Since a Christian growing up in a historic liturgical Christian denomination would have no idea what an "altar call" is, the title of this post definitely betrays my background. I am a red-blooded American evangelical Christian. For millions of people just like me, the words "altar call" flow just as easily off the tongue as say, "Merry Christmas." We know exactly what it means. The altar call is the portion of the church service (or evangelistic crusade service) where the preacher makes an invitation for sinners to receive Christ. At least, that is what it used to mean. Nowadays altar calls can be so general that the whole church must come forward lest an individual face social embarrasment (e.g...If you just want to be closer to God, please come forward). In many churches I've been to, I've seen people coming forward to relieve stress from their lives and then the preacher throws a bait and switch and leads them in the sinners prayer. The preacher then makes the poor souls face the congregation while hundreds of people are clapping for the new soul registered in the Lamb's Book of Life. The evangelist in me wants to scream out "That's not the gospel!", but then I realize that I am in a crowded building where nobody knows who I am and I keep my objections to myself lest I risk..well...social embarrasment.
I must admit that, as an evangelist, I have committed my faux pas as well. As much as I hate to admit it, I have indeed used the "every head bowed and every eye closed" line, usually because judging the nature of the crowd, it just seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Even in that, however, I would move on to a more public commitment usually by asking the people to come forward to make their confession known publicly. Therefore, my least favorite line is not "every head bowed and every eyes closed."
Having ruled out the most obvious altar call line, what could possibly be my least favorite? Here it goes: "I am not asking you to join a church, I am asking you to join the family of God." The "every head bowed every eye closed" line is usually a matter of etiquette or crowd control, but the "I am not asking you to join a church, I am asking you to join the family of God" line betrays a much bigger problem-a problem ,I might add, that is rooted in American culture. For my faithful blog readers, I would like to pose the question to you. Can you think of a reason or two why I do not like this line? Discuss!