Getting older, not necessarily wiser!
Is there any real value in Alter calls? Or are people just kidding themselves. In my opinion, I see no real value in them, and find them to have a somewhat problematic scriptural basis. However, opinions are like certain body orifices, in that every one has one.
Several years ago I observed something interesting and, unfortunately, probably not so unusual at a Pentecostal service. I am not a Pentecostal, but for a variety of reasons have been exposed to many of their services and practices. And this is going to be another example of something I find very troubling, and not just with Pentecostals. This just happens to be one of the more egregious examples that I actually have some first hand knowledge of.
After the requisite jumping around, singing, and mumbling/babbling that make up some Pentecostal services, there was an alter call. And I kid you not, this alter call went on for at least thirty minutes.
The problem was no one was coming up, which can be somewhat unusual for a Pentecostal service. So the preacher just kept making the call, talking, and waiting. Finally after about fifteen minutes a few people made their way forward. But the preacher was not satisfied with the numbers, and kept on plowing forward until he had a small crowd up front.
Later after the service, I was at a restaurant with the people who had invited me, and so was that preacher and some others from his church (his elders I am assuming?). I remember returning from the restroom and hearing him talk about how many people he had saved during the alter call. After reflection, there were so many things wrong with this statement, that I don’t have space to unpack them here. This might be my own bias, but I do remember thinking at the time that only God saves, and all those people just came up so the preacher would move on with the service. And for the most part, it had nothing to do with salvation.
Alter calls are not a integral part of church history or tradition. In point of fact, before the early 1800’s alter calls did not exist.
Alter Calls are supposedly for non believers to confess their sins and pray to accept Jesus. They are also supposedly for Christians to publicly renew their commitment to Jesus. And while I am sure some alter calls are held for these purposes, people like Charles G. Finney used them to sign people up for his abolitionist movement. Other practitioners making alter calls popular where Billy Sunday and D. L. Moody.
Matthew 4:19 and Matthew 9:9 are often cited as justification for alter calls. However these are special cases of Jesus calling his disciples. There was no service to speak of. I don’t think they really apply here. And besides, look at what happened with Judas.
Matthew 10:32 can be a little misleading when taken out of context, and can imply that an alter call is a step on the salvation path. As I have heard it used, it does not justify the alter call tradition. How does one know if it is true repentance. In most cases it is probably and emotional response or herd mentality, both of which need to be avoided.
Romans 10:9 calls for both speaking from the mouth and believing in the heart. Another case where alter calls tend to be very misleading. Nor does it in any way justify an alter call as part of worship.
Matthew 7:22-23 is, in my opinion, a good reason to not do alter calls. My experience is that the nature of faith and forgiveness is never fully and properly explained, because that would detract from the moment.
I do not want to leave this subject as a totally negative message. So, again in my opinion, if you want someone to profess faith, then you should first explain the concepts laid out in James Chapter 2.
While salvation is by faith, true faith will generate works. While works are not required for salvation, if they are absent, then faith is probably dead.
Professing faith in your heart is to seek a new life. If a person is not willing to attempt change, then any professed faith is meaningless.