Altar call

An altar call is a practice in some evangelical churches in which those who wish to make a new spiritual commitment to Jesus Christ are invited to come forward publicly. It is so named because the supplicants gather at the altar located at the front of the church.

Most altar calls occur at the end of an evangelical address. The invitation may be referred to as an "altar call" even if there is no actual altar present. Many preachers make use of the altar call, notably Billy Graham, Benny Hinn, Franklin Graham, Reinhardt Bonnke, and so on. Those that come forward will usually be asked to recite a sinner's prayer, thereby making a confession of their new faith. They may also be offered literature or counselling and other assistance in their new faith.

It is sometimes said that those who come forth are going to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior. This is a ritual in which the supplicant makes a prayer asking for his sins to be forgiven, and pledges his devotion to Jesus.

Altar calls may also invite Christians to come forward for specific purposes other than conversion; for example to rededicate their lives after a lapse, to request publicly to be baptized, or to receive a particular blessing (such as gifts of the Holy Spirit) or if they are called to certain tasks such as missionary work.

The altar call had its beginnings in the efforts of nineteenth century American evangelist Charles Grandison Finney. Many churches, especially those that practice evangelical Christianity, believe that one must make a public proclamation of faith based on scriptural passages found in the Bible in which Jesus states, "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven."

Other churches object to the use of the altar call for a variety of reasons. Some argue that there is no example in the Bible of its use. Others believe it is intimidating and therefore creates an unnecessary and artificial barrier to those who would become Christians but are then unwilling to make an immediate public profession under the gaze of others.

Many Calvinists object to altar calls, believing they mislead people into confusing outward conduct with spiritual change. In doing so, they argue, altar calls may actually give people false assurance about their salvation (1).

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