The Altar Call and Service
Our concept of an altar call must be clear for the altar call to be effective. Too often the altar call is viewed as the end of the worship service. However, for the sinner it reflects a beginning, the start of a new day. This impression must also grip our hearts for the altar call to flow as it should and the best atmosphere to prevail.
What we refer to as “the altar call” actually consists of two parts: an appeal, followed by the altar service. First, the appeal generally follows the preaching of a message and attempts to elicit a response from the congregation. This call to prayer gives the individual the chance to exercise faith and have specific needs met. The appeal provides the opportunity for people to make a public response to the Lord; the confessing of Christ before men as is mentioned in Matthew 10:32.
The altar appeal brings to focus everything for which the service has been designed. The worship, the choir and the preaching should all blend together to create a crescendo. What a moment! Souls hang in the balance. Individuals make decisions for eternity. No more important moment exists in the worship than this.
Generally, there are two types of altar calls: specific and generic. The specific altar call targets a certain group of people. The most common group is the sinner. Most altar calls begin with reaching for the lost. During this time the importance of praying with the preacher cannot be overemphasized. More than ever the pulpit and the congregation become a team. The time of birth arrives and travail occurs. Our concentration must be upon the Holy Spirit. This is not a time for walking out, talking or casual activity. The eternity of souls hangs in the balance.
The second type of altar call appeals to the entire congregation. This reaches not only for the lose, but also for those with other needs. Sometimes the needs may be specified such as healing, victory over discouragement and other needed answers. Other times the preacher may call for anyone with a need to come and pray.
These types of altar calls may occur separately or together. For example, a minister may center the entire altar call on sinners. On the other hand, he may devote the altar call to general needs. Finally, and this is true of most altar calls, he may start out reaching for sinners and then broaden the invitation to include other needs.
No matter what kind of altar calls may be given, we must realize an important fact about them. Altar calls apply to everyone in the congregation, not just one group. We need to make it a habit to participate in every altar service in some way. When we do, the effectiveness of the altar call and the altar service soars.
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