Just what do we mean by an altar call? The design and purpose of the gospel is to turn men from sin to salvation. That is to transform their lives and produce specimens of Christianity. All men have sinned and have lives to offer Jesus that are marred by sin's deceptive bondage. We, as the men, vested with the responsibility of waving the "red flag of warning" feel, or should feel, keenly that our tactics aid rather than hinder those in the valley of decision. The Scriptures so graphically state "knowing therefore the terror of the Lord we persuade men." With this thought in mind we proceed with a few thoughts on the matter.
Sometimes we, as church folk, have the idea that the end justifies the means. Let's just scrap the methods of the Methodists and use whatever enters our brains and in so doing we will do God a service an be instrumental in leading scores to Christ; for, you see we are acting under inspiration. There are some hitches to our madness. This has, in a large part, produced a generation or a class of people who have become wise to our propaganda and every time we tread over the wayside of their hearts with high-pressure tactics we only increase their chances of always being wayside hearers.
The altar call, I suppose, is a follow-up of the "mourners bench" where the mourners took their place near the front of the meeting house where they mourned over their sins and received special instruction from the speaker and sought God until they received an assurance of sins forgiven. Gospel preaching at its best is aided and abetted by the Holy Spirit convicting and convincing men of sin. When men are shown their sins and convicted of the same, they need not be begged, cajoled, or subjected to second rate psychology to induce or entice them to prayer.
I have observed forty minutes of sermon and forty minutes of stories, singing, and etc. that I seriously question how much glory that the Lord received. In fact, sometimes it seems to make a mock of the gospel and its power and purpose. It is a far cry from the way John Newton felt when he penned these words:
I saw one hanging on a tree in agony and blood He fixed his languid eyes on me as near his cross I stood sure, never till my latest breath can I forget that look; it seemed to charge me with his death tho' not a word He spoke.
Men so convinced will seek until they find. It is full proof of the anemic state of so much of the gospel preaching when there is so little evidence of the convincing of sin.
There have been reports of men standing in houses of worship and confessing openly their sins as a direct result of gospel preaching anointed by the Holy Spirit, which made men to realize that they were guilty before God. This type of conviction is not brought on by forty minute, second rate psychology sessions to the tune of some song designed to appeal to men's emotions. Neither is it easily shook off, for these men felt charged with the death of Jesus Christ. Remember Peter's sermon, "this same Jesus, whom ye crucified." They were charged with the death of Jesus Christ.
The promise left by Jesus Christ of the Comforter was, "when He is come, he will reprove the world of sin." Let us be careful and cautious not to be a tool used by our enemy, but move and speak as the oracles of God.