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Should Altar Calls Be a Thing of the Past?

For generations of Christians, the “altar call” was not only embedded in how people understood church but also how they understood conversion. It’s not abnormal to ask people about their conversion experience and receive a reply including “when I walked the aisle” or “I went forward on..(insert date)”.

These phrases describe an altar call whereby a pastor invites people to come forward during the last part of a worship service to publically acknowledge their allegiance to Jesus and desire to be in relationship with him. For many of us, this is how our relationship with Jesus started.

But not all pastors favor this approach to inviting people to join the Kingdom of God. Todd Wagner, the pastor of Watermark Church, offers the following video explanation of why he doesn’t use altar calls at his church.

Wagner explains it’s easier than people may think for speakers to manipulate a crowd to respond to such things as moving stories, music, and lighting. Communicators can share powerful stories that engage people’s emotions, thus eliciting a desire for a spiritual experience, but maybe not the actual lordship of Jesus.

This is not to say that preachers should not pursue excellence in crafting their sermons and telling good stories, nor is it to say that people shouldn’t be invited to enter into relationship with Christ, but we should never forget that conversion is ultimately an act of God and not something we can conjure up by the cleverness of our speech. If anyone comes to Christ, it is solely because of Christ calling them to Himself and this should protect both the convert and the preacher from boasting in their ability and self-righteousness.

What do you think? Are there times when an altar call is necessary and helpful? Watch the whole video to discern if you agree with Wagner’s reasoning or not.

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Brian is the General Editor of churchleaders.com. He works with creative and innovative people to discover the best resources, trends and practices to equip the church to leader better every day. He lives in Ohio with his wife, Jenna, and four boys..