Are "altar calls" biblical?

Gene asks, "Are 'altar calls' biblical? How does Stephen give gospel invitations at the Shepherd's church?

Thanks for your question. 

There is nothing wrong or unbiblical about a church doing an alter call. However, there is no biblical mandate requiring churches to have an alter call. 

Some people point to the fact that Jesus calls us to make a public profession of faith in Him as a biblical basis for having an alter call. We need to remember, however, that Jesus instituted baptism for that very purpose. Baptism is an ordinance that Jesus gave the church with the expressed purpose of identifying publicly with Him. 

I do believe it’s important that sinners be called to faith and repentance. While I don’t do alter calls, I often invite people to respond to the gospel in my sermons. I invite people who want to talk to me to come and see me after a sermon, or make an appointment to see me during the week. And I encourage my congregation to be actively sharing the gospel with people in their life.

I also equip the elders, deacons, and congregation members in my church to be able to present the gospel to an inquiring person as well. The goal is that if someone feels God calling them to repent and believe in Him on a Sunday that there would be an abundance of people who they could talk to and find guidance and help.

For churches that do alter calls, I would encourage great care and discernment. It’s important to never let emotion, persuasion, or social pressure induce people to make a decision. For example, I’ve seen services where the alter call does not end until someone responds. That is an unwise practice. Pastors who use alter calls should be careful and prudent. 

As to your specific question, alter calls are not mandated in Scripture. But they are not unbiblical either. They are a man-made tool that if used, must be used with care.

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