One of the things I love about the Church (big C) is the diversity we have. In Portland, where I live, there is great diversity and even among the pastors I’m dear friends with. Our personalities are very different, the way we dress varies greatly, our philosophies of ministry vary, and even some of our theological views would differ.
All this diversity is part of God’s wiring of each of us, but the traditions we’ve been a part of over the years effects who we are and what we do too. This is true for all of us. So, it’s no wonder with areas like ‘Decision Times’ that we go about it differently. Our convictions vary on this issue. Some think we should not give any sort of ‘altar call’ at any point in time while others think it’s ridiculous to not every time we teach.
Neither are wrong.
But what I thought I’d do is offer some thoughts on this, regardless of where our convictions land on how to go about this in our ministries.
1. Power is in the gospel. Sometimes we can get worked up about how people go about decision times and even get a bit worried that somehow people won’t understand the gospel if we don’t do certain things in certain ways. We should think about how we go about things so that we are clear, but we have to remember where the power actually is. It’s not in what we do or don’t do, but in the truths we are saying. We depend on God, not our particular methodologies.
2. Protect from purely emotional decisions. Understanding who Jesus is and confessing that can certainly be emotional, but we ought to be really really really careful to not feed emotions in these times. The power is in the truth of the gospel and, if we believe that, there is no need to try and make people “feel” the truth. That’s God’s role.
3. Salvation comes by faith. This might seem obvious at first, but I think we can unknowingly confuse people if we’re not careful to match what we do with what we believe. For instance, if we say that to be saved “all you need to do is pray…” we have somehow twisted up works into salvation by faith. If the way we go about these times is by making the “sinners prayer” a necessity for salvation, we have confused things for people…or at least our practices aren’t matching what we say we believe. If you struggle with this a bit, you might consider reading Romans 4:1-10 where Paul is making it clear to the Jewish community that Abraham was made righteous before he was circumcised. In other words, his faith/belief saved him before he DID anything. For them, they believed they had to be circumcised before they could be a part of God’s family. Sometimes I think we fall into the same trap with the “sinners prayer.” It’s wonderful for people to pray and thank God and to repent, but we must make sure they understand that it was their faith that saved them… not what they prayed.
I’ll soon post a few distinctions you might consider including in your gospel presentations.
Thanks for reading and loving students,