Monday, August 13, 2012

Altar-ed Call

I've set through a lot of altar calls in my life. Some of these altar calls were bad, in the baddest sense, others were worse, but none worse than the one I set through last night. It was actually three altar calls strung together over about an hour and a half.

Being raised in a typical “American church” I grew up with altar calls after every service. It was just how the service progressed: Singing, prayer, preaching, altar call with soft music, proclamations of salvation, leave. Of course, I use the “preaching” and the “prayer” in loose terms as they were both usually man-centered. But hey, it's all I knew as a child and I was a fine product of the “modern gospel” for 30 years, believing I was saved because of an altar call. I was “held over hell on a corn stalk” being told how terrible hell was, literally having the hell scared out of me and driving me right to the altar to say the prayer. It was just “how it was” and that's all I knew.

Thirty years later, when I actually had an encounter with God He began to show me things. I had returned to the church of my youth and had heard the same messages, seen the same methods, witnessed the same results. People flocked to the altars to “get saved” or “rededicate” their lives to Christ. The altar call trip when I was 8 was my only one, but I would say 50% of the other altar calls I set through I was praying that prayer all over again. As a mater of fact my prayer before going to bed each night usually had some form of, “God, if I'm not really saved, please forgive me and don't send me to hell”.

The extended altar call last night really struck bad to me. I had just enjoyed a great concert from a Christian band that I really like. I made my way to the merch table to pick up a t-shirt and have the band sign my CD cover before I left. The guest “evangelist” began to speak and they shut down everything, no sales, everyone stop and pay attention. I was told that, “We can't sell anything now, this is why we put this on tonight, right here”, with a head nod to the stage area. The “evangelist” started out making fun of how a few girls had laughed at other events that he had been a part of. I would say that if any of those girls had been there they would not have been very flattered by the words he was saying. He was after laughs and he received laughs. I guess this was his ice breaker routine to grab attention of everyone. It worked, because my attention was fixed on him, wondering why he would be squandering this opportunity to share Christ with the crowd before him. He did speak a little about the bible, told how God's sheep hear His voice and then the altar call commenced.
“Do you want to hear God's voice?”
“Do you want to go to heaven when you die?”

That's about it in several different forms. By this time a brief shower had started falling, so he was rushing to get to the altar call and rushing, somewhat to get to “the prayer”. He asked everyone to bow their heads, raise their hand if they wanted to be able to hear God's voice an commenced the text book “sinner's prayer”. He then did the next thing in the “Altar Calls 101” play book and asked those that said the prayer to stand up, “nobody's looking” after all. Then after a few had made it to their feet began to tell them, “OK, now don't be ashamed, come on forward.” Typical psychological manipulation. I would guess that about 35 kids went forward and were passed off to the events counselors at the side of the stage.

The rain had stopped, so the second altar call commenced. This time it was geared at those that “have heard God's voice, but now listen to the voice of the world instead”. He was giving the altar call for people to rededicate their lives. This was filled with a story about scaring girls when he was younger and was played into “don't be scared to live for God”. Not much of a reaction to this part of his extended altar call. He ended it with “prayer” and handed the mic to the promoter.

I was ready to buy my t-shirt and hit the road for the hour drive back home. But, alas, the promoter must not have thought that the second altar call was good enough. He began with the same “don't be scared” ploy. This was followed by “we have to do....”, “why aren't you.....” and “If you don't.....”. This man was filling these people's heads with works and trying to lay guilt trips on everyone. At one point he said, “If you are not out evangelizing then you are sending people to hell”. My head was about to explode because I had yet to hear anything, in the three altar calls, about God's holiness, God's requirements, man's sinfulness and rebellion, Christ's perfect atonement, the blood of Christ that takes away all of our sins, the grace of God in even allowing us to have a breath because of our rebellion. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. No Gospel. No call to repentance. Nothing of the true Gospel whatsoever. Only a emotional call and guilt trip to garner decisions. I prayed during all of this that God would save despite the false message. He saved me despite the false teachings I was sitting under, so I know He does it.

If I were a confrontational person I would have been in a serious discussion with the promoter and staff last night. If there ever was a time I wanted to confront someone it was last night. It was probably for the best that I did, at that time, not say anything. But, I will probably say something if I ever happen to be at another event that this guy puts on. I know that this false gospel is sending millions to hell. I also think that most of these people mean well, but also that the “road to hell is paved with good intentions”. Unless someone repents and is born again they will not see the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus made it clear that you must follow Him, lay everything aside, even the love for your family is to seem like hate in comparison for your love for Him. The easy believism that permeates most “churches” and “Christian” events must be addressed and must be stopped. Then again, this may just be part of the judgment of God, giving man over to their own self centered desires and works mentality, trusting in themselves for salvation and not on Christ.

We must stand on the Word of God alone. We must not water down the Message of Christ. We must not tickle the ears of others and tell them what they want to hear in order to get them to commit to a decision. We must not play people's emotions and instead preach the full council of God and allow the Holy Spirit to work in convicting them, God made it simple enough to trust in Him. Sell it all and follow Him. Do not give regard for the things of this life, but instead have the mind of a pilgrim, just passing through, making disciples, pointing to Christ in all that we do, exalting His Name, preaching the Gospel in season and out of season. Proclaiming The good News to this lost and dying world. Are you ready? Then Go!  

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