"Why don't Catholics have altar calls?"

I heard this question on the radio yesterday, and it made me think. While away from the Faith, I attended services with my sister, which had altar calls; they were very moving. But as Protestants, is that all they have?

Why don’t we have “altar calls”? Definition from Wiki:

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 building. In the Old Testament, an altar was where sacrifices were made. So, the name “altar call” refers to a believer “offering” themselves on an altar to God, as in Romans 12:1:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

I argue that we do have altar calls. Every time we go to the altar to receive the Eucharist, or even when we present ourselves at Mass, we are professing our love and belief in our Lord. Yet, I see where evangelical altar calls can be viewed as more ‘dynamic’ or ‘exciting’. Have we considered our manner when we approach Mass and the Eucharist? Is there JOY in our hearts for the Love our Lord has shown us? Are we reverent and pious in our approach? Do we realize that by receiving the Eucharist, we are professing our faith in His Body and Blood, in His supreme Sacrifice for our sins? There are times when I want to dance up and down the aisle with joy, when the Spirit has moved in me while receiving Communion. Sometimes I want to shake others and say LOOK! Isn’t this just AWESOME?

Don’t those altar calls look FUN though? Perhaps we should realize and rejoice in our brethren making the same profession of Faith, the same love of the Lord, receiving the same Body and Blood of our Savior! We can rejoice at the receiving of our Savior each and every week, each and every DAY! We can still be reverent, pious, solemn and joyous at the same time. What a great gift we have in Jesus Christ!

Being Catholic is not about ‘feeling good’. Religion isn’t about how it makes you ‘feel’. Feelings can be fleeting, Sustainable love, joy, reverence…that’s what will last. Let every day, every Mass, be our altar call. He calls us to join Him, to receive Him, both physically and spiritually.

(disclaimer: I’m operating on 3 hours of sleep and illness, so if I’m a bit discombobulated please be forgiving)

I was expecting this thread to be “hey, look at this non-Catholic innovation, let’s do that!” but I’m pleasantly surprised to find out that it’s not. I agree with you :slight_smile:

The ritual when one becomes an Oblate (or a monk makes profession for that matter), is after signing our oblate charter in front of the abbot and community we’re joining (which we wrote out in long hand before), it is brought up to the altar and placed on the altar with the offerings by one of the priests of the community. This is done of course in the context of the Eucharist. We are in fact, offering ourselves as part of the offerings of that Mass.

So in a way we do have “altar calls”, but it is a very solemn and ritualized affair (aka: “liturgy”).

I spent the first 47 years of my life as an Evangelical Protestant in churches that routinely did altar calls.

They are not “fun.” They are agonizing.

Those who go forward have wrestled in their souls with God over some sin that they are reluctant to give up. Many wrestle in their souls over a commitment that they sense God is asking them to make; e.g., a call to the mission field or a call to give up a fiance in favor of blessed singleness.

This is hard stuff. It’s hard to be out there in the congregation knowing that the Holy Spirit is talking to YOU, and trying to work up the courage to step out of your seat and make that long walk forward. What will all your friends think?!! If you are young, what will your parents think?! And what if you go forward, and then afterwards, nothing changes in your life? Will everyone look down on you and accuse you of not really being a “real” Christian?

Often there is joy after the decision is made, the walk is done, and the prayers are said. There is a great sense of relief for those who have decided to obey God rather than men.

But there is also disillusionment for those who have asked God to help them overcome a besetting sin–and 24 hours later, they are still held captive by that sin. This is the kind of thing that causes doubts, loss of faith, and attrition from the church. I think things are getting better, as we are learning that many of the addictive sins require medical and psychological intervention to overcome (rehab), not just prayer and fasting. But I know there are still plenty of Christians who will accuse a struggling alcoholic or other addict of “failing to just leave it at the altar.” So sad.

There is also disillusionment and discouragement for those who make a commitment to God (e.g., going to the mission field or changing jobs), only to find that the road to that commitment is filled with difficulties, and that others (e.g., parents) are most definitely OPPOSED to the decision and tell the person that he/she is crazy as a loon and that they will NOT support the decision financially or otherwise.

I agree with you about receiving Eucharist with great joy!

This is similar to what I experienced during consecration to Mary. We approached the sanctuary one by one, recited the act of consecration, signed the document and the documents were placed on the altar with the offerings.

It seems to me rather absurd to have an altar call in a Church which does not have an altar.


Well said Tim.

In Protestant denominations that have altar calls they usually have communion rails or low benches that they call altars.

As a kid I was taken to a Church of the Nazarene which had no altar as we think of it as Catholics. But they did have two low benches for people to pray at, get ‘saved’ or "sanctified’ at. I never did understand the getting sanctified part. But to the Nazarenes it was considered a “second act of Grace”.

They would sometimes squat around those benches (too low to kneel) and it was a very emotional time for them. Boxes of tissues on the benches for the copius tears.

They placed too much focus on the emotions for me. And they never baptized me and I never joined.

I always thought Protestant altar calls had some elements of Confession in them.

I’ve been to many Baptist, Evangelical and non-denominational services incorporating an altar-calls here in the deep south. Almost every Evangelical/Non-denominational service has some element of an altar-call.

Here in the south the non-denominational church likely does not have altar but is more likely to have a stage upon which the band plays and the pastor gives his sermon. Toward the end of the worship service the pastor will invite those in the audience who are so moved to accept Jesus into their heart as Lord and Savior using one or another formula which might include renouncing sin, making Jesus the ruler of your life and so forth.

As a more formal gesture, sometimes members of the audience will be invited to come forward for prayer and often elders are present at the front to pray with the person so moved.

A formal altar call is when people will raise their hand and and ushers will come to them, escort them forward, and they will meet the pastor, renounce sin and sometimes confess in general terms such as “I am an alcoholic” or “I have cheated on my wife.” This is sometimes done over the microphone where all can hear the public confession and renunciation of sin. They then accept Jesus publicly and will often kneel while the pastor or some other people lay hands and pray over them. All in the congregation pray. Sometimes they are escorted to a private room where someone ensures that they are not just dumped back into the street but given some sort of structure like a small group to go to or a meeting with the pastor.

I have even seen a variation where the congregation is asked to close their eyes while people come forward so as not to embarrass them.

But sometimes people are manipulated into accepting Jesus. This is a good video of how some Evangelicals themselves take issue with altar-calls. It is only a minute or two.



To Evangelical Protestant Christians, the “altar” is symbolic, not real.

Sometimes you will hear Evangelical Protestants talk about “leaving it at the altar,” “leaving it with Jesus” or “leaving it at the feet of Jesus” and “allowing Jesus to carry it for you.”

Although Jesus is very real, the “altar” is merely a symbolic place of sacrifice, not real or physical. Some Evangelical Protestant churches have a physical altar, especially if they are old church buildings. But Evangelical Protestants do not require a real “altar” to “leave it at the altar.” An altar is a state of mind, a place in your mind where you make a conscious, sincere decision.

The “it” means a sin, a decision, a fear, a burden, a prayer request, etc. The idea of leaving it at the altar or leaving it with Jesus means that we are not to worry or fret about it, but allow Jesus to take care of it for us.

I hope this is helpful.

We have confession. We can, should we choose, ask to make our confession at the foot of the altar (roman praxis), or before the iconostas facing the Pantocrator icon (byzantine praxis).

The Roman rite has the confiteor (“I confess to Almighty God…”) and the Mea Culpa.
The Byzantine Rite has the prayer before communion (I believe and profess) and the prayer about sin (O Lord, be merciful to me a sinner…)

We don’t need a separate altar call - every liturgy is one. Every liturgy we ask god for mercy, and are reminded to forgive each other. Every liturgy, we admit we are helpless sinners, in need of the Spirit working within us.


I was just going to say that and I saw your post.:slight_smile:

I would say we have [highly ritualized versions of] “altar calls,” but we don’t call them “altar calls.” For example, during diaconal, priestly, and episcopal ordinations each man is called to the altar and publically brought before the assembly to “present” themselves.

In the sacraments of Baptism (if it’s during Mass); and Confirmation, there are certain times in the process (of Confirmation) when the elect, catechumens, and candidates are presented to the assembly and perform certain rituals (knocking on the door of the church, being dismissed after the Liturgy of the Word, writing their names down in the register of the parish, make their profession of faith, celebrating the actual sacrament in front of the assembly, etc.).

Sometimes, when youth are present at a large youth Mass, the priest may invite those who feel they have a vocation to the priesthood or religious life to either stand or to come towards the altar, so that everyone there can pray for them.

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