SUNDAY, JUNE 22, 2014.
ALTAR CALLS: AN INTEGRAL PART OF PREACHING
‘Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven,’ Matt. 10v32-33.
An altar call is a practice in some evangelical Christian churches in which those wishing to make a new spiritual commitment to Jesus Christ are invited to come forward publicly. It is so named because the supplicants gather at the altar located at the front of the church building. Preachers see it as a sine qua non and so, integrate it in their preaching.
Remember, public preaching is usually undertaken in order to connect men to God. It gives room to the preacher to let his hearers know that God is the solution to their problems. Much more than that, hearers are led to the point of making a crucial decision about their lives and this they are to do not in a closet, but publicly in order to declare for the Lord and grow in Him thereafter.
Jesus was emphatic that those, who fail to confess Him before men; He also will be ashamed to mention them before the Father. The salvation of men is of importance to Him and that is why He desires that when they gather to listen to His word, those who come should make a public confession of their faith. When altar calls are made, people who used to be bad are expected to yield themselves to the Lord and the Holy Spirit will help them from then onwards to live their lives as God’s children.
It is interesting to note that men, who answered altar calls hardly forget the experiences of how God saved them from the dungeon, out of darkness into His marvellous light. I remember the evangelical songs: ‘O that day, I remember that day when Jesus washed my sins away…’ such was the feeling and should be the feeling.
It is quite unfortunately today that some preachers do not labour so hard to the point of giving hearers the room to make a public confession of faith and so, fail to connect them to God. Of course, sometimes they are in a hurry, particularly when they are attracted not by the perishing souls of men, but by their pockets, as such will continue to grow their bank accounts and enable them to be moving from one corner of the globe to another. There are others also whose stock in trade is the gigantic edifices they are building, which are monuments of their ego. Jesus’ teaching is highly illustrative here: ‘for what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’ Mk 8v36.
Hear the frustrations of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1882): ‘sometimes we are inclined to think that a very great portion of modern revivalism has been more a curse than a blessing, because it has led thousands to a kind of peace before they have known their misery; restoring the prodigal to the Father’s house and never making him say, ‘Father, I have sinned.’ How can he be healed who is not sick? Or he be satisfied with the bread of life who is not hungry? The old-fashioned sense of sin is despised and consequently a religion is run up before the foundations are dug out. Everything in this age is shallow.Ven. Ernest Onuoha Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.