What’s Wrong With The Gospel? By Keith Green – 14 – The Gradual Altering of “The Altar Call” 14 of 21*


Keith Green

Keith Green

Believe it or not, the altar call was invented only about 150 years ago. It was first used by the American evangelist, Charles Finney, as a means of separating out those who wanted to talk further about the subject of salvation. Finney called the front pew “the anxious seat” (for those who were “anxious” about the state of their souls) or “the mourner’s bench.” Finney never “led them in a prayer,” but he and a few others would spend a great deal of time praying with and giving specific instruction to each, one by one, until finally, everyone was sent home to pray and continue seeking God until “they had broken through and expressed hope in Christ,” as Finney would say.

The early Salvation Army, going a bit further on Finney’s innovation, developed what they called “the penitent form” or “the mercy seat.” After a rousing time of singing and preaching, they would invite any sinner present who wanted to confess his sins to God and repent, to come to the front, and they would be prayed for individually. I have met a few older Christians who used to attend some of these early meetings, and they said that sometimes people would stay there all night, and on a few occasions, even a few days, weeping and confessing their sins with broken hearts. There were always some who would stay right there to instruct them further, encouraging them to make a clean sweep of sin from their lives.

This is what the early “altar call” was like. But gradually, it began to become a fixed part of every meeting, and like all other traditions, it began to lose its original spirit. The “coming forward” part started to be more important than the “sorrow, confession, repentance, and instruction” parts. Eventually, anyone who would “come down the aisle” was excitedly proclaimed “a new believer in Christ!” No matter how they felt, they still were told, “Your sins are forgiven, brother! Rejoice in Christ!” How many a miserable, defeated, and confused person has come away from a meeting like this? (Jer 6:14)

(Tomorrow I’ll post the 15th section)

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About Dave Harman
I was found by Jesus April 9, 1975. I married the love of my life Helen, August 19, 1978. We have one daughter, Elizabeth, whose husband and two children live nearby. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in January 1997. In January 2004, Jesus Christ healed me and I have been symptom free ever since.

One Response to What’s Wrong With The Gospel? By Keith Green – 14 – The Gradual Altering of “The Altar Call” 14 of 21*

  1. Anunciata says:

    i fully agree with you on that.http://www.brutalrock.com

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