The Evolution of the Evangelical Altar.

I always feel bad when I am at a church, and I am the only one not up at the altar.

It isn’t that I don’t love “altar calls.” But most of the times when I don’t go up front (follow the double negative), it isn’t because what the pastor says doesn’t apply to my life. It does apply to my life. The problem when it comes to altar calls is usually the call to come up front deals with something that every one can relate to.

It is an emotional appeal aimed at solely one thing – to get a large response.

I think it is okay to find something that all people can work on. It is part of the human condition. But it is entirely different when the altar call is practically, “Come up front if you aren’t perfect.” Most of the time in these situations the intention of the altar call isn’t about changing the hearts of the people, but it is geared towards getting a response from the pulpit. It is an emotionally induced application that leaves people feeling satisfied with walking out the door.

This is a typical monologue:

“I feel bad about [insert relevant sin].”

“I’m going to walk up front and stand and pray and cry for a few minutes at the altar.”

“Okay, now I am going to walk out the door and continue on with my life without actually making any changes to my lifestyle.”

So let’s get some facts straight:

First off, “altar calls” (as far as we know) were not a part of the early church. There isn’t any mention of altar calls in a service or in service order in any New Testament text. The altar in the Old Testament was the place where a myriad of different sacrifices were made to God. Along the way and as of recently, it was decided that it would be a place of spiritual sacrifice – offering oneself as a living sacrifice to God (Rom 12:1). Though this might be indirectly applying biblical truths, altar calls themselves are not biblical. Yet there are churches embracing altar calls and shunning moves of the Spirit, because moves of the Spirit are “unbiblical.”

Talk about your double standard.

There is a practical place for an “altar call.” We can embrace it as a tradition as long as we don’t try to defend it as doctrine. The altar is a place where one can receive prayer. It is a marvelous place for intercession. Sometimes it is even a wonderful place of proclamation and acclamation! The altar is a place where one’s life can be altered.

But the altar is NOT a place of application.

You can only apply the teaching of Christ or the Bible away from the altar. Application means that there is an action, and while the altar might help you take that first step, it can’t do anything after the steps are taken. That is just direct obedience.

If you go to the altar, make sure you walk your decisions out of the door. Intentions without actions are inanimate.

Live a life of animation.

Live a life of application.

Press on past the altar.


Abstracting the Abstract into Application

I love to read. Whenever I get the chance, I love to find a good, inspiring, book. I sit down, grab some coffee, and usually don’t stop until the book is complete. Books are usually pretty easy to read. Chapters and ideas blend together as they collide in my cranium. They cascade into knowledge, and I feel a sense of enlightenment, peace, and utter tranquility.

Reading is definitely an acquired taste. I hated to read before I got to college. I would read every now and then books that sounded interesting or ones that were ascending in pop culture. I still have trouble finishing books actually. Most of the books I read are inspirational or informational, so the bulk of the book is spent on exposition with the end on application.


It’s not that I only like abstract thoughts that have no concrete ideas… I mean, just ignore the fact that my ministry is called, “The Abstract.” As much as my brain enjoys the endorphin rush of existential bliss, I have a hearty realization that life must be lived. To learn is to live. There is no way around it. But I hate when authors try to apply information for me. I feel like it is belittling, a crutch, helping me hobble along when I can walk fine without it.

Facts are concrete. Application is fluid.

Applying what is known is different for every person. It’s like the “Five Love Languages.” One person might express their love by taking out the trash. Another person might buy someone flowers. Another even might work magic with their words. The application of love, or anything, is left in the hands of the acquired.

Just make sure you have a balance. Don’t be “all upstairs.” If you can’t walk your ideas and passions out the door, then you won’t be able to excel to your fullest. Greatness can only be achieved by doing. Live and learn. Every person that has ever excelled in anything has brought his or her ideas to the realm known as reality.

It is one for us to tell people we love them. It is another to go out and feed the homeless, or to take care of widows. It is one thing for us to tell people we are for peace. It is another for us to allow our peace to be disturbed so that others might have peace. It is another to use love to bring peace.

It is one thing for me to talk about application in a blog. It is another to actually go out and start living what I write.

“… Don’t just talk about love as an idea or a theory. Make it your true way of life, and live in the pattern of gracious love.” – 1 John 3:18 (The Voice)