Pastors today continue to debate whether the modern phenomenon of altar calls is biblical and should be encouraged.
Todd Wagner, senior pastor of Watermark Community Church in Dallas, Texas, believes altar calls are not “unbiblical” but “they’re also not a required biblical act.” Thus, he does not issue an altar call very often at his megachurch.
One major problem with altar calls that many pastors and theologians have identified is that they have led to false conversions. Those who responded spontaneously by going forward and saying a prayer to receive Jesus Christ might have done so out of emotion rather than out of conviction.
“I’m not telling you that you’re screwing up if you have an altar call,” Wagner said in a recent video. “I’m telling you that you might not be saved if you respond to an altar call and you’re probably wrong as a pastoral leader if you say ‘we’ve got conversions’ just because people in a moment came forward.”
Jonathan Leeman, editorial director for 9Marks, doesn’t believe altar calls are necessarily wrong but he doesn’t support them because it has “produced more bad than good for Christian churches in the West.”
“The altar call relies on the powers of emotion, rhetorical persuasion, and social pressure to induce people to make a hasty and premature decision. And producing professions is not the same thing as making disciples,” he argued earlier.
Some, including Wagner, argue that altar calls originated with revivalism just over a century ago.
Famous evangelists who have employed altar calls include Dwight Moody, Billy Sunday and Billy Graham. Generally, they invited people to come forward after a sermon to make a public confession of faith.
Revivalist preacher Charles Finney, who contributed to the Second Great Awakening, was notorious for using what Wagner labeled as “mostly manipulative” tactics to evoke a response.
“He had an anxious bench put up front. If you felt like something was stirring in you, you can come to the bench and someone … would pray with them … until they crossed over, until you make a decision,” Wagner explained.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Sheryl Lynn