A friend of mine pointed me to Kirk Cameron’s and Ray Comfort’s “The Way of the Master” site.Â What a necessary wake-up call!Â I took “the love test,” and didn’t need any results to humbly admit my need for God to help me live and love well.
In the flavor of Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, this “How to Botch up an Altar Call” helps to identify areas where our brains and spirits have gone slack:
A few keys for those who don’t want people saved in their altar calls
- Present an unbalanced message. Only let them see the heart-warming part of Godâ€™s character. Preach Godâ€™s love but leave out His holiness and justice. That way theyâ€™ll think Heâ€™ll let them into heaven no matter what.
- Donâ€™t mention repentance until theyâ€™re repeating a â€œsinnerâ€™s prayer.â€ Just get them to say, â€œI repent of all my sinsâ€ while theyâ€™re echoing you. They wonâ€™t know what theyâ€™re saying and they wonâ€™t count the cost.
- Above all else, be dignified. Donâ€™t get heart to heart with the people. They would get something out of what you said.
- Skim over the gospel and push the prayer. Pretend the lost naturally understand what Christ has done for them.
- Preach Jesus as a life enhancer not a life rescuer. Tell them how Jesus can improve their life but donâ€™t show them Jesus as the only One who can save them from Hell. People will think if they reject Him theyâ€™re only losing out on a spiritual high.
- Try to please the people instead of convert them. Tell them what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear.
- Compromise the message to speed up the process. The Christians who have heard it a hundred times before will be pleased with that. The quicker they get out the quicker they can get to the restaurant.
- Give them the impression that God is so good He wonâ€™t send anyone to hell. Donâ€™t present the whole counsel of God or they might realize He is so good that Heâ€™ll see to it that justice is served and that all unrepentant sinners will be punished in the fire that is not quenched.
- Speak to sinners as though they were saints. Theyâ€™ll think theyâ€™re Godâ€™s children instead of the enemies of God theyâ€™ve made themselves into because of their sin. Youâ€™ll give them false assurance and mislead them.
- Donâ€™t mention sin or manâ€™s guilt. Resist the urge to explain what Christ came to deliver us from. Donâ€™t show them their need for the Savior. Otherwise it may all make sense.
- Donâ€™t look to the Bible for the substance of your altar call. Only mimic other preachers with large congregations.
- Tell the lost not to feel bad about their sins. That way you will work against the Holy Spirit whoâ€™s convicting them
- Whatever you do, never mention Judgment Day. Your audience might take spiritual matters seriously.
- Tell them Jesus is the only way to heaven but donâ€™t explain why. They may think itâ€™s nothing more than fear tactics and leave offended instead of enlightened.
- Confuse the call. This is a great way to botch up an altar call. Donâ€™t let people know youâ€™re asking them to commit their life to Christ. Be vague and general in what youâ€™re saying. Neglect to mention following Christ in your evangelistic altar calls and say things like, â€œIf you donâ€™t feel youâ€™re as close to God as possible raise your hand,â€ â€œIf you feel lonely come to the front for prayer,â€ â€œIf you want more of God this is your time,â€ and, â€œIf you have struggles and need the answer come down.â€ Just get them to raise a hand. That way no one will be able to count the cost and youâ€™ll even get saints to respond to salvation altar calls, making the results look more successful.
- Only give them half the story. Tell them Jesus died to forgive everyone but overlook the fact that they must personally receive Him to partake of that forgiveness.
- Present the truth as though it isnâ€™t. Be so funny when you share Christ that you belittle the seriousness of the matter.
- Preach forgiveness without repentance. That way no one will know how to be forgiven.
- Be unbiblical. Present repentance and faith as an offer instead of how God does as a command (Acts 17:30).
- Let them think next Sunday is the day of salvation. Donâ€™t make them feel itâ€™s urgent to respond today.
- Never warn of hell. Dangle heaven in front of their nose but rarely mention hell, certainly not as much as Jesus did.
- Only do altar calls inside the church. Never take the gospel where sinners congregate. The lost might get saved.
- Use churchy terms. Use words like, â€œsaved,â€ â€œrepent,â€ and â€œborn again,â€ without any explanation. That way your hearers wonâ€™t comprehend what youâ€™re saying. If they canâ€™t understand it, itâ€™s probable they wonâ€™t be changed by it.
- Give false assurance of salvation to unsaved Christians. Assure church folk that they are saved even if they bear no fruit. So that you donâ€™t offend the unsaved pew warmers never quote 2 Corinthians 13:5: â€œExamine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith.â€ You could lose some financial supporters and have to depend on God.
- Never mention the wrath of God. If you mention it, people might be awakened to flee to Jesus who â€œsaves us from the wrath to come.â€ ( 1 Thess. 1:10)
- Study how the apostles preached and witnessed and do the opposite. Donâ€™t explain Jesusâ€™ suffering death on the cross. Otherwise they may think of running to Him for forgiveness. Donâ€™t speak of His burial or resurrection or they might realize He is God. Refrain from commenting about the hundreds of eyewitnesses who saw Jesus after He rose from the dead. That way they can go on thinking Heâ€™s a fairy tale. Overlook talk of the messianic prophecies Jesus fulfilled or they might realize that the Bible is true. If they see itâ€™s the truth they may see that following Christ is the logical decision. And whatever you do, avoid what the apostles did when it came time to call people to obey the gospel. Donâ€™t tell them to trust Christ and live for Him. That is too accurate. If they know how to get saved your altar call will be a success.
- Put more emphasis on the â€œsinnerâ€™s prayerâ€ then on repentance and faith. Satan will smile over your departure from Biblical instruction. We are never taught to use a â€˜sinnerâ€™s prayerâ€™ throughout the entire Bible. If you decide to use it and put more emphasis on the technique than on what weâ€™re commanded to preach: faith and repentance youâ€™ll certainly botch things up. A â€˜sinnerâ€™s prayerâ€™ doesnâ€™t equal salvation, only faith in Christ and repentance toward God do.
- Let Christians think youâ€™re the only one who can do it right. Always leave the impression that they should only invite friends to church and never actually witness themselves. It will keep you in business and the lost unsaved.
- Donâ€™t let the lost know they are. Disregard subjects like Judgment Day, Godâ€™s holiness, manâ€™s sinfulness and justice. That way the lost can continue to think theyâ€™re â€œgood enoughâ€ to get into heaven.
- Rely upon psychological techniques to manipulate people into responding to the altar call. Donâ€™t rely upon the Holy Spirit or they may actually get saved.
- Make sure youâ€™re the main attraction. Remember the goal in botching up an altar call is for people to leave and say, â€œWhat a wonderful preacher,â€ instead of, â€œWhat a wonderful Savior.â€ Draw all possible attention to how great a speaker and person you are. Otherwise people might see Christ in your preaching and get saved.
- Donâ€™t focus upon Jesus. Finally, the best way to botch up an altar call is not to preach the gospel. Just get people to lift up a hand and pray a prayer with you. Resist the urge to speak of the only One who could save them.
Sometimes the best way to get a point across is to put it in a different light. You now know a few ways to botch up an altar call. Please do not employ them. Do the opposite. You may already do some of them. Donâ€™t let pride keep you from changing and doing things in a Biblical fashion. The bottom line is how true we are to Christ and His word. Effectively reaching the lost is our purpose. Let nothing hold you back from that agenda. May God bless you as you seek to win people to Christ in Bible clubs, churches, conferences, on the street witnessing encounters, at your school, and at your workplace.
Adapted from Becoming an Emissary for God by Allen Atzbi