In this article, I am going to share three myths that Satan has propagated in regard to the altar call. For those of you, who may not be from a Pentecostal or Evangelical background, I simply am referring to the time in which a pastor or guest speaker invites those who have heard the word of God preached to respond in some way. Generally the invitation is to come forward to pray.
Paul writes of the glorious ministry of the Spirit in 2 Corinthians 3:7-8 “But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?”
A time of calling people to pray and respond at the front allows for the glorious ministry of the Holy Spirit. One could easily take the Bible and divide it into three parts. The Old Testament deals a lot with God the Father. Of course, we see the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. And of course, there are shadows and fore-types of Jesus in the Old Testament, but primarily we see God the Father.
If you took the gospels you would have the second part. Matthew, Mark Luke and John. You predominantly read about Jesus, God the Son. The Father and the Spirit of course are mentioned in these books as well, but they are primarily about Jesus.
If you take the book of Acts to the book of Revelation, we have a time represented by these writings when Jesus has ascended into heaven, and He is sitting at the right hand of the Father. The Holy Spirit has been outpoured and the ministry of the Holy Spirit comes into a place of prominence. I am not saying that God the Father isn’t active today, He is. I am not saying Jesus is put aside. Of course not.
Part of the what the Holy Spirit does, is he assists us in responding to the Word of God. Many times this happens in church during the response time at the end of the service. New Testament Christianity has always called for a response in the heart of the believer. The day of Pentecost in Acts 2 was an awesome day! The Holy Spirit descended in power! We know today from the book of Acts that as the event was occurring a crowd assembled. The crowd was at least 3000 people strong. My favorite part of the story is when Peter stood up and he began to proclaim and began to preach the first “Spirit” anointed gospel sermon. It was a message for those who listened to do something.
Peter very plainly outlined what the people who were listening to him should do. The directions were specific and direct. He said, Acts 2:38 “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
This time of calling people to action was not rushed. It was not hurried. The reason is because God wanted those on that day to respond spiritually to the Word of God that was preached. Acts 2:40 tell us, “With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
One of the hallmarks of Pentecostal Spirit filled preaching is not what happens during the preaching but what happens afterward. New Testament Christianity was not meant to be routine, dull, boring, and status quo. The New Testament that I read tells me that there was a time when Gods people responded spiritually to his Word that was preached.
Mark gives us insight into what New Testament Christianity should be like. Mark 16:20 says “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and they said a quick little prayer and they all went home?” Is that what it says? No! It says in Mark 16:20 “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.”
Do you mean to tell me that after the disciples preached that God did supernatural signs and wonders? Absolutely. That is the ministry of the Spirit. In fact, it was the normal way of doing things in the early church.
Paul also was a preacher who gives us insight into the power and authority of that New Testament church. 1 Corinthians 2:4 “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”
If you are reading this article, let me ask you a question. What does your faith rest on today? Paul was definitely saying that there are two levels of preaching and teaching. There is the wise and persuasive words of man. One level of preaching will bring people to believe because of man’s wisdom. There are wonderful men who preach at this level. They have wise and persuasive words. But there is another level. It is a higher level. It causes people to have a faith that is resting on God’s power. If we are going to experience biblical Christianity – we must get back to a faith that rests upon the demonstration of the power of God!
I have seen the power of God! I have felt his presence! I have seen God supernaturally instantaneously heal by His power! I have seen a life that is bound and chained by sins strong hold – set free instantaneously by the power of God! I have seen drunken men sobered! I have seen marriages healed! I have seen demons flee by His power! I have seen someone wounded emotionally, discouraged, depressed, receive from God a supernatural touch that changes their lives! That is why I believe in giving and invitation. We must respond spiritually in faith to the Word that was preached. You may not realize it but there is a price that we have to pay if we are going to see the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
It requires a church that prays.
It requires a church that fasts.
It requires a church that lives a Holy lifestyle.
It requires a church that will hunger after God.
It requires a church that will make room for God.
It requires a church that will put all of man’s ideas aside, and come with a faith that says, “This book is true…its promises are true. I will not be dissuaded by anything else but experiencing all the fullness God has for me.”
I was raised among people had altar services and I experienced God’s power. This invitational time allows the pastor to extend an invitation for people to respond spiritually to the Word of God that is preached.
This morning, I want to share with you three myths about the altar call.
Satan is the author of all lies. He loves to lie and what he really good at is taking something that is good and strong and powerful and twisting it around to make it something that is not.
One of my favorite preachers is Dr. Billy Graham. I love to listen to him preach. He is a man who is so very well respected in our culture and society. Who is there in America who has not at least seen one program where at the end of the message, Billy Graham invites people to come forward to accept Christ. It’s beautiful. You have this huge choir in the background… they are singing that beautiful hymn of the church. “Just as I am with out one plea but that thy blood was shed for me, And that thou bidst me come to thee, O lamb of God I come, I come.”
It beautiful to me. I can hardly watch any crusade altar call without feeling a certain joy in my heart. It’s wonderful to see young, and old and middle age. All coming to Jesus! I want you to understand something. It is the Holy Spirit that is bringing people to Jesus. The Holy Spirit convinces them of their need for God. The Holy Spirit woos them. The Holy Spirit is the part of the Trinity they feel and experience when they feel Gods love, when the feel hope.
I will tell you that for many years that has been popularized in evangelical churches.
PEOPLE GO FORWARD TO ACCEPT CHRIST
PEOPLE GO FORWARD TO GET SAVED
PEOPLE GO FORWARD TO MAKE A PUBLIC COMMITMENT TO JESUS CHRIST
And it is beautiful. However, Satan has used that beautiful picture to propogate this myth.
Myth number one: THE ONLY TIME YOU NEED AN ALTAR IS WHEN YOU GET SAVED.
Satan would have you to believe that the only time you need to spiritually respond to Gods word is when you need salvation. He will sit on your shoulder and say, What do you need to respond for? You accepted Christ- you are a Christian! You don’t need to go to the front. I don’t need to respond to the altar call, I am already saved.
I don’t know about you, but I need God all the time. I want to show it by responding spiritually to God and His word. Some of our congregation went to Palestine for a conference. And whenever a call was given that I felt touched me. I went forward to pray. You say, “Our pastor sure is weak to have to go get prayer like that.” “No, I am not! I am strong because of it.” If you think God looks down from heaven and says, “I just can’t stand it when my people turn to me.” You are mistaken. God loves it when we turn to Him. If you are going to grow spiritually, if you are going to be strong, You need to learn how to respond spiritually to God.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is found in Psalm 43:4. This is a Psalm of David. These are his words. He says, “Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God.”
David was a man who knew God. He is called as a man after Gods own heart. Where do you think he got the courage to fight Goliath? Where did he find the wisdom to rule the nation of Israel? Where did he find his joy? Where did David get such a heart of worship? He frequented the altar of God!
Satan wants you to believe that the only time you respond spiritually is when you get saved. What a lie! God wants you to turn to him, to depend upon him every day of your life! Even Sunday at church! How crazy it is to think that people who don’t know God are going to respond to God in an environment where believers don’t respond to God! You may be thinking, I would like to see the front of my church filled with people who don’t know the Lord, finding Him and accepting him as their personal Savior!
If you want to see that, here is the key: Let them see you turning to God every single chance you get. I wish my son or daughter would come to the Lord. Let me ask you this…do they see you coming for prayer and turning to God in your life? The greatest thing you can do for your kids and for your family is model responding spiritually to God. My mom and my dad, they aren’t going to leave me much money. But I will tell you something they left me. They left me with a heritage of turning to God in moments of difficulty.
I don’t care how long you have been saved. You will have difficulties. Jesus said so, Here is the question? Where do you turn? I don’t know about you, but I need a meeting place with God when I come to his house.
Think of the great privilege you and I have as New Testament believers. In Bible days, the Children of Israel had the ark of the Covenant. Above the ark of the covenant between the golden Cherubim was where presence of God dwelt. If you were a common man in Israel. You never experienced it, not even once in your life. Only the High Priest entered there. That had to be with a lot of protocol and sacrifices done. The presence of God dwelt there for years. The Holy of Holies was surrounded by a thick heavy veil. To enter there was certain death so holy is God. In those days, you may as a common man have came to the outer court of the tabernacle to offer your sacrifices. But you could never experience the glory of that inner chamber. Countless generations lived that way.
Until one day that Jesus died on the cross. That changed everything because something supernatural happened that day. That day in Israel in the temple the veil that surrounded the holy place was torn in two. Luke records it in Luke 23:45 “…And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.”
What does that mean to me? It means that you sir, through Jesus Christ have access to God. We have access to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. That is why in our church we want times of prayer before God. That is what a Spirit filled Altar service is all about! It is all about a place where mortal man comes in contact with an immortal God! It is about where human flesh that is weak comes in contact with a God who never knows weariness. It is where man comes in contact with God. What a privilege we have man! Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
I want you to realize that if you are a believer you will spend time in eternity with many of the Old Testament saints. Can you imagine the conversations that will ensue? Tell me what it was like back in the day? The Old Testament saint will stand in amazement at the incredible privilege afforded to us New Testament people. We have a better covenant!
Wow! Do you mean you had access to God? You could meet with God? When you came to the house of God, you could approach the throne of grace? That’s great! A lot of New Testament believers will hang their heads in shame, because they don’t take advantage of the great privilege afforded them. “Yeah but we didn’t do that much…We were occupied with other things. We had iPhones. We had other plans. We had busy lives in the 21st century. We had to wash the car, and watch tv, and go to eat.
How many of you would rather say to those Old Testament Saints in eternity: “I came every chance I got. I was always there hard in pursuit of God! I was always there seeking him! I was always doing my best to approach his throne!
The altar is not for just for those who want to accept Jesus! It is our hope! It is our right as New Testament believers. The writer to the Hebrews said, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain…” Hebrews 6:19
What do you want to make a bunch of aisle runners? Frankly…yes! I would rather have people running down the aisle, turning to God, than people running out the back door not responding spiritually to God. I wish everyone of us would get so desperately hungry for God that we would run down the aisle!
Let me give you another Myth about the altar call.
A CHURCH CAN’T HAVE GREAT ALTAR SERVICES EVERY WEEK
I believe it was Gods intention for the altar service to be the most powerful thing about church. God wants to meet with his people! Follow my logic:
Seeing that Jesus said, wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I will be there.
Seeing that the veil was rent in two.
Seeing that he said his house would be a house of prayer.
Seeing that he poured out the Holy Spirit.
Seeing that he promised that blessing to “all flesh” “upon our sons and daughters”.
Seeing that he said he would work with us and “confirm the word with signs following.”
Seeing that he said that our faith was to rest upon the power of God and the wisdom of men.
Seeing that our preaching is to be in “demonstration of the Spirit of God and power”.
And then Satan says, no God doesn’t want to do much today. I would say that that is about the biggest bald face lie out of the pit of hell, I have ever heard.
I will never forget talking to a friend of mine who was an evangelist. We had a series of meetings with him and we were talking one day and he says to me. “Bob, I just don’t understand these pastors. I come here and God moves. The power of God is here all week long. We have wonderful services where people are saved, and healed, and delivered, and set free.The easiest time for any pastor to preach should be the Sunday morning following a move of God like that.”
I looked at him and said, “My friend, You don’t know what you are talking about. I am telling you that after such a move of the Holy Spirit. That is the most difficult service to preach.”
He said, “How could that be?”
I said, “Every devil, demon, spiritual force comes to church that Sunday morning. Anybody he can stir up to get mad about this or that boy they will be stirred up. He’ll do it. He is busy telling his biggest lie. His biggest lie is…EVERYTHING IS GONNA GO BACK TO NORMAL. Church as normal. You can’t expect God to touch people every service! I say….Why not!
I say the devil is a big fat stinking slimy snake who know that Jesus already whipped him!
Satan says, “God doesn’t want to touch people every single service.” Why not? What are we doing here? That type of thinking sounds like a happy meal that missing the French fries!
Pastor, You can’t have your cake and eat it too. I got news for you! If God gives you cake he wants you to eat it – frosting and all. Why would he give us promises if he didn’t intend to fulfill them?
He said in Matthew 16:18 “..I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
John 16:24 “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”
Ephesians 3:20 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine,”
I want you to know I can ask and imagine a lot.
How about salvations every week?
How about healings every week?
How about people getting a fresh touch every week?
How about families getting restored every week?
I can ask or imagine a lot. And It says, God can do more than that. God I am going to respond spiritually!
Well, Pastor Bob, why doesn’t God do more…The scripture doesn’t stop there.. it says, ““Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”
The question is not IS GOD WILLING? The question is ARE WE WILLING? Are we willing to meet the conditions? There are conditions that you have to meet. You say, well what are they? We have to be willing to seek him and that involves altar services every Sunday!
2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves…” It takes Humility! The number one obstacle that stops people from receiving from God is P R I D E! Pride! Pride stops people from coming.
I can pray back here.
I am a deacon or Sunday School Teacher.
I have been a Christian for a long time.
I don’t need anyone to pray for me.
I don’t need God to touch me.
I don’t need to have some type of emotional reaction.
I am fine like I am.
I would rather take a humble approach and say, I need thee every hour!
“If my people, will humble themselves, and pray…,”
The second condition is actually praying. Not talking about praying. Actually praying. It is hard to get people to come to a prayer meeting. Study the history of revivals across the world, across history. You will not find a spiritual awakening that ever occurred without people praying.
Well, Bob, I pray at home. Really? That’s commendable! Jesus said, My house will be called a house of prayer! You ought to pray when you come to church. I suspect it isn’t that one minute pastoral prayer in the middle of the service.
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face.
Altar calls lend themselves to services where people are seeking his face rather than seeking his hand. When you seek his hand, you’re asking God for something. You want him to do something. When you seek his face, you’re just getting to know him.
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways…” I want to say to you that personal holiness is a requirement for revival.
THE ONLY PLACE I CAN MEET WITH GOD IS AT CHURCH
That is also a big lie! Don’t get me wrong, I love having church. But it’s a long way between Sundays. You don’t need a pastor to give an altar call to respond to God or His word. Let me challenge you to make an altar out of your love seat. Let me challenge you to make an altar out by the big old maple tree in your backyard. You can make an altar at the bus stop
An altar is simply a meeting place with God. All you have to do is praise him and worship him! The first altars found in scripture was simply a pile of rocks out in the middle of a field or a rock by a stream. Each man came to worship God and to sacrifice.
Altars imply sacrifice! From the time Abel offered his sacrifice that was accepted by God to the days when Moses established the altar in the tent of meeting, there was sacrifice. The most beautiful altar to me was not made of stones, or bronze, but the most beautiful altar was at Calvary. Upon that altar the perfect precious son of God was sacrificed.
You may think… That’s why we don’t need an altar call or an altar service. The price has already been paid. The supreme sacrifice was given. In the New Testament we are not commanded to bring lambs and Rams and turtledoves to an altar. We don’t have to sacrifice those anymore.
Yet the New Testament definitely calls for a sacrifice. We are to offer ourselves as a sacrifice to God. It is our reasonable act of worship. Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”
If this article touched you in any way, please leave a comment.