Most evangelical Christians are familiar with a custom of our cultural that is really not mentioned in Scripture, but is part of our spiritual heritage known as the Altar Call. Also sometimes called the Invitation or Decision Time, it is a time set aside in the service, generally at the conclusion of the sermon, when people are invited to make commitments, spend time in prayer and seek prayer and counsel at the front of the church at a bench or often the steps to the platform which is referred to as the altar.
I have public invitations at many of our services and believe it is a good thing. But whether or not your church utilizes a time of public commitment, I sometimes fear that we are not taking action in any form to that which we hear preached or taught.
How many of us have heard the Word of God taught with clarity and passion, only to be relieved with the sermon was over and without giving much additional thought to the message proclaimed, begin making dinner or recreation plans as the service draws to a close. Im afraid we are missing the point. God tells us that we are not to be mere hearers of the Word, but doers also. Doing begins when we make a commitment to change or transform or yield to the truth of Scripture.
Too many Christians like our sermons short, preachers funny, but not pointed, our lessons practical without imposing and puhlease dont keep us too long. Consumerism has so invaded and pervades the church today that most people approach the message, if not the entire worship hour, with a “what’s-in-it-for-me” attitude.
We are surrounded today by all kinds of religious messages, forms of communication, venues of worship and instruction, outlets of media and infotainment. And yet, so many struggle with a daily, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. One Christian thinker pointed out, There is nothing so spiritually deadening as constantly handling the outside of religious things.
Perhaps it is time we stop and ask ourselves if we are still responding to the truth of the Word of God. Are we sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He calls us to repentance and righteousness? When was the last time that you, under the moving of the Holy Spirit, left your seat and made a public and personal decision to respond to the Lords leading or a directive of Scripture? Do you ever take time to search your heart with the convicting discernment of the Holy Spirit as the final hymn is being sung? Do we ever just pause and let God speak to us before we rush back to our busy lives?
Too many of our churches have hard hearts filling church pews. We make spiritual decisions rarely and often only if someone has managed to hit the right combination of emotional buttons. We look at church services as times of inspiration and information rather than worship and transformation. Our focus is too often directed at the preacher and preaching or worship leader and singing than at the Lord.
When we attend church, WE are not the audience..God is. We are not the center of attention. He must be. We are not the players. He is. And we need to allow His Word to plow the hardness of our hearts and to reveal the shallowness of our faith so that we can respond with transparency and humility.
Maybe if that happened in churches across the country, wed start seeing more souls saved, marriages salvaged, lives restored and discipleship occurring. Perhaps thered be less gossip and more growth. Maybe thered be less cynicism and more sacrifice. We might enjoy sweeter fellowship and less self-centeredness.
The next time your pastor begins to close his sermon, why dont you stop and ask God, What did you want me to hear today? and then just be still and let Him speak to you. I think if we all did that there would be more tears on our cheeks and fewer hardened hearts in the pews.