The practice of alter calls (calling people forward to make a public “decision for Christ”, usually at the end of a sermon) has gained in prominence and popularity, more commonly in Pentecostal – type churches. Ever since Charles Finney produced his “new measures” early in the nineteenth century by conjuring up the “anxious bench”, altar calling has been regularly practiced in some adventurous denominations and so-called non-denominational churches.
While altar calls are not prescribed or described in the Bible, advocates of this ritual cite certain biblical examples in support. Often it is said that Jesus demanded outward identification with Himself on the part of those who would be His disciples by telling them “follow Me” and expecting immediate response from them. This argument fails, however, when the problem of Judas is considered. Judas also responded publicly by immediately following Jesus, but the call he responded to did not bring about his salvation.
The question remains as to whether an altar call-induced “decision” is sincere repentance and faith, or whether it is simply an emotional response to a particularly convincing speaker or a charged-up atmosphere. Continue reading