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Should we have altar calls?

Quick Answer: Should we have altar calls? The term “altar call” conveys Old Testament imagery of dead animals laying on altars for Israel’s atonement. In the New Covenant, Jesus was placed on the last altar, the cross, to take away sins once and for all (Hebrews 10:10). So, while God has saved people through altar calls at church services, the imagery actually conflicts with the New Testament reality of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

Diving Deeper: Of course, there’s nothing wrong with encouraging people to make a decision about the Gospel. But the idea that legitimate faith must be expressed in an altar call, or some outward action which proves how serious we are, is simply not biblical. Paul is clear that we’re saved when we hear the message of the Gospel and believe it (Galatians 3:2). This faith comes in the quietness of our own hearts and does not need to be proven legitimate by running to the front of a church auditorium.

Furthermore, the term “altar call” can be a bit misleading. It conveys that, if we are serious about our faith, we will lay down our lives on God’s altar. But the altar is an Old Testament instrument on which dead animals were sacrificed for atonement. On this side of the cross, there are no more altars. The cross was the last altar. On it Jesus died the only death needed for our forgiveness (Hebrews 10:10-12).

So, we don’t need altar calls, and we can encourage people to believe the Gospel without insinuating that true faith must make its way to the front of the building.

Let’s Make It a Conversation!
1. What has been your impression of “altar calls”?
2. How should the cross of Christ influence our view of altars?
3. If going forward in a church service is not essential, what does saving faith really look like?


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