In Parts 1 and 2 of this article, I considered what should constitute, in part, the Christian approach to the ritual or adopted tradition which is now commonly referred to as the altar call. In this, the third posting in the little series, I consider the opinion of one of the foremost and effective biblical evangelists.
In “The Way of the Master”, Ray Comfort gives tongue in cheek advice to those preachers who, by means of their own conjured traditions and motions, wish to impress gullible sinners and make of them commercial converts. Rather than preaching the simple truth of the Gospel to the congregants, they preach variations of “easy-believism”. Thereby unscrupulous preachers proffer to do what they are unable to do and that is to attempt to “make” true believers at altar calls.
When the gospel is understood biblically, it becomes clear that both faith and obedience assume the prior existence of spiritual life. As J.I. Packer commented, “sinners cannot obey the gospel, any more than the law, without renewal of heart.”
Being called to Christ and becoming a truly saved follower of Christ entails a permanent change of heart, an immovable conviction of one’s sin and an understanding of His Will, a remarkable humility, an indescribable thankfulness and a new honest and real personal relationship with God. These profound changes are brought about in the Christian, not because of the “decision” made by men responding to an altar call, but by the regenerating power and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the third Person in the Trinity.
The moment and circumstances surrounding conversion to Christ are not such as can be determined by men, the nature and extent of the conversion cannot be manipulated or gauged by men. Regeneration by the Holy Spirit does not include the offer of a choice from a list of optional extras. The decision “for Christ” cannot be made by men. The decision is made by Christ for men. That is an irrefutable biblical truth and to deny that is to deny the very essence of Christ’s Holiness and Deity.
It is not a decision made for Christ by us, it is a decision made for us by Christ. If we could make such a decision for Christ, we could also save ourselves or condemn ourselves, depending on our own strength of will and we would then disprove the words of Paul in Romans 3 and in many other Bible passages. Furthermore, we would be able to reverse our former “decisions” over and over again, turning from Christ when we willed to do so and returning to Him when we felt the need to re-crucify Him for our sins. In assuming that we can make decisions for Christ on His or our own behalf, we assume to have power above the Will of God.
Proponents of the altar call presume to wield that same authority to bring about the salvation of the seeking souls, by having them respond to their evoked emotions. Offered for sale by these heretics is the deadly fallacy that, by the seeker simply changing their physical position from the back of a room to the front, en masse or individually, and by making a statement, God will be impressed sufficiently to grant them eternal glorification.
Here then, is the advice which Pastor Ray freely offers to those who DON’T want people saved at altar calls. Please read it as such and understand that you should NOT employ these methods. Do the opposite and implore the next “rock star preacher” you encounter to do the same!
It is my prayer and hope that this posting along with Parts 1 and 2 which I posted previously, at the very least, brings comfort to the person who has danced the dance of futility down many aisles to altar calls, yet has failed to find the assurance of true faith and meaningful everlasting change in their life. May the saving Grace of God be real in your life.
A few keys for those who don’t want people saved in their altar calls.
- Present an unbalanced message. Only let them see the heart-warming part of God’s character. Preach God’s love but leave out His holiness and justice. That way they’ll think He’ll let them into heaven no matter what.
- Don’t mention repentance until they’re repeating a “sinner’s prayer.” Just get them to say, “I repent of all my sins” while they’re echoing you. They won’t know what they’re saying and they won’t count the cost.
- Above all else, be dignified. Don’t get heart to heart with the people. They would get something out of what you said.
- Skim over the gospel and push the prayer. Pretend the lost naturally understand what Christ has done for them.
- Preach Jesus as a life enhancer not a life rescuer. Tell them how Jesus can improve their life but don’t show them Jesus as the only One who can save them from Hell. People will think if they reject Him they’re only losing out on a spiritual high.
- Try to please the people instead of convert them. Tell them what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear.
- Compromise the message to speed up the process. The Christians who have heard it a hundred times before will be pleased with that. The quicker they get out the quicker they can get to the restaurant.
- Give them the impression that God is so good He won’t send anyone to hell. Don’t present the whole counsel of God or they might realize He is so good that He’ll see to it that justice is served and that all unrepentant sinners will be punished in the fire that is not quenched.
- Speak to sinners as though they were saints. They’ll think they’re God’s children instead of the enemies of God they’ve made themselves into because of their sin. You’ll give them false assurance and mislead them.
- Don’t mention sin or man’s guilt. Resist the urge to explain what Christ came to deliver us from. Don’t show them their need for the Savior. Otherwise it may all make sense.
- Don’t look to the Bible for the substance of your altar call. Only mimic other preachers with large congregations.
- Tell the lost not to feel bad about their sins. That way you will work against the Holy Spirit who’s convicting them
- Whatever you do, never mention Judgment Day. Your audience might take spiritual matters seriously.
- Tell them Jesus is the only way to heaven but don’t explain why. They may think it’s nothing more than fear tactics and leave offended instead of enlightened.
- Confuse the call. This is a great way to botch up an altar call. Don’t let people know you’re asking them to commit their life to Christ. Be vague and general in what you’re saying. Neglect to mention following Christ in your evangelistic altar calls and say things like, “If you don’t feel you’re as close to God as possible raise your hand,” “If you feel lonely come to the front for prayer,” “If you want more of God this is your time,” and, “If you have struggles and need the answer come down.” Just get them to raise a hand. That way no one will be able to count the cost and you’ll even get saints to respond to salvation altar calls, making the results look more successful.
- Only give them half the story. Tell them Jesus died to forgive everyone but overlook the fact that they must personally receive Him to partake of that forgiveness.
- Present the truth as though it isn’t. Be so funny when you share Christ that you belittle the seriousness of the matter.
- Preach forgiveness without repentance. That way no one will know how to be forgiven.
- Be unbiblical. Present repentance and faith as an offer instead of how God does as a command (Acts 17:30).
- Let them think next Sunday is the day of salvation. Don’t make them feel it’s urgent to respond today.
- Never warn of hell. Dangle heaven in front of their nose but rarely mention hell, certainly not as much as Jesus did.
- Only do altar calls inside the church. Never take the gospel where sinners congregate. The lost might get saved.
- Use churchy terms. Use words like, “saved,” “repent,” and “born again,” without any explanation. That way your hearers won’t comprehend what you’re saying. If they can’t understand it, it’s probable they won’t be changed by it.
- Give false assurance of salvation to unsaved Christians. Assure church folk that they are saved even if they bear no fruit. So that you don’t offend the unsaved pew warmers never quote 2 Corinthians 13:5: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith.” You could lose some financial supporters and have to depend on God.
- Never mention the wrath of God. If you mention it, people might be awakened to flee to Jesus who “saves us from the wrath to come.” ( 1 Thess. 1:10)
- Study how the apostles preached and witnessed and do the opposite. Don’t explain Jesus’ suffering death on the cross. Otherwise they may think of running to Him for forgiveness. Don’t speak of His burial or resurrection or they might realize He is God. Refrain from commenting about the hundreds of eyewitnesses who saw Jesus after He rose from the dead. That way they can go on thinking He’s a fairy tale. Overlook talk of the messianic prophecies Jesus fulfilled or they might realize that the Bible is true. If they see it’s the truth they may see that following Christ is the logical decision. And whatever you do, avoid what the apostles did when it came time to call people to obey the gospel. Don’t tell them to trust Christ and live for Him. That is too accurate. If they know how to get saved your altar call will be a success.
- Put more emphasis on the “sinner’s prayer” then on repentance and faith. Satan will smile over your departure from Biblical instruction. We are never taught to use a ‘sinner’s prayer’ throughout the entire Bible. If you decide to use it and put more emphasis on the technique than on what we’re commanded to preach: faith and repentance you’ll certainly botch things up. A ‘sinner’s prayer’ doesn’t equal salvation, only faith in Christ and repentance toward God do.
- Let Christians think you’re the only one who can do it right. Always leave the impression that they should only invite friends to church and never actually witness themselves. It will keep you in business and the lost unsaved.
- Don’t let the lost know they are. Disregard subjects like Judgment Day, God’s holiness, man’s sinfulness and justice. That way the lost can continue to think they’re “good enough” to get into heaven.
- Rely upon psychological techniques to manipulate people into responding to the altar call. Don’t rely upon the Holy Spirit or they may actually get saved.
- Make sure you’re the main attraction. Remember the goal in botching up an altar call is for people to leave and say, “What a wonderful preacher,” instead of, “What a wonderful Savior.” Draw all possible attention to how great a speaker and person you are. Otherwise people might see Christ in your preaching and get saved.
- Don’t focus upon Jesus. Finally, the best way to botch up an altar call is not to preach the gospel. Just get people to lift up a hand and pray a prayer with you. Resist the urge to speak of the only One who could save them.
Sometimes the best way to get a point across is to put it in a different light. You now know a few ways to botch up an altar call. Please do not employ them. Do the opposite. You may already do some of them. Don’t let pride keep you from changing and doing things in a Biblical fashion. The bottom line is how true we are to Christ and His word. Effectively reaching the lost is our purpose. Let nothing hold you back from that agenda. May God bless you as you seek to win people to Christ in Bible clubs, churches, conferences, on the street witnessing encounters, at your school, and at your workplace.
Adapted from Becoming an Emissary for God by Allen Atzbi
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