It wasn’t long ago that the altar call was a common occurrence within the church service. Depending on the denomination this may still take place but it is far less common today. The question to be asked is why has this taken place?
The gospel should not be watered down and truly cannot be watered down. The truth of Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Any change to the message that Jesus died on the cross for forgiveness of our sins and salvation of our souls is a change to the gospel and it is not the gospel that is being preached any longer.Obviously times change and things that worked in the past don’t work forever. The revival meetings that many altar calls took place at are no longer happening. But not even that tells the real story. The truth is that the gospel has been made to be easily digestable. Is this good or bad? Well it depends on your perspective and just how digestable it is made.
With that in mind, there are barriers that can be removed that are preventing people from accepting the gospel. It starts with our terminology. There are everyday Christian words that those within the church use a lot that don’t mean much to those outside of the church. Words like lost and saved are very common to churched people but may not make any sense to those outside of the church. Replacing these words with more common terms or making sure that we explain ourselves well will eliminate this barrier. For a complete list of words, see here.
Another barrier is the idea of going forward and making a public confession of faith. This is really what is on my mind as I write. This is what I am thinking of in terms of easy or hard evangelism. Like every story, there are two sides to this. The first is the barrier side. There is no requirement that a person must go forward to be saved. Someone can give their life to Christ in their pew, alone at home, or with a friend just as easily as they can by going forward in front of a group of people. So why should we put up a barrier that will close some people off from accepting the gospel if they are shy or don’t want to get up in front of a group of people?
On the other hand, we can’t deny the power of the Holy Spirit. If God is calling a person to repentance they can resist but it is not an obstacle that the Holy Spirit can’t overcome. If the requirement was for a person to do cartwheels to the front of the church, God can give them the ability to do cartwheels.
A public confession of faith is an important thing for a new believer. It affirms to the church that they have made a commitment to Christ. It also should be a reminder to the church that this new Christian needs their love and support as they begin their walk with Christ. The other question to ask is when is a public confession of faith most important?
We are called to be baptized. Through baptism we identify with Christ’s death and resurrection. I believe that this is the most important time for a public confession of faith. At this time a new believer can show to others that yes, they are committed to this Christian thing. Baptism is done in many different ways with a lot of different procedures and requirements beforehand. In my mind though, it gives a person time to truly think on the decision they are making and the commitment they are making to Christ. It is not an emotional decision when it comes time to be baptized.
So, do we make evangelism easy in order to remove barriers that may hinder a person from giving their life to Christ? Or do we trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome all obstacles and bring a person to salvation? The answer is yes. Salvation shouldn’t be thought of as a one step, one time event where someone comes forward and prays a prayer. There is a time for a public confession of faith. This is affirming both to the new believer and the body of Christians that should be celebrating the salvation of an unsaved individual.
We should remove every obstacle we can when reaching out to a lost person. But once that door is open we shouldn’t make it easy to come in by selling a cheap and easy gospel. When a person expresses an interest in God, don’t sell God short.