The Altar Worker’s Consecration
By Dale Frost
When commenting as to what makes a church successful, we often hear responses about the pastor, the music ministry, the children’s and youth ministries, the outreach ministries, and perhaps even some reference to user-friendly facilities. No doubt all of these contribute to the success of the local church. People find themselves attracted to the singing, the preaching, the programming, and the building. These elements catch attention because of their visibility. A much less visible factor – effective altar workers – makes an equal, or possibly greater, contribution.
Effective altar workers comprise one of the most critical groups of workers in our churches. They pray with and assist the seeker, as spiritual midwives, to aid the spiritual birth process. Without them fewer seekers would pray through. Spiritual stillbirths would increase.
The real-life experience of one local church member illustrates the importance of skilled altar workers. As a young girl, she went to a denominational church service. Real conviction gripped her heart and she responded to the altar call. Never had she felt anything like the experience of that night. After a few moments of tears, she felt the need to seek the Lord further. However, several well-meaning members congratulated her on her “salvation”. Without any encouragement to go on, she went home, yet sensing that there had to be more. Several years elapsed without another encounter. She attended services now and then, but without any of the feeling of that night.
One night she went to an apostolic service and once again felt that same pull upon her soul. Making her way to the altar, she again repented and felt God’s wonderful touch. This time some sensitive and caring altar workers began to help her go on to a full salvation experience. She received the Holy Ghost, got baptized in Jesus name, and today remains a faithful member of the congregation. Because of effective altar workers, she didn’t die in the “birth canal”. Instead, she has gone on to be a very effective altar worker herself. Often she helps other seekers find what they are looking for at the altar.
The New Lexicon Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language lists among the definitions for “consecrate” the following: “…to devote to a purpose, dedicate.” Effective altar workers must be devoted, first to Christ and then to souls. For them, altar call ministry begins long before the church service. Every day involves consecration to the call.
In his greeting to the church at Rome, the apostle Paul addressed them in chapter one, verse seven, as, “…called to be saints.” Before we can do anything else, we must first be saints. We must establish a prayer life and a daily walk with God. With prayer, consistency tops the list of importance. It must occur daily. Prayer provides the foundation for effectiveness in the work of God. It increases our compassion, spiritual power, sensitivity and discernment.
Along with prayer, the effective altar worker must maintain a consistent walk with God. This should include Bible reading, fasting, witnessing, and general obedience to the Scriptures. A godly concern for the welfare of others must also occupy the altar worker’s heart.
Prior to the start of the worship service, the altar worker must visit the prayer room. Here one clears his or her mind of the day’s clutter. The connection to God brings focus, and sensitivity to the Spirit sharpens. As a result, the altar worker enters the service with less to hinder his ability to follow the Spirit. To glean the most from the prayer, the worker should spend a minimum of one half-hour in the prayer room before service.
During the service several things become important. First of all, actively participating in worship strengthens the effectiveness of the worker. In addition, it helps to create a positive atmosphere in which seekers can be ministered to and saved. Secondly, the altar worker needs to be aware of persons present needing God. Thirdly, observing the reactions of visitors to different parts of the service can help prepare the worker for an effective response at the altar call. For example, if the individual seems unaffected by the service, a more cautious approach is needed.
When the altar service begins, the altar worker moves in to help the seekers. He or she finds someone with whom to pray and then helps to create an atmosphere of worship and praise. No one should merely stand around doing nothing at the altar. Everyone should be praying and worshipping. The effective altar worker will not only be doing this, but will also be observing the seeker to determine at what stage the person is in coming to God.
To be an effective altar worker we must realize that altar work involves work. We must come to church to give as well as to receive. We arrive ready to pray, worship, encourage and whatever else becomes necessary for a successful service.
The altar worker’s blessing comes with the seeker’s victory. To see the seeker progress from uncertainty and fear to joy unspeakable and full of glory makes all the altar worker’s efforts worthwhile. The result compares to turning on a light switch in a dark room. Smiles replace frowns. Joy overcomes sorrow. Peace relieves tension. Light replaces the darkness. The experience never gets old.
This article “The Altar Worker’s Consecration” is written by Dale Frost.