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Friday, October 19, 2007

ML-J, the Sermon & the Appeal

I'm listing out the reasons why Martin Lloyd-Jones does not regularly practice altar calls. As I've stated earlier, some misunderstand a lack of altar calls as an apathy for soul winning. It's important to understand reasons why ML-J resisted this newer (relatively) practice. Reasons 1 & 2 have already been addressed: (ML-J's thoughts in black, mine in blue).

3. The preaching of the Word and the call for decision should not be separated in our thinking.
MLJ offers this observation: I remember being in an evangelistic meeting in which I, and others, felt that on that occasion the Gospel had not really been preached. It had been mentioned, but it certainly had not been conveyed, it had not been preached; but to my amazement a large number of people went forward in response to the appeal at the end. While some claim this is the sign of answered prayer, we must observe that God desires for faith to come through the hearing of the Word of Christ.

I remember one year at BNYC, our group arrived late and had to sit near the back of the gathering. The group in front of us spent the entire message talking amongnst themselves. It didn't matter whether the speaker was quoting Scripture or explaining the passage, the students (and the youth staff!!!) continued talking, laughing and passing notes. But then something interesting happened. The speaker closed his Bible and moved away from the podium. He began to appeal to the students that they needed to apply his message. Suddenly, these students stopped and listened. Sure enough, when the music started, and the speaker called for a response, several students from this group went forward. And as they returned, their youth leaders cried and hugged on them.

Even my youngest teens in our group recognized this was a bit off. I don't blame the conference. I don't blame the speaker, even. I just think this is an example that an altar call can almost feel like a second sermon. When people can casually pay attention at the beginning, but tune in near the end for the specific challenge, we cause the person to make a decision toward action without the foundation. And to get people to follow a rule or action without the contextual understanding of why is simply legalism.

Instead, our appeal should be found throughout the message. As we walk through the text, the Word of God can be doing its convicting work. People should be called to action, but it should happen within the preaching of the text.


  • At 5:42 AM, Blogger brother barabbas said…

    Does it become the opinion of this panel that altar calls may be given when used as a compliment to the sermon/service as a whole rather than as a secondary, legalistic benedictionary event?

  • At 7:57 AM, Blogger danny2 said…

    the point of these posts are not to declare altar calls evil, immoral or wicked. it is merely to point out they may be permissible, but are not always beneficial.

    could there be a time an altar call could be the appropriate response to a sermon...i'm willing to allow that possibility.

    but for those who would offer that a real sermon, or even a real evangelist must conclude his message with an altar call....i'd suggest they keep reading the series.

  • At 1:02 PM, Blogger brother_barabbas said…

    I wore my pink shirt especially so I could respond to the altar call and be noticed by everyone to be more manly than the preacher himself (who by his own admission isn't man enough to wear pink). But behold, no altar call, surely this should be an alter call for altar calls.


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