In my search for a church home in Springfield, MO I went with a friend to her church. (Just between us, it felt more like a concert.) The end of the service came when the pastor invites (or is supposed to invite) the congregation to make the choice to follow Jesus. To my surprise and astonishment he said, "I'm not going to embarrass you by asking you to raise your hand or walk up front..."
Wait. What?? What just happened?
From that day, over a year ago, until now I have become more aware of these so called "alter calls". It deeply saddens me that pastors have associated choosing to follow Jesus with embarrassment. To me, that goes against everything Jesus is and the heart of the New Testament church.
Pastors, if we don't encourage people to be bold in making the choice to follow Jesus inside of the church how in the world can we expect them to live their faith boldly outside of the church? In the world. In a place that will chew you up and spit you out at the hint of you having faith in God.
If all of heaven rejoices when even one person commits their life to following Jesus then the church should do the same. The "alter call" time should be full of rejoicing and hope! The church is a place that has been set apart, consecrated to God. A place where believers come and worship together in unity. A place that welcomes anyone and everyone. A place where it should be safe to choose to follow Jesus without feeling embarrassed.
Can you imagine the Apostle Paul asking people to close their eyes and slyly raise their hands if they believe in Jesus and want to live for him? Ha! Yeah right. Yet, several times, when Paul shared the gospel- *no gimmicks, no coffee shop, no lasers, no smoke machine- thousands of people chose to follow Jesus. Yes, thousands.
As a church we should create an atmosphere of conviction rather than comfort. When God wants to change things in our lives (conviction) it is always for our good. It is always out of his deep, relentless love for us. Church should be a place of change. Change isn't comfortable. If we stay comfortable we won't change.
Pastors, fellow Christ followers, will you join with me in asking God to use us to create an atmosphere of conviction- at church, at home, at work? After all, it is God's sweet conviction and loving kindness that leads us to repentance. That turns our hearts to him. Will you join me in encouraging new believers to be bold in their decision to follow Jesus?
*side note: I'm not saying coffee shops, lasers, and smoke machines are bad. I'm saying we should be careful to not let them distract us from the tender touch of the Holy Spirit drawing our hearts to the Father or distract us from showing God the reverence he so deserves.