Discernment In The Altar Service
Webster’s Lexicon Dictionary of the English Language defines discernment as “to see or make out through any of the senses; to perceive with the mind; to have insight l understanding about a person, situation or problem.” Its Biblical usage connotes “a distinguishing, a clear discrimination.” It is to perceive with the mind or to examine. It is the exercise of internal judgment. It is used to make a decision.
Working at the altar includes a combination of observation by the altar worker and the direction of the Holy Spirit. Thus, the altar worker discerns direction in three primary ways.
First, he should observe seekers’ responses while keeping a worshipful attitude. Watch for an individual’s response as he or she prays. Shedding tears or shaking the shoulders could indicate a seeker might still be in the midst of repentance. Listening to the seeker’s prayer also helps in discerning the progress in repenting.
The second approach to altar work is to be open to the leading of the Spirit of God. The Spirit can prompt the altar worker to discern when the seeker reaches a state of readiness to receive the Holy Ghost. God’s Spirit can also make us aware of some problem the seeker may have and direct the altar worker as to how to help.
The third approach involves asking questions. Find out with whom the seeker came. What is the seeker’s name? Has he or she ever prayed before? Is the seeker a backslider? Answers to these questions can make the altar worker more effective.
Once the altar worker determines where the seeker is in his prayer, then he or she can pray alongside accordingly. If the seeker is repenting, pray a sinner’s prayer with him. If he or she has finished repenting, help the person to begin asking for the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
Once finished with prayer, encourage the seeker to get baptized. Do not apply heavy pressure at this time. Let the prospect know that it is God’s will for him or her to get baptized; also, that a minister is ready to do it. If they say “No”, don’t condemn. Just say, “When you get ready, we are ready”.
If a seeker doesn’t really pray, there could be various reasons. It could be a lack of knowledge or a fear of what they are feeling. It is all right to stop and to tactfully ask questions to determine the problem. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, people will not respond. If that occurs, be kind. Then move on to another seeker.
To summarize, the best way to develop discernment in the altar service is to DO IT! In the beginning of your altar work experience, pay close attention to those who work well at the altar. You will pick up a sensitivity and understanding as you observe them. It will increase as you begin to work on your own with seekers. Hebrews 5:14 proclaims, “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
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