As I sit at my desk in my home study, I am reflecting on our ReFRESH™ Conference that “ended” Wednesday night. Actually, this conference never seems to end. It annually takes us to a new normal in our longing for God and for seeing hearts turned toward Him. The services are “over,” but the effects linger.
I don’t want to say too much, as I don’t want to advertise or talk it to death. The best way to kill a meeting is to talk too much and stop letting God do a fresh work on a daily basis. I can’t begin to get my arms around what happened this year, first and foremost in me.
I am a revival preacher in need of revival. I never want the passion for seeing God do a mighty work to wane as the years go by. I can get older—I just don’t want to get old in my vision, passion, and longing for God’s mighty hand of power.
This year we had more people in attendance than we’ve ever had. We averaged well over 1,000 people each night, filling the floor, the choir loft, and moving into the balcony. That has never happened before. We filled the Fellowship Center for our noon sessions to overflow, and some had to stand up and eat. We saw the altars filled each night as people got areas of their lives right.
We saw people saved who thought they were already saved. I know of one of our young adults who surrendered to a call to ministry after battling it for 10 years. I know of families that resolved issues. I know of people who came to full surrender to the lordship of Christ. Every night, even during the preaching, people were moving to the altar. No longer content to sit and soak, they had to respond.
Revival demands a response. This is why I believe an altar call is so important. I see, to my sorrow, more and more churches dropping the altar call. I’m not a denominational historian, but as I’ve watched some mainline and even evangelical denominations drop the altar call, I’ve also observed their drift toward liberalism, loss of evangelistic fervor, and failure of their people to openly confess Christ inside and outside the church.
I would strongly encourage you to read a blog written by Tom Elliff a few months ago on the need for the altar (www.tomelliff.com). It’s a much needed word in a church culture that leans toward, “Let’s not offend or make people uncomfortable or cause anyone any stress.”
Here’s a question Tom asks: Why would you plead a case and then not call for a decision? Good question. My oldest daughter and her husband are searching for a new church. They’ve been in the same church for the last seven years. The church rarely extends an altar call. They’ve visited seven other churches, and most of them don’t give an altar call either. They attended ReFRESH™ this week and told me, “We were about to settle on a church, but they never give an altar call. We just can’t settle.”
Jesus called people to confess Him. For years, we’ve called people to respond to Christ. The Scriptures are full of altars. God invites us to Himself. Revelation closes with an invitation: “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost” (22:17).
Why are we forsaking the altar? If you study revivals, you find that people in revival fell on their faces at the altar. If we just dismiss a service and send people out on their merry way, where is the moment when we demand that they die daily, take up their cross, and follow Christ? If we can’t ask people to confess Christ in church, how can we expect them to confess Christ at work or even at home?
If we want revival, we must see preachers return to calling people to respond to what has just been said. The man that won’t demand a response doesn’t deserve the opportunity to demand a salary because he’s not fulfilling his calling.
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” – Luke 9:23