Craig Daliessio, my friend and graduate of Liberty University, popular speaker, and author of A Ragamuffin Christmas, has a unique take on "altar calls."1 While conceding abuse of the altar call has been the unfortunate practice of some in evangelical and fundamentalist circles, Craig nonetheless laments the demise of genuine invitations and altar calls, especially among some of the contemporary churches where he often speaks. In "Gimme That Old Time Religion: Part 3: The Altar," he writes:
"Another memory from my early days as a believer. Another seeming relic that has all but been mothballed in contemporary church services these days. The Altar Service.
Now, a common complaint about altar services...and one that bears great merit...is that they can be abused and forced. I agree. I have seen some of the most over-the-top drama and emotionalism occur at the end of a sermon, when the "altar is open" and the preacher waits for verse after verse of the invitation hymn to coax any straggler from his pew. ...
"But again...the church I attended wasn't like that. But they did have an altar service. They never failed.
Because they believed--and I agree--that a person who has had his "head-on collision" moment with Jesus, needs the opportunity to do his business on bended knee, with a mature believer's hand on his shoulder. A new convert needs to let the folks know. A prodigal heart needs a chance to come home.
It doesn't need to be protracted or dramatic. But I like knowing that if I want to kneel and get some things straight with God, or just kneel in thanks...that I have a place I can go and maybe share my burden with a Christian brother. ...
"I seldom see churches doing this anymore. Not contemporary churches anyway. I understand it a bit. It has been overworked in the past. But meeting with God in your moment of conviction should never be forgotten.
I wish more churches had those moments at the end of a service."
The many times I've heard critics rightly diss the abusive exploitation of the "altar call" only to leave the questionable impression that all altar calls are abusive exploitation by nature remains impossible to calculate. The usual complaint is, altar calls are both unbiblical and thoroughly manipulative; therefore, we should abandon all altar calls.
Craig's balanced criticism is both clear and terribly needed as a proper corrective toward those who unjustly condemn authentic altar calls.
Read Craig Daliessio's trilogy in full:
- "Gimme That Old Time Religion: Part 3: The Altar"
- "Gimme That Old Time Religion: Part 2: He Who Wins Souls is Wise"
- "Gimme That Old Time Religion"
1at least unique among many who criticize the exploitation of "altar calls"