Altar Calls

I just wanted to get some more takes on the “altar calls” that go on in many protestant churches (for those that don’t know what an altar call is, basically the pastor tells those that want to be Christians to come to the front of the church and “git saved”. I am a protestant, but don’t like them; they seem to play too much on emotions, and make little actual difference in the lives of those that come to the front of the church. But this is just me. Any more opinions?

I think “getting saved” without the sacrament of baptism is false theology but I can kind of understand the thinking. In Protestant thought being baptized is a ‘work’. But baptism is a work of God and not of humans.

I understand because I was raised Protestant Fundamentalist. I ‘got saved’ at church camp when I was only 10 years old. But I did not understand it at all. I just did it to follow the crowd and fit in under peer pressure. I think that is the case for many. I gave my “testemony” the next evening and I had no idea of what I was doing then either.

Really I do not care for emotional religion at all. In my boyhood church we had extremely emotional ‘altar calls’ that lasted sometimes an hour. There were boxes of tissues on the kneeling benches they called “altars” for the many who wept.

Excuse the pun but what makes me laugh is the name “Altar call” but there is no Altar !!!
So what gives with an Altar call with no Altar in the Church. ?

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As a Catholic, what have the opportunity to make an Altar call everyday of the week.

As Paul states:
(Heb 13:10) We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.

When we recieve the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, that is the Catholic altar call.


The altar call was one of revivalist Charles G. Finney’s “new measures.” He didn’t invent the practice, but he did popularize it. There is a deep theology around the altar. It’s not just simply making a mental decision that someone wants to be considered a Christian.

This article goes into greater detail: “We Have An Altar.” It notes “At the altar we experience: (1) Confession; (2) Change; (3) Consecration/Closeness to God; (4) Communion of the saints; (5) Commissioning into the world.” You can read more about each of these experiences in greater detail in the article.

Have you ever prayed at an altar in an evangelical church? I think it’s a little presumptuous to say it seems to “make little actual difference.” How much of a difference does taking Communion appear to make in the lives of most Catholics???

Most of the people in my church became Christians at an altar, so I have definitely seen people’s lives changed starting at the point they answered the call to pray at an altar.

As an evangelical Protestant, I also have the opportunity to have an altar call every week in church. Most churches who have altar calls do not restrict use of the altar to only new converts. Long term Christians are permitted to pray and to be prayed for by other believers at the altar.

Good article in the link … I encourage the OP and others to read it.

“Altar calls” in an altarless church always confused me too. But you need to look at how people define their terms.
In many Evangelical churches what they call an ‘altar’ is more like an altar rail, or communion rail, except it is too low to kneel at and they squat around it with their backsides nearly on their feet.

What we would call an altar they call a Lord’s Supper table. It will be placed at floor level with the all important pulpit raised on high and centered. They often remove the Lord’s Supper Table except for the rare occasions when they actually have communion.

The only time anyone goes up to the altar in our church is to receive the Eucharist, or Baptism or Confirmation.

I basically agree with Andrewstx. Also, you need to remember that evangelicals are primarily speaking in figurative/spiritual terms when they say “altar.” What we mean is not so much a physical place but something spiritual. To pray is to “build an altar” of worship and sacrifice. This extends to prayer and worship in one’s private home, so that any family prayer or worship is often termed “the family altar.”

Essentially, evangelicals call that space between the platform and the pews “the altar” because that is the designated place for people to “meet with God” and encounter him in the context of corporate worship service. Why can’t people “meet with God” in the pews? They can, but there is something deeply biblical about being called by God and giving some sort of response. Biblical patriarchs responded to God’s call by building altars and offering sacrifice and praise. So, this is what evangelicals are doing with the altar call. We move toward God as he calls us, and we meet with him at the altar.

The “Altar Call” is not far removed from confession. A heartfelt conversation with The Lord God Almighty and yes it does lead to a life change for many. The Holy Spirit moves in mysterious ways. Thanks be to God.

I do not wish to be presumptuous, I am sorry if I came off that way. However, I start to get the feeling that after taking part in a few altar calls myself, and seeing no long term change, something else should probably be done. From experiencing it myself, I do get the feeling that they are ineffective (I do not claim to be an expert, but I think I have seen enough to be well acquainted with the practice).

Wow. This topic brings back so many memories. I was 16yo when I made my way down the aisle of a Nazarene church 40 some I’d years ago… There kneeling at the smooth dark stained " alter" I confessed my sins and accepted Christ into my heart and life. I was washed clean…when I stood up a great weight had been lifted it seemed.

The alter in most Evangelical church bodies is under stood to be a place where those seeking prayer and counsel may go…alters on an Evangelical church are not made of wood or marble, they are made of flesh and blood. We present ourselves a living sacrifice upon this alter. In the Nazarene church the “alter rail”. Or “mourners bench” as some older believers called it, but it was a holy place, because so many of us heard about the love of God…and there we found Christ…there we have sought forgiveness and mercy. Some of us had our experience of the Filling with the Holy Spirit there. Many of us pledged ourselves to our spouses there, and dedicated our children to The Lord there.

The alter rail in an Evangelical church is symbolic …for upon this alter we placed the offering of our lives to God.

They are a tradition…not “Tradition”…but a familiar tradition for Evangelicals. It’s not seen as something they must do, but something they have found occurs when one publically professes Christ in a very public venue.

I accepted Jesus at an altar call many years ago and was very glad to do it. I had just gone through a scary spiritual experience right before that, and I was feeling very insecure and vulnerable. I considered the altar call to be a public proclamation that I was in the Lord’s camp, and that gave me a lot of comfort that I badly needed at the time.

Well, I suppose if you are coming from a Once Saved, Always Saved approach, you might think the altar call is the only thing that needs to be done. But that certainly is not how I and I think most evangelicals look at the altar call. It’s not some magical incantation.

First, the effectiveness of the prayer at an altar, like any kind of prayer, is only as effective to the degree we have faith. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. The Holy Spirit must move and draw us toward God. If that doesn’t occur, then anything we do is simply working in the flesh.

Second, I have been saved since 2000 when I was 10 years old. That was the first time I prayed at an altar, but it was not the last. I have run to the altar at times under conviction for unconfessed sin. I have went to the altar in desperation and mourning at other times. And then there have been times when I was drawn to the altar for no known reason except for a feeling that God wanted me there.

For evangelicals, at least the ones I know, the altar is not a one-stop shop; something you do and then check off of your bucket list. It’s an ongoing part of the spiritual disciplines. It is a place of prayer and praise, of consecration, of confession, of sacrifice and of crucifixion of the flesh.

Yes in a sort of way, but were moving towards Christ in HIS Church when you join the Priest in celebrating the Mass at THE ALTAR OF SACRIFICE where all the Congregation
meet and move towards Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

I have no real arguments with what you state and only wish all Christians would take the holy Sacrament often. But you emphasize “HIS” church. Are you suggesting other Christians are not part of Christ’s salvation?

Seems a little over the top dramatic for me. I knew a priest who always made sure to tell folks to come up for communion whenever they wanted - no need to feel pressured by the ushers, etc.

I think you are aware of the same thing he was, that our social pressures can become more of a driver than our relationship to Christ. That doesn’t mean that you can’t encounter Christ in a public altar call, but there is certainly the opportunity for a sort of emotional, peer pressure kind of a thing that just leaves one confused.

I suspect that this was a way to generate more followers and strikes me as being less than fully sincere as a way to help people encounter Christ.

The alien, hard to comprehend, encounter with Christ in the Eucharist at least can’t be claimed to be a way to just attract people. Quite the opposite, most people, including the apostles are turned off. This at least gives it credibility as not being man made. And once it is explored, a true encounter with another, albeit transcendent, loving person can be realized.

What I am saying is that Christ founded the Catholic Church, not the 40,000 denominations that are out there and are an insult to God and His integrity, its like God could not make up His mind, look at all the man made religions started by man. It dis credits Christianity and Christ.

For Example. here are a few.

How Old is Your Church?

If you are a Lutheran, your religion was founded by Martin Luther, an ex-monk of the Catholic Church, in the year 1517.

If you belong to the Church of England, your religion was founded by King Henry VIII in the year 1534 because the Pope would not grant him a divorce with the right to remarry.

If you are a Presbyterian, your religion was founded by John Knox in Scotland in the year 1560.

If you are a Protestant Episcopalian, your religion was an offshoot of the Church of England founded by Samuel Seabury in the American colonies in the 17th century.

If you are a Congregationalist, your religion was originated by Robert Brown in Holland in 1582.

If you are a Methodist, your religion was launched by John and Charles Wesley in England in 1744.

If you are a Unitarian, Theophilus Lindley founded your church in London in 1774.

If you are a Mormon (Latter Day Saints), Joseph Smith started your religion in Palmyra, N.Y., in 1829.

If you are a Baptist, you owe the tenets of your religion to John Smyth, who launched it in Amsterdam in 1608.

If you are of the Dutch Reformed church, you recognize Michaelis Jones as founder, because he originated your religion in New York in 1628.

If you are a member of the Churches of Christ your church began near the beginning of the 19th century in New England. Abner Jones, Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell were some of the most well known originators of your religion.

If you worship with the Salvation Army, your sect began with William Booth in London in 1865.

If you are a Christian Scientist, you look to 1879 as the year in which your religion was born and to Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy as its founder.

If you belong to one of the religious organizations known as “Church of the Nazarene,” “Pentecostal Gospel,” “Holiness Church,” “Pilgrim Holiness Church,” “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” your religion is one of the hundreds of new sects founded by men within the past century.

If you are Roman Catholic, you know that your religion was founded in the year 33 by Jesus Christ the Son of God, and it is still the same Church.

I completely agree with you about the whole peer pressure thing. Many altar calls I have seen seem to unintentionally turn into a sort of peer pressure situation. “If friends X,Y, and Z are standing/up front, are they judging me? Shouldn’t I be up there with them?”

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