At Cedar Ridge Community Church, sometimes people say that we don't do altar calls. There are some good reasons for being wary about altar calls as they are customarily done.
One reason is that an altar call is often a high pressure type environment in which people may come forward without really being ready. At another church I used to attend, where they did do weekly altar calls, a pastor once said that only about 6% are still with it six months later. While the person coming forward may have really felt something at the moment, it hadn't really sunk in and very soon they may go back to being just as they were before they came forward. At Cedar Ridge, there's concern to let God's work within a person progress at its own pace, and we want it to bring about a lasting change within the person.
Another reason is the belief that God works with the uniqueness of each individual, and there is no formulaic way that works for everyone. A person may have the experience of a very discreet time in which Christ came into their life, or it may occur as a more gradual process where it is difficult to pinpoint a particular moment. For some, it may be appropriate for it to come in a public profession, while for others it may be more appropriate to come in a private time alone with the Lord. At Cedar Ridge, we celebrate the many ways Christ comes to us.
In thinking about what makes up an altar call, it occurred to me that it might be considered as having three elements: 1) a gospel presentation, 2) an invitation and 3) an opportunity to respond. I reflected that, while we don't do a classic altar call, at Cedar Ridge these three elements are provided in each worship service.
As we prepare for congregational worship with the bread and cup being made available, someone always introduces the time with an explanation that is basically the same each week of why God sent Jesus Christ to us. This can certainly be considered a gospel presentation.
During the preparation time, the person speaking to the congregation presents a multi-faceted invitation and offers a number of opportunities to respond. Some of these seem to me to be particularly promising for the person who is at the point of being ready to accept Christ. The way the invitation to participate in communion at Cedar Ridge is expressed opens it to the person at this point in their journey to faith. The opportunity to pray with someone is always offered. And people are offered the opportunity to kneel at the cross.
It seems to me that the elements I have identified as being associated with an altar call are elements which are essential parts of the misison of the Christian church. As a member at Cedar Ridge, I am encouraged that the Church includes these elements and that it includes them in an inclusive manner that can embrace a wide variety of individuals who may respond to Christ in different ways.
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