Are You Watching and Paying Attention?

Why do so many preachers insist that people close their eyes during the altar call?

Is it because we don’t want to put undo pressure on those who may be on the edge of taking that step that will bring them “Home” and begin a new “Journey?” Let’s be serious – “peer pressure”  isn’t just for kids and teens. It hits us all, no matter the age. Think for a moment about those times in your own life where you have you found yourself in situations where time stood still while you weighed your options because others were looking, staring, waiting on you to make a choice and act.

Why do we close our eyes during a moment that is so life changing?  We are talking about  the most important choice we will ever make – eternal life and death – be it our choice or the choice being made by one of our children, a dear friend or even a complete stranger. Why wouldn’t we want to see, celebrate and encourage those who are feeling the call of God in the very moment when His spirit is filling the room or the heart of another? Consider how we celebrate and encourage at ball games, concerts, birthdays, weddings, etc … We hear it in our churches on Sundays or at conferences when our Pastors really bring some resounding point to the light of day.  We are touched by the echoes of  “Amen” or “speak it Pastor.” So why do we get all quiet and close our eyes during altar calls?

I have heard and read comments from pastors and non-pastors alike talk about “peer pressure” and “it’s a respect thing” – so I ask you to consider this … Do you think by looking, speaking encouragement, praying, or singing out loud, we will somehow drown out God’s voice or spook God so badly that he flees the scene? Do you think that us looking around will somehow overpower God’s Spirit in someway so that whoever He’s calling or reaching out to will be unable to respond? Or is it that perhaps that we have convinced ourselves of our own sense of importance and status, believing that if we all bow our heads and be quiet and pray really hard that we will somehow collectively channel God in some manner that makes Him more powerful? Regardless of the why or our actions or lack of them, whatever God’s intent or purpose is in any given moment, you can bet we will not be able to intervene or scare Him off! In fact, our only part in God’s “moments” is how we choose to behave during them.  I believe it’s a safe bet to say that during those “God moments,” Satan is working overtime to fill us with every reason to ignore Gods voice; to fill us with doubt, confusion, indecision and condemnation.

I think we should remember one very important thing here. We have freedom of choice at all times. There is no more important moment of choice than the moment where we choose to accept or deny God’s voice.

We would be foolish to think that Satan can’t or won’t stand right beside us and whisper right up to the moment we make a choice, and that includes our altar calls. Look how much time he spends trying to trip us up even after we hear God’s voice and take that step. The buildings we call our churches are not safe havens where Satan has no power. If you need proof of that, just look around at how many churches and pastors from all denominations that have been rocked by scandal both large and small. Remembering that should make us, as believers, want to be even more aware of what’s going on around us even during our services.

I believe that by being aware and willing to reach out, we can make a difference to any and all who may be hearing God’s voice or feeling their heart being stirred in some way during our altar calls. You don’t have to be a deacon or a pastor or someone in leadership to reach out to another, but if we are not looking and seeing what’s going on around us, how then do we make a difference to those who need us? Some in the Church would say, “You need training or you have to be a Christian for a certain period of time before you can or should try to minister to another.” Speaking as a pastor, “I don’t agree.”  We help one another all the time as friends, husbands, wives, parents, teachers and even complete strangers when we see others in need. Why then, do we need ” special training” to reach out to someone weighing the choice of a lifetime? The answer for me is that we don’t. Sure, if you are serving in some capacity in leadership, yes – you need certain training, but most, if not all of us, have lots of “life training” and most of the time, it’s just knowing we are not alone that gives us courage to take a step.

Maybe it does make some uncomfortable if we look, sing, dance, cry, or pray out loud during the altar calls but perhaps their discomfort is less about “peer pressure” and more about conviction. Maybe they are hanging on the fence, waiting on someone to see their pain or doubt or confusion and give them a word of encouragement. Maybe they are waiting on someone to take their hand and walk with them those last few steps to the altar.

Perhaps it’s time we started spending more time looking up and around, rather than down and unaware …

Image courtesy of: Gonzalo Merat. Used by permission.

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