David M Peterson
Traditions of Men are traditions found in churches today that have no foundation in the Holy Bible. Many times they are contrary to good teachings. They are traditions of men because they were founded by men and not God. Not all traditions are bad, in fact, the Bible instructs us to: “stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” 2Th 2:15. These traditions were taught by the apostles with their grounding in the gospel of Christ. If they are not grounded in Christ, then they are a danger to Christians, young and old.
This article looks at the Alter Call.
This familiar evangelistic method, known as the altar call or the public invitation, has only been known and used recently. Great evangelists such as George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, and John Wesley never made an altar call. The fact is, they didn’t know what it was. They invited their hearers passionately to except Christ by faith and regularly counseled eager sinners after their services. But they didn’t call sinners to accept Christ as savior immediately after their evangelistic appeals. Many Churches ask those who have not excepted Christ to repeat the “sinners prayer” and raise their hand if they have said this prayer. The raising of the hand allows the pastor to count the number of sinners he has brought to Christ and salvation. This is a tradition that has only had a short life, but in that time has done much harm to the true Church.
You may wonder how this could harm the Church if people are being saved? The fact is, many of these people are assuming they have salvation when in fact they are deceiving themselves. It takes much more than simply saying a prayer to be saved. If we look at Romans 10:9 we find: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” See, there are two parts to salvation with only the first part being fulfilled by the sinners prayer, and raising of the hand which amounts to a confession. But simply saying I accept Jesus, falls far short of “believing in my heart.”
The alter call has become a marketing tool for many in the evangelical movement. By using this, the pastor can claim that hundreds or thousands have been saved by his preaching. Thus enhancing his value as the leader of the Church. Is this an honest effort on the part of the Church? I think not, when many Christians know that a large part of the congregation of their Church are in fact, not saved. Our Churches have become diluted with people who are simply there for social reasons. They want to appear as upright leaders of their communities. Attending church looks good on a resume and is necessary for political reasons. The reasons are numerous for their attendance. And they will all tell you they are saved.
OK, how do I or anyone else know that they aren’t indeed saved? That is something that God alone knows, right? On an individual basis that needs to remain in God’s realm, but when considering the congregation as a whole the Bible is quite clear. In Mt 7:13-14 we read “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Though there are many in the Church today, even so, few are actually saved. In the parable of the wheat and the tares, Mt 13:28 – 29 the planters have sown the good seed but someone has come by and sown bad seed among the good. The planters then ask the Lord what they should do? And we learn: “He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.” Jesus is telling us that the tares (the un-saved) resemble the wheat (those saved) and can’t be distinguished from each other until the harvest, that is when Jesus comes for his Church. Who is the enemy that has sown bad seed among the good? Look to the Alter Call. Lastly, in Luke 13:26 – 27 the Christian pretenders say: “We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.” Jesus then answers “I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.” Christ will reject all of these people who only pretend to believe.
So how is the church being harmed by altar calls? The unsaved who are outside the Church look for any excuse to call Christians hypocrites. When a pretender inside the Church does that which is sin, (drunkenness, lying, stealing, etc.) it provides an opportunity for the un-saved to bring the Church down to their level. It destroys the testimony of God-loving Christians. When a person acts like a Christian on Sunday and lives for the devil the other 6 days, that person is going to do great harm to the true Church. All of this because of an alter call that invited anyone to become a Christian simply by raising their hand.