This past week the Franklin Graham Crusade was in town. We attended as a family along with other members of Prince of Peace. Joe Albi stadium was almost full. Our six year old asked in earnest, “Are they just going to preach or is there going to be something exciting?” It was exciting; they had the audio and visual effects, bands and concluding altar call. It had been years since I had attended a “crusade” led by his father, Billy.
Though electronics and the genre of music had changed, the message was very similar. It was the invitation to become a follower of Jesus Christ, to commit one’s life to him. The message and the event are intentionally directed to those “seeking” and therefore provide an entry-level experience into the Christian faith. The call to come to the altar is the defining step of entry. It is your decision and there upon your decision you receive the “guarantee.”
I am no critic of this evangelism. It has produced fruit in abundance and variety for many years. We as members of the Lutheran church just proceed into the future with these new Christians in a different way, with a different emphasis.
It occurred to me that we have an altar call each week. It is called the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion (not Eucharist, that also has the wrong emphasis). We conclude our service of word and song with the calling to the altar of the baptized believers to be given a gift, to hear and taste the decision Jesus Christ made—for you; to go forth in his promise, not our own “guarantee;” and called, gathered, enlightened and sanctified to pass the promise on that Jesus has decided to make you his own. He died to make that so.
There is no slight difference of emphasis here. It is the assurance that we come to the Lord’s altar by his invitation so he can have his way with us. We come “just as we are”—indecisive and undependable and seeking. We come in need of something more than entry-level experience. We need and receive our Lord’s body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of our sins and the eternal promise of life with Him. What an altar call!!! How much more excitement do we need?
In Christ and His Word,