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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Limited Response to a Lasting Revelation*

As many you already know, I have had many issues with what is commonly called "altar calls". While I do not believe that it should be entirely done away with, it can be easily argued that the altar call has done as much harm (if not more) than it has done good. I could tell you how it has led MANY to a false sense of security (as though walking down an aisle makes you a Christian) or how preachers use it with their savvy "techniques" to manipulate "decisions" or how we have popularized this notion of "decisional salvation" with a simple prayer or a lifted hand, but I will leave those for another time. What I would like to address is how a believer responds to the message from God's Word. There are many who think that the order of service generally done today has been this way for 2000 years. They would be surprised to know that for over 1850 years (or 92.5% of the history of Christianity) that there was no such thing as an altar call, and the order of service used today became the default under the influence of Charles G. Finney, D.L. Moody, and most commonly in the Billy Graham crusades. Central to my concern is what the purpose of the church worship service is for. Today, many churches are saying that "worship services" are not about worship primarily but about the lost; therefore, they cater everything from the style of music, the style of the sermon, and everything inbetween to reach the lost. While I am firm believer in soul-winning, since when did we go fishing in the fish tank? Can someone tell me or show me where lost people were found in the church? I thought that evangelism took place in the world, "outside the camp" so to speak. Yet this would seriously affect the numbers and "empirical" evidence that the church is growing or that the sermon was "effective". But what if the worship service was really about worship? Consider a working definition of worship as a Spirit-guided response from the truthful revelation of God. Anything that is worship is an expression and response to what God has revealed to us about Him. If God has not revealed anything, then we worship in vain. (Maybe that is why so many songs are about us today. You think? We know ourselves so much better than we know God). If that is the case, then true worship (in length and genuineness) should take place AFTER the message has been brought (that is, if you hear the words of God [expositionally] rather than the words of man), and that worship may be expressed in the form of prayer, praise, meditation, or other forms. But why then, have we left the end of the service to an altar call, to just a few verses (maybe more if the preacher is encouraged by people coming), and primarily to the lost? There have been times when I have been blown away by a sermon and needed at least 20 minutes of contemplation and confession to take place, only to find myself hurried off by announcements and so on. Simply put, we have programmed worship to be a limited response to a lasting revelation. When God has revealed himself to the believer, his exposure cannot be contained and bottled up in a few minutes or even a few verses. If worship services are ever going to be truly worship, then God's Spirit will apply the truth exposited from His Word so that we will be authentically transformed in the presence of God, and then we can say that we have worshipped "in spirit and in truth." Maybe we need to reevaluate what we call "worship services" or "altar calls" altogether. Maybe we have quenched the Spirit's working by gearing the service to people responding to us rather than us responding to God. Maybe the limits pre-conditioned our services today can be lifted so that there could be a real, unhurried, undistracted response to God and His revelation of Himself that can carry the altar call to where it truly belongs . . . in the world.

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