The Altar Call
What is an Altar Call?
An altar call is an invitation that occurs in some Christian churches (or events), notably evangelical ones, where the speaker invites or “calls” people to come to the front of the sanctuary (or stage) or the “altar,” and ask forgiveness for their sin and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior by means of a prayer.
Altar calls can happen in small rural churches or at massive urban crusades.
Altar calls are commonly the zenith to evangelistic events, where the speaker’s message or sermon focused on why people need Christ (sin) and what Christ has done to meet their need (he died for it on the cross).
Well known preachers and evangelists who have made altar calls a staple of their ministry include Charles Finney, Billy Sunday, and Billy Graham.
The altar call originated as a method to encourage people to make a decision, as opposed to just listening to a message or sermon.
The altar call is intended to be personal – the individual is actively responding; it is also intended to be public – the individual is making known to the community that they are unashamed of making a decision for Christ.
For different reasons, not all Christian, or even evangelical churches, use altar calls. Some believe it promotes superficiality in that a person responds to the altar call thinking they have done enough for salvation yet there is no change from living for sin and for God. Others believe that the public nature of the altar call prevents some people from responding to the message, who otherwise would have.