Monday, August 01, 2011

Wrappin' it up:

Altar Calls

This will be my eleventh and possibly my final post in this preaching series here on the blog.  I say possibly because there might be something in the future I think of to share and furthermore, I'd like to invite any of your questions that I may not have already covered.  So here's what I'm going to do -- if you have a questions just comment here on the blog or on the facebook comment thread.  Or, if your question is  more of a private nature and you don't want your name revealed, e-mail me and I'll be glad to answer.  (Thanks in advance  for your patience in getting my return answer by e-mail.)

If you want to read the previous 10 posts, go here.

Today's post is about altar calls.  I have had one person specifically write to me last week and say, "altar calls!  altar calls!  It's this that I need help with, so please address it."  Okey dokey.

I'm pretty passionate about altar calls.  I don't understand why some preachers don't do them because I  strongly believe in preaching for a response.  I do believe people respond in different ways and just because you don't see something on the outward doesn't mean somebody's not being changed radically inside.  I also believe change often starts by making a tangible, outward step.  Think about all the things we do outwardly to demonstrate a commitment in our lives.  For instance, we marry, we dedicate our babies, even things like graduation from school or other things in life are public steps.  Moving physically and making literally steps forward often signifies a shift in some area of our life.  When something public accompany these shifts it provides an opportunity for people to know something is happening with us, and come alongside for support.  There is just something special about someone meeting us at the altar and ministering to our need.

I believe altar calls can and should happen in different ways. The last thing we want in the house of God are rituals or a spirit of religion.  For me the only predictable thing about an altar call is that I'm going to give one but you never know what it's going to look like.

Here's what I personally believe about altar calls, and again -- it's what works for me.

  • Don't apologize.
  • Speak boldly.
  • Assume that a bunch of people need to respond.  I start out by saying something like, "I know there are many people here today who need to say yes...who need to respond to this message from God today..."
  • Be patient.  Clearly give the call, and then wait for the Holy Spirit to do His work.  
  • Give people an adequate opportunity to respond.  Encourage them.
  • Have people prepared (pre-arranged) to come and pray with them.  If you are ministering in your own church this is easy to do, if you are in someone else's church or event, a bit harder to line up, but speak to your host beforehand.  Make sure there is adequate prayer coverage.  
  • Depending on how you do the altar call be prepared to pray with/for people yourself.
As previously mentioned, all my altar calls don't look alike. It all depends on how the spirit leads -- and sometimes I know beforehand how it's going to go, other times not until the last minute.  Among many other ways I've been led to do it I've:
  •  Instructed people to pray with others right around them where they are seated.
  • Led an altar service complete from the keyboard and just flowed in the gifts of the spirit and ministered to people...from there.
  • Prayed a prayer for them from the platform after they have done something to signify that they need prayer (raise a hand, look up at me while other heads are bowed)
  • Had people step out in the aisle, and then others around them who feel led to join them in the aisle pray for them.
  • Had people ask a friend to join them at the altar if they needed to respond.
  • Ended with a time of worship with people still at their seats.
  • Had everyone come to the altar for a time of response/worship.
  • Led a prayer line/healing service, etc.
  • Prayed over each person there who came to the altar, moved in gifts of the spirit
These are just a few ideas or ways I've closed up a service but there are many, many more.  

One final word - don't take it personally or doubt your call if people do not respond in the fashion that you hoped for or expected.  Your job is to obey what God told you to do.  It's wonderful when the response exceeds your expectation.  Perhaps no feeling in the world is better than that.  On the other hand when there isn't the response you quite expected it can seem daunting.  Those are the times you take joy in knowing you have obeyed God, and that needs to be enough.

I pray for all of you reading this who are engaged in speaking ministries or feeling the call of God in that direction, that God would bless, anoint and increase you.

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