Thabiti Anyabwile and Ryan Kelly on “Altar Calls”

Should churches have an “altar call” at the end of a service?

Pastor and author Thabiti Anyabwile cites reasons from Ryan Kelly on why churches should reevaluate the use of altar calls.  The article and its main points are good for our reflection.  Give it a read and let me know what you think.


2 thoughts on “Thabiti Anyabwile and Ryan Kelly on “Altar Calls”

  1. This is interesting. I was saved in a church that used the altar call method. Ironically, it wasn’t during an altar call but after a visitation that I asked Christ into my heart. The church I serve at gives an invitation where the senior pastor and I stand up front and give people the chance to come down (as everyone is singing) to recieve Christ, ask for prayer with one of us, pray at the altar, dedicate to becoming a member of the church, etc. I think this style has some positives and negatives in itself, but is this the same at the “altar call” from the article you shared?

    • davidsaleeba,

      Thanks for thoughts.

      I think the “altar call” spoken of in Thabiti’s post does somewhat parallel what you describe in your own church. His concern, as I understand it, is that people will equate “coming forward” with “coming to Jesus.” This can lead to false conversion and false assurance. In that sense, an “altar call” can be quite harmful to church life.

      But you also mentioned people coming forward for prayer, or to express their desire to become members. This is a commendable use of “coming down front.” I don’t see Thabiti’s post objecting to uses like that.

      I think, as church leaders, we should avoid implementing practices that are both (1) foreign to the New Testament and (2) tied in some way to salvation language. I don’t believe the Bible supports “coming down front” to “receive Christ.” Unfortunately, that is the essence of what an “altar call” involves, and thus I believe altar calls lack biblical warrant.

      Permitting people to come down front to pray or express desire for membership is, I think, something different from the historical “altar call.” Some churches encourage people to approach elders or church leaders after a service if they have further questions about salvation. Some churches have even designated certain rooms where prolonged conversations can take place following a church service. I see such practices as healthy alternatives to the “altar call” approach.

      Even though a traditional “altar call” lacks biblical warrant, the NT constantly calls for people to repent and believe. This, I believe, is the proper use of calling people to Christ. In sermons, we must call people to repent of their sins and trust in Christ as Redeemer and Refuge. This is the response the Bible enjoins, and it is the response we must put before our listeners. If we do that, we are being faithful in calling people to respond to the gospel. So, in the end, a church without an altar call can–and must!–still be a church that calls people to respond to the gospel with repentance and faith.

      Those are my thoughts. Thanks again for stopping by the blog!



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