Plus, they even went through this experience themselves! They should know the ropes by now. Right?

That's a big assumption, and it carries big risks.

Of all the mistakes that ruin an altar call, the use of untrained and unprepared counselors may be the most frequent. Teachers must be trained in order to lead a class. Preachers must be trained in order to lead a congregation. Why shouldn't counselors be trained to lead people to Christ!? Here are just a few of the important points on which your counselors need to be crystal clear:

1. Do the counselors know where to stand, when to approach a person and where to take him or her?

2. Do the counselors know what to say and not say? Can they clearly explain God's plan for salvation?

3. Do the counselors know the importance of confidentiality? Likewise, do they know when to refer a person to a professional?

4. Do the counselors have the necessary tools for the task? Counselors will need their Bibles, of course; but it wouldn't hurt to have extra copies of God's Word to give to those who do not have one. Counselors also will need forms to collect contact information for follow-up purposes. Further, they should provide people with information about the church, including a way to contact the counselor and the pastor. It doesn't hurt for counselors to have breath mints, too!

5. Are the counselors aware of all the expectations placed on them? Are they supposed to collect the people's contact information? Are they supposed to follow up with them?

By the way, the best tactic for training a counselor is to partner him/her with someone who's already a great counselor. Let the counselor-in-training silently observe the mentor as he/she counsels people after an altar call. Just be sure the mentoring counselor gets a chance to debrief the situation with the counselor-in-training after everything is said and done.

These efforts will ensure that when people decide to give their lives to God, they can have access to well-trained counselors.

Mistake #5: Use counselors who talk too much.

Humans have two ears and one mouth, but hardly anyone uses them proportionately, including many counselors. I can't tell you the number of times I've observed counselors preaching to the people sitting in front of them after an altar call. (Didn't they just hear a sermon? Do they really need another one so soon?)

Some counselors think it's important to share every passage of Scripture on the topic of salvation with those who don't understand the concept yet. I hear them say, "Now let's turn to Ephesians 2:8-9," but the poor person is still looking for Romans 1:16, the last passage referenced.

Other counselors feel it's crucial to communicate every theological thought they have in their mental database. I've overheard counselors lecturing people about various atonement theories, the cosmological argument for the existence of God and the Levitical system of animal sacrifice! Meanwhile, the person who wants to accept Christ just sits there with a confused look on his or her face.

Yes, counselors need to be able to articulate biblical truth; but they must remember truth is meant to be life-changing, not overwhelming. Instead of talking so much, counselors should be trained to ask really good questions. Here are a few examples:

1. What's your name? (Yep, this is a big one! Most of us usually are reluctant to take advice from those who don't know our names. Take the time to ask this important question.)

2. How would you describe your relationship with Jesus? Why?

3. What made you respond to the message?

4. Are there any particular struggles, habits or sins you have in life?

5. What decision have you made as a result of the message?

6. Very specifically, how can I pray for you?

Counselors shouldn't talk too much … but at some point, they will need to speak. That brings us to our next mistake.

Mistake #6: Focus on the symptom, not the Savior.

I saw it happen recently in a church where I was speaking. A young man had responded to a message I preached from Psalm 20 and was partnered with a (young) counselor. The two of them were engaged in a serious conversation when I walked in a few minutes later. I quietly sat down beside them and silently listened as the counselor tried to help the young man with his addiction to pornography.

The counselor talked on and on about the best ways to overcome this destructive addiction: get accountability, download filtering software, read the Bible, ask for God's help, etc. All of it was good advice. Then the counselor stood up to leave; he'd said all that could be said about porn.

However, he'd said nothing about the Savior.

Acting quickly, I asked if I could pose a few questions to the young man. I was given his permission, so I cut right to the chase and asked him about his relationship with Jesus. Did he have one? How did he know? What was the quality of it? How was the sin of pornography affecting that relationship? What was his plan in dealing with that sin?

Sadly, it was the first time this young man had discussed Jesus. I spent a few minutes asking him more questions about Jesus and then prayed with him. When he left the room a little while later, fully assured of his relationship with Jesus, I nonchalantly held the young counselor back.

I gently pointed out to him that he focused only on pornography and never once got around to offering Jesus' forgiveness of that sin. I reminded him the young man's ultimate problem wasn't pornography; it was his sinful nature! "Think about it," I said. "Suppose he actually breaks the chains of bondage that porn has him in—Terrific!—but he's still in debt to God for his lust, not to mention his various acts of sexual immorality. He'll still be guilty before God. That is the reality we must focus on first."

Too often, counselors start off their conversations by focusing on the symptoms instead of the Savior. They discuss every form of sinfulness—anger, lust, lying, gossip, unforgiveness—but run out of time (or breath) before talking about the Savior and His cure for sin.

Don't let your counselors get sidetracked from their main task of helping people respond to Jesus. Be sure they focus their conversations on the Savior, not the symptoms.

Mistake #7: Pray for them instead of with them.

"Just repeat after me: Dear Jesus…"

I probably should say that I vehemently hate the Sinner's Prayer. I know it's been used by mighty men of God for decades, but the practice has its drawbacks.

Tell me something. If Jesus truly wants a personal relationship with us, then why do we need someone else telling us what to say to Him? Given that so many Christians, counselors included, view the prayer as a formula for salvation, it's no surprise that doubt ensues afterward about whether the right words were used.

When the time comes for a person to pray to receive Christ, why not let him or her use his or her own words? You might have to guide the person a little bit, but if we pray with people instead of for them, they never will look back on their salvation moment and realize it was someone else's words that were used instead of their own.

Some very simple guidance is usually sufficient; they need to confess their sins and ask for God's forgiveness, committing to walk with Jesus every day for the rest of their lives. Then, after taking a moment to show them the confidence Jesus had in our heavenly Father hearing our prayers (John 11:41-42), give them a chance to pray from their hearts.

They may mess up words, but they can't mess up heart.

Getting It Right

As pastors and church leaders, we have lots of great reasons to correct these mistakes when it comes to giving an altar call.

For starters, Jesus deserves our very best; and so do those who listen to us preach. Furthermore, these mistakes are too easy to fix, so there are no excuses for tolerating them. Finally, too much goes into our preaching to have it derailed at the last and most important moment.

As we preach, let's remember eternity is on the line. That alone is reason enough to get it right.

I appreciate all of the thoughts from the article and comments herein. As pastors, whatever denomination we might be from, I believe we are all more alike than we would ever imagine. Obviously, different ministry settings require different approaches. I generally preach and end with challenges. This is to say, I am preaching for a response, be it salvation, renewal, taking up new ministry opportunities, you name it, I try to include several opportunities within the same call and I try to offer several ways in which to respond. My goal is not numbers, but rather, having the opportunity to help people with whatever God may be placing on their heart. Anyway, after twenty years of variations on altar or alter calls I have no cookie cutter method, but rather a shot-gun approach that expands the call and response opportunities. I'm always open to new suggestions too. I think it is something with which most of us wrestle. I think our biggest challenge is not calling people to the front of the church, but rather sending them out of the church with a challenge to go set the world on fire with the gospel of Christ. He is both Lord and Savior, or neither.
Clifford L. Frazier
January 24, 2015
During the entire time that I?ve been saved, one of the persistent questions in the minds of those I minister too, and if I tell the whole truth, in my mind too is, ?How does one hear from God?? More specifically, how do you know that what you?re hearing is God? The answer is much too long and deep for this post. However, I will say that I?m so amazed how, on the occasions where I know that God is speaking to me through His Word, He does so. Today, during my prayer time, I found myself reiterating some of the things that I really need for God to do for me and soon. And for all those who would spank me for including a reference to time in my prayer, yes, I know that God moves in His own time; that he doesn?t meet deadlines, but makes headlines, etc. But this was my prayer thank you! In fact, it was my importunity prayer (if he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth ? Luke 11:80.) After prayer, my habit is to go and read the Word devotionally. I do so by going to my Logos 6. Today, however, when I awoke my computer, my email program was up. One of the emails on it was from Sermon Central. It was an article about the seven mistakes churches make right after the altar call is given. Now, with where I was spiritually at the moment, altar call wasn?t high on my list of things to consider. But for some strange reason, I decided to read the article anyway. So glad that I did. One of the mistakes the article listed was that altar workers, when ministering to those who have just come forward, focus attention on trying to fix their sin rather than lead them to Christ?s salvation. The author specifically noted that he?d preached a sermon on Psalm 20, and a young man came forward and followed an altar worker to ?the room.? Apparently, he admitted that he was having an issue with pornography. The altar worker started giving the person advice about how to stop consuming pornography rather than receive Christ?s salvation ? the mistake. I was interested, however, that preacher preached from Psalm 20 and more so that preaching the Psalm had motivated someone to surrender to Jesus. The Psalm was highlighted in the article, and I thought it was hyperlinked, but it wasn?t. Now, I knew what Psalm 19 stated by heart, but I didn?t know Psalm 20. Nevertheless, I was compelled to find out. So, I tabbed over to my L6 and looked up Psalm 20. Remember now, that all of this is happening right after I?d spent time before God making my urgent petitions known. This is what Psalm 20 states: ?May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble. May the name of the God of Jacob protect you! May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion! May he remember all your offerings and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! Selah. May he grant you your heart?s desire and fulfill all your plans! May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the LORD fulfill all your petitions! Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the LORD our God. They collapse and fall, but we will rise and stand upright. O LORD, save the king! May he answer us when we call. Isn?t it wonderful when the LORD lets you know He heard your prayer?
Rusty Trotter of Grassland Heights Baptist Church
January 24, 2015
"If we don't make them move?"
Lawrence Webb
January 24, 2015
If we want the biblical basis for bringing people to faith, most of the examples are one-to-one. Other than at Pentecost, we don't have a lot of examples of people coming forward to "accept Christ as personal Savior." Our present pattern of altar calls only goes back a few centuries. So we ought to be open to different patterns, such as having someone or someones at a designated spot after the service to meet and talk with those who feel God's leading.
Robert Dyer
January 24, 2015
Dear brothers in Christ, when God moves in the hearts of believers or the lost, you won't need to be concerned about whether people are standing or not, they will most probably be prostrate on the floor calling upon God to save them or cleanse them. I much prefer that believers seek a deep experience with God and there is no greater counsellor than the Holy Spirit. may God fill all of His people with such a desire.
Rick Ramsey
December 27, 2012
Bro Talent touches on a good point. One of the most difficult things for us in ministry to deal with is that we are doing a "faith" work. I use to work in a bus plant painting seats. I could gage how many bus seats I had painted by just counting them. We would like to do that in ministry but as all of you know that is impossible but I like many others have wrongly gaged the success of lack of success of my ministry based numbers at the alter or professions of faith. All of us know that is incorrect. I have seen way too many make a decision for Christ on Sunday and never see them again. Thanks to all of you for your comments they always help me as well even when I disagree :)
Tim Tallent
December 27, 2012
Brother Roam, The problem with having people raise hands to show that God is "working on their hearts," is we don't KNOW that God is working on our hearts. Our hearts deceive us (Jeremiah 17:9; cf Genesis 6:5). The fruit of God's work is not a raised hand or a body at an "altar" (do we really have altars in our Christian churches??); rather, the fruit of God's work is a turning from sin, zeal for His glory, a hunger for His Word and worship, and love for His people. These things are demonstrated over time as God sanctifies the Christian. It seems to me that a raised hand, a body at the "altar," a filled-out card, etc, are golden calves for preachers. They give us what we perceive to be a visual representation of God's invisible work--golden calves! They cater to the preacher's flesh (I'm not saying this about you, dear brother Roam--I'm speaking from personal experience) and give the preacher a sense of (sinful) pride for a "job well done." A raised hand or a body at the altar enables the preacher NOT to have to walk by faith rather than sight--faith that God is faithful and His Word never returns void and that He will honor the faithful preaching of His Word in HIS TIME AND IN HIS WAY. Again, dear brothers, this is NOT directed toward anyone except myself. I know my flesh all too well. One more thing...baptisms are a great time for professions of faith. We even baptize upon profession of faith, right? So if someone is converted to faith in Jesus Christ, I do not encourage them to "come forward;" rather, I encourage them to be baptized. And I have them make their public profession of faith in Christ before they step into the water. Thank you all for your posts--they are so helpful to me in getting me to think through what I believe and why I believe it. I love you guys for that!
Stan Roam
December 26, 2012
I have been in a pastor's family for forty years, and for about 38 of them we have always had an alter call (My dad's way) for repentance at the end of the service. Or even if someone was led to the Lord at home, they were to make a public profession of faith by going to the alter. Since it is so normal for us, even now we have people at our alters about every Sunday. Some come for a profession of faith, others to pray for spiritual growth, for others they pray about struggles, or even just to share a burden for another. I personally think it is a good thing as God moves in us to freely/humbly come before other brothers and sisters to connect with God. However, I have assumed the lead possession and also started to have people raise their hands to see if God is moving on the hearts those who virtually never come to the alter, and many hands go up also. I really enjoy a mixture of both those going to the alter and or raising their hands to acknowledging God is working on their hearts. It gives both an opportunity to publicly, in a sense, make God known wherever they are and feel comfortable in the presence of God! I guess, whatever works to build His kingdom is what is important, not the methods we use. I never want to turn God off in the hearts of listeners, nor would I want to stop whose who enjoy coming forward to draw closer to the Lord. He can reach people at the alter, pew, and beyond!!! Glory to His Name!!!
Jb Bryant
December 25, 2012
Brother Rick Ramsey - I agree different biblical viewpoints affect our attitudes here, but I'm not sure Armenian/ Calvinism is quite the right category. For my part, though I don't place a high value in the altar call (I do offer them, though, because it's expected of me), I am far from Calvinistic. I have a very high view of free will and individual choice, and that compels me into the world with the gospel to provide that choice to others who may consider making it. Hope all had a grace-filled Christmas!
Rick Ramsey
December 25, 2012
much of the differance in these comments seem to me to be a differance in biblical views. Those who have a more Armenian view seem to be more likely to see the importance of an invitation and those with a more Calvinistic view do not. I think in either case there is something to be learned by us all. I think we can all agree that we can improve our efforts at carring out the great commission in and out of the building.
Tim Tallent
December 24, 2012
Thank you, brother Bryant. Deletions made! No one needs to hear me twice! haha
Jb Bryant
December 24, 2012
Brother Danny - You don't sound Pharisaical at all, and I do hope I didn't sound overly critical. This is one of my passions, perhaps because of the way the gospel reached my heart in a jail cell. I should offer a bit more - my parents have been devout and active Christians my whole life. I was raised in a very strong church, went 3 times a week plus Sunday School. I had a very good biblical foundation and also great examples of Christian living. I even answered an altar call and was baptized at 14, and recommitted my life at church camp (which I went to every year) at 16. But I didn't live a Christian life, and I wasn't saved even though I "tried to be" (if that makes any sense). Between 15 and 22, I filled my life with every worldly pleasure and succumbed to every temptation that the 70's and 80's offered. I always believed in God and Jesus, and would defend Him against any of my partying friends who spoke out of turn - even when I was high, drunk or tripping. And even though my language was as extra-filthy as my lifestyle, I have never once in my life used God's name in vain. But giving Him Lordship? I knew nothing about it... Not until God blessed me with a chance to become helpless and feel hopeless in a cell - paying a very small price for many big actions - where I could meet a lay-minister who cared enough to love me and teach me a more perfect way. He drew a connection between the things I had learned growing up, my ineffectual belief in God, and the worldly effects my sin had wrought. He showed me what Jesus' lordship really meant and patiently helped me discover how much I needed God and had been looking for Him in the world's pleasures. This was a process of months of relationship with this minister. And then one day, when I was truly ready and fully understood the radical life transformation God wanted to do in me - and how thoroughly that change would upset my world - this minister prayed with me and (after I was released) baptized me. He was elated a short while later when I asked him what I should do with what I felt was a calling to ministry, and he was there to help me work through the "how do I know if I am really being called or if it's just something I want" types of questions. 25 years later, I still thank God for that minister even though he and I have both moved around and lost contact.
Jb Bryant
December 24, 2012
@Tim - I forgot to mention that you should see a "delete your comment" link on your own posts, and you can delete any duplicates you created. - JB
Tim Tallent
December 24, 2012
Brother, you in no way sounded like a Pharisee. You simply sound like a man who loves Jesus and loves sinners and desires to see people saved. I'm just dealing with sooooo many people, now, who have "responded" to an altar call at some point, do not show ANY fruit of the Spirit or ANY signs of God's grace upon their lives...and yet they believe they are saved because the "went forward" at some point. It's almost impossible to convince them, now, that they are not in Christ. So, yes, I have abandoned the altar call...but I still call for all sinners (including the one in the pulpit) to repent and believe the Gospel every week. That is a good call to issue to saints and sinners alike. Amen?
Danny Thomas
December 24, 2012
Thanks for your kind response and insight. I apologize if I sounded like a Pharisee. I acknowledge that God's plan for the church all along has been to "go" into the highways and hedges and a public invitation in the church is a relatively new innovation. It's just that I see so little personal evangelism in churches in my world of The Bible Belt. We have a church every quartet mile Nd so little true evangelism. I am saved today because a little store-front mission church gave an invitation at the close of a service. In my 60 years I can't recall anyone ever approaching me in a no church setting about the gospel. I would hate to see churches totally abandoning this tool.
Patrick Mcintyre
December 24, 2012
I am encouraged by the comments by experienced pastors who know the superficiality of most decision for Christ. After the evangelist leaves we see the rotten fruit. I will continue to work for a return to a Biblical salvation paradigm that a decision for Christ is not necessarily an indication of salvation. Since I published the The Graham Formula in 2005, more Pastors are waking up. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9idVpM0DbxE
Tim Tallent
December 24, 2012
Thank you, brother Bryant.
Jb Bryant
December 24, 2012
Tim - I think it has happened to all of us. It is one of a few flaws of SermonCentral's comments technology. It happens every time you refresh your web page. That can be that you hit F5 to refresh (to see if anyone has added further comments) or you shut down your browser and start it again in a way that it reopens your tabs. The problem is because after your comments are submitted, the text still remains in the comment box. We don't notice that because after we post, we are shown the top of the page and the comments are way down at the bottom. But after you post a reply to me right now, notice that if you scroll way down to the bottom your comments will still be in the box. If you refresh, it will send them again. Hope this helps. ** DEAR SERMONCENTRAL - Please Consider Updating Your Comments Script. It has several flaws. Thanks!
Megan Payne of Outreach
January 26, 2015
We previously got rid of this bug. Thanks for letting us know it's back. We'll look into it right away.
Tim Tallent
December 24, 2012
Somehow my posts are getting posted twice. This is not my intention. Can anyone suggest why this might be happening...I'm new to this so I'm sure it's something I'm doing wrong. Thank you brothers.
Jb Bryant
December 24, 2012
@ Danny Thomas - In churches that are built around a spiritual culture of ?go out into the world,? it works very well. If it is not working in your congregation, it may be that you are not discipling existing Christians in a way that burdens them for lost souls and excites them to see others saved. They probably see you (i.e., the Pastor) as having the responsibility for that. They probably see Sunday as the venue. And they probably haven?t matured ? and haven?t been developed as Christians ? enough to realize that God cares about nothing other than the salvation of mankind, and that that is their calling. Are you content with the only people in Heaven being those who wandered into a Christian worship service on a Sunday when the pastor had done an adequate job of preaching and alter calling? Are you content with your parishioners answering Jesus, when He is pointing to all who were eternally condemned in ignorance, that it wasn?t their fault that those people didn?t ?go to church? or that their pastor didn?t preach well? I am not, truly, directing these words at you, Danny. You statements represent modern Western Christianity. Incidentally, I am a Christian today because 25 years ago a prison minister went into the world, which in this case was the cell in which I lived.
Tim Tallent
December 24, 2012
Brother Danny, thank you for the questions. I love your zeal for souls. I have a two-part answer. Yes, our people (by God's grace) are consistently engaging people outside the church with the Gospel of Christ in various and sundry ways by word and deed. Are we doing it perfectly? Nope. Are we doing it to the extent that I'd like? Nope. But by God's grace we are what we are. But here's the second (perhaps more important) part of my answer to your question. You are asking, "How's that working for you?" This, it seems to me, is an appeal to results. Whether those results are more baptisms, increased church attendance, etc... But, dear brother, results are not our concern. Results are the concern of the Spirit of Christ. Only HE can regenerate and/or revive. Jeremiah preached hard for some 50 years without any so-called results. So do we consider him a failure? I'm just saying let's follow the Word of God closely in how we "conduct" church, and then just let God be God. So, dear brother, I guess at the end of the day I believe the "main thing" that we need to let be the "main thing" is FAITHFULNESS rather than "How it's working." Love you brother.
Danny Thomas
December 24, 2012
I have a few questions for those who feel the church is not the place for evangelism, and it should "Go out" and do evangelism. "How is that working for you?" "What of your members even engage their unsaved friends and acquaintances in a meaningful conversation about Christ and the gospel?" Why not take a simple poll some Sunday a d ask how many responded to an invitation during a service vs responding at home, in the shop, or other place? My point is, that yes it's God's prime method of evangelism, however He certainly blesses a "Finney and his ilk" type of invitation or many of us would never have been exposed to the gospel message. The church is not evangelizing their world in the 21st century and even church attendance is on the decline. We should get back to making the "main thing" the main thing whether its done within the 4 walls of the church or at Starbucks.
Jb Bryant
December 24, 2012
@Tim Tallent - I came to this comment field to write the very words you already wrote in your first comment. Amen. Wish we knew each other - we'd go into the world together, then we'd strengthen and spur each other on to good works in worship and fellowship. Jesus didn't tell the world "go into all the churches," He told the church, "go into all the world." And He and His early followers set the example of this. I don't care what Christian tradition one comes from, they know that their Bibles teach this. Sure, 1 Corinthians 14 says an unbeliever may venture into one of our assemblies, but that is far and away not the purpose of the assemblies.
Tim Tallent
December 23, 2012
Brother James, from where do you get this so-called "sinners prayer?" There is no such prayer in the Bible, and the Scriptures are very clear in many passages that God does NOT hear the prayer of sinners. Jesus gives the invitation of Come Unto Me. John 6 makes it clear that all who are given by God to Jesus WILL obey that invitation. It's not for preachers to invite; preachers are to command: Repent and believe the Gospel. Let's do away with all the silly hand-raising, coming forward, filling out cards, etc... All those things have done much damage to many people, giving them a false assurance. Simply direct everyone to repent and believe the Gospel, AND TRUST GOD TO DO WHAT HE SAYS HE WILL DO.
James Boehlje
December 22, 2012
I must concur with the comments by Jeff. I am no longer full time, retiring three years ago. I now go to State Parks in Arizona and New Mexico and provide a sabot service to campers, or if it is for a historical reenactment to the participants, a new assembly each time. I use the "sinners prayer" and print it in my bulletin. I include a visitors card. At the call to repent I invite those who seek to repent to fill out the card an either leave in one of the song books or hand it to me at the end of the service. As I May not be from their home town , I mail a contact name and address to them, and forward the visitor card to the local congregation to follow up on. God will provide a way that they will find Jesus and bring Him into their life.
Bryan Thompson
December 22, 2012
I would count it a privilege to be numbered among "Finney and his ilk", which I must say is a phrase I would not use to speak of a dog.
Jeff Glenn
December 22, 2012
I want to thank everyone for their advice and insight!
Joseph William Rhoads
December 22, 2012
Jeff, I, too, am a bi-vocational pastor of a small church. I preach to the same people week after week. While I will always give gospel presentation in every sermon, I don't give altar calls. I let people know that they can talk with me if they have any questions, especially if we have a visitor, but altar calls don't work when you have 15 people in the worship service and you know pretty well that each one is a believer. Much of this article based in experience and only is applicable to large audiences. Additionally, I do most of my evangelism outside the church walls.
Tim Tallent
December 22, 2012
You're not doing anything wrong. Let's look at our Bibles, friends; the church service is NOT the place for evangelism. We are to GO OUT and win people to Jesus Christ one-on-one, and THEN invite them to come and worship as a person of God WITH the people of God. A church service is to be a gathering of the church! It is to be a gathering of saved people who've come to worship and get more equipped to GO OUT and win people to Christ. Challenge your people to GO OUT and respond to God's Word--not COME FORWARD and respond.
Zachary Bartels
December 22, 2012
I just leave the "altar calls" to Finney and is ilk.
Paul Hsiung
December 22, 2012
The points are good. However, it seems to me that its main focus is "conselors" instead of "altar call".
Acts 2:38 - Its still thar!
Marc Daniels of Fbc Avondale
December 22, 2012
Jeff, I've been pastoring the same small church for the last 11 years. I have tried every approach and been through the driest of times and times that seemed like a great harvest. I've found that the key to seeing life-changing decisions is to stop focusing on the decisions and keep my focus on Christ alone. If you teach and preach expositorily week after week and seek to have your congregation grow in maturity. And if you yourself commit to growing in maturity by intense Scripture study and prayer (reading through the Bible regularly and not just the passages and books you're preaching on), you will see lives changed under your ministry. In the past, when I tried all the different methods that were in vogue, we would have 20-30 Baptisms (and up to a hundred decisions) a year. But, two years later there were only a couple of them that were walking with Christ. Now, we see 5-10 Baptisms a year (20-30 come forward and make decisions) and they are still a round a couple of years out.
Lawrence Rae
December 22, 2012
I think I would concur with Jeff. The instructions in the article are definitely made toward planned evangelism events with fairly large congregations of people. Small church North America dealing with local pastors and mostly the same faces week by week would perhaps need to be more personal and less concerned with "closing the deal."
Jeff Glenn
December 22, 2012
Some great points here, but the writer of this article is an evangelist who travels and speaks to different audiences. As a bi-vocational, small church pastor, I normally preach to the same people every week and even during those times when we might have visitors, I am yet to experience anyone "coming forward" to receive Jesus as their Savior. I tried many different approaches from asking people to "raise their hands," "praying with them as they sit in the pew" to asking them to "come forward." I guess I'm doing something wrong. I'M OPEN TO SUGGESTIONS!

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