Church Lingo, Crazy Things Church Leaders Say & Do, Emotional Responses, Extra-Biblical Nonsense

Invitations and Altar Calls: Is it Manipulation or Evangelism?

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What is going on when a pastor gives an altar call or invitation? Is this appropriate? Is it manipulation?

 

When I was a kid, at church there was a weekly altar call with the hymn, “Just As I Am” playing and we knew that if God was working on someone’s heart, they’d get out of their seat and walk down the aisle to the altar, sometimes in tears. As a kid, I didn’t know what the big deal was.

Here’s a Willie Nelson rendition of “Just As I Am.” It might take you back. Do churches still sing this song at altar calls? I’ll bet there are some that do.

 

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Later, at a different church, I remember the pastor giving invitations to come forward if someone wanted prayer.  Sometimes it would start out with the pastor asking for people to raise their hands and get eye contact with him as “everyone’s head is bowed and all eyes closed.”  By the way, I was the kid who peeked – – yea – probably 99% of the time – lol.  I did wonder if God would punish me for peeking.  Was that a sin?

As I got older and matured in the faith, I was more concerned about my walk with the Lord and hearing His voice. When the pastor urged people to come forward, was He speaking to me?  Did He want me to come forward? What if I was supposed to go forward to the front, but didn’t.  Did God care?  Would that mean I was disobeying God?  I got very confused about these things – especially when my friends would go forward and I remained in my seat.  There was a lot of internal pressure I felt, and I didn’t know what to do with it, so I usually stayed in my seat.

Earlier this week I read a blog article by Don Johnson, “on invitations,” and appreciated his words as it related to some of my church experiences:

But that is just it – so many invitations are vague, unclear, manipulative, dependent on the crowd management of the evangelist, psychologically damaging and entirely unscriptural. Let me give you an example of what I mean. Not long ago, I sat in a service where the speaker was passionate about something. I am not sure exactly what it was, it certainly wasn’t found in his text. But he did make it clear that times were bad and we need people to do something. At the end of the service, the invitation went along these lines: “If you know that you need to be more committed to the Lord and stand for him, raise your hand.” Apparently a lot of hands were raised. Next the preacher said (after a bit more exhorting), “All of you who raised your hands, would you stand up and show you are committed to doing something for the Lord.” Well, a lot of those folks stood up. I don’t know if they all did, but many did. Next (you knew it was coming, didn’t you?) he said, “Now I want all of you standing to come forward and tell the Lord you mean business.”

Be sure to check out Don’s article. I have a hunch that some of you may have some stories to share about altar calls or invitations.

What do you think about them?

Are they Biblical?

Do you find them manipulative?

Are they necessary?

Let’s talk.

I leave you with this hilarious video.  See how many expressions you are familiar with:

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179 thoughts on “Invitations and Altar Calls: Is it Manipulation or Evangelism?”

  1. “Your mom is a very wise woman. I have been saying the same thing for many years. “Common sense is just not all that common.” and here I thought I started that statement. lol”

    Hee Hee. I remember an old lady at church when I was a kid who would say, “They have no horse sense”. Whatever that means. :o)

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  2. Preachers and evangelists in the revivalist stream of Protestant Christianity encourage, and often pressure, people to make a decision, come forward, say the sinners’ prayer, and maybe sign a card registering the fact that they have now been saved and become Christians. These same revivalists tend to be amongst the loudest in proclaiming that the Bible is their sole guide to Christian faith and practice. The only thing is, according to the New Testament, ipeople became Christians n the first century of the Christian era by being baptized.

    It’s interesting to consider how the dynamic of modern evangelism would be altered (pun intended) if revivalist preachers and evangelists began encouraging people to enter the Kingdom by means of baptism rather than by coming to a non-existent altar to say a liturgical prayer (the sinners’ prayer) and sign a commitment card.

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  3. “Lydia, you seem like such an ISTJ to me, how surprising”

    I facilitated MBTI for years. I don’t put a lot of store in it. I am off the charts on NT but more balanced on the E/I and P/J. But people move in and out of indicators depending on the environment. I believe a lot of it is environmental. For example, stats based on the results tell us that about 75% of the female adult population are F and only 25% are T’s. And visa versa for men. 75% of men are T’s. Those stats are from back in the 80’s or early 90’s from the assessment results. I don’t buy it. I think girls are basically trained to be F’s.

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  4. Gary, I will take the altar call over what I have seen in Reformed churches. It is usually based on membership (although around here you can’t attend for long without being pressured to join) and you are vetted by elders who decide if you are really saved in order to become a member. I will spare myself that intrusion into my spiritual life.

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  5. Lydia, just curious. Before they consider you to be saved, do these elders expect you to believe a certain set of non-salvic doctrines, such as, say, a young earth creation, or a pre-tribulation rapture?

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  6. “Before they consider you to be saved, do these elders expect you to believe a certain set of non-salvic doctrines, such as, say, a young earth creation, or a pre-tribulation rapture?”

    I have never heard that from any. And would a reformed pre trib rapture church be rare, anyway? I grew up in quite a few SBC churches before the Calvin wars and we were never taught pre trib rapture.

    My sources who have been through the process (and are now out) in several Reformed Baptist churches here (Mohlerland) tell me it is more about the determinism. But if you were not familiar with Reformed speak/definitions you would not catch it. Sovereignty,predestination, election. They get you on the other issues later mainly elder authority stuff/gender. It is funny to hear them explain it. They knew something not right but could not put finger on it, liked the environment and stayed but and it took them a while to figure out and figured out their gut instinct was correct. One young couple left because an elder told them AT THE HOSPITAL it was God’s plan their first baby would die and HE would show HIs glory through it. They were astonished and did not go back yet were hounded for not getting permission to leave.

    A friend of mine who graduated from SBTS about 7 years ago with an M.Div told me about he and his wife trying to join a Reformed church here that is full of SBTS profs. He was turned down because he revealed that he is a 4pt Calvinist during the process. I think the fact he was M.Div from SBTS and NOT a 5pter was the problem. Of course, he cannot get a pastoring gig in this town but was bi vocational anyway as a physical therapist. This particular church is one of the most strident and stays very small. The ones I mentioned above were either Acts 29 churches affliated with SBTS or those who have evolved (ala Quiet Revolution-Ernest Reisinger-4th chapter) to Reformed because of SBTS. There are not many SBC churches here that have not evolved. Most of the pew sitters did not realize they were being evolved until a few years later as it is done very covertly. They thought they were working off same definitions. Now many of the more middle aged ones are wandering around looking for non Calvinist SBC churches.(younger types tend to like the pastoral authority and gender stuff for some reason and end up idolizing the leaders) Some are going Methodist. Most are nones.

    It concerns me how so many young people are falling for Oligarchical and gendered thinking.

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  7. “I facilitated MBTI for years.”

    Interesting. Kind of a personality psychology buff here, automatically attempting to type everyone I meet now. Some of the indicators perfectly describe certain people I know, to an uncanny degree, and this only encourages me. But of course, people are complex and none of us always fit into one of 16 boxes, at all times. I know the concept really bugs even me sometimes.

    I bet you are on to something with percentages. I think most females I know or have known are typed as Ts.

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  8. Lydia,

    Gotta love those nones. I’m wondering. Where I have determined to only follow Jesus, renouncing all institutional church affiliation, does that make me a Jesuite none?

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  9. “Interesting. Kind of a personality psychology buff here, automatically attempting to type everyone I meet now….”

    Well have fun. :o) Long time ago I heard a very experienced MBTI person speak at a conference and he said that some of their research they tried to piece together patterns indicating that Mother Theresa and Hitler may have the same indicators. I cannot even remember what they were now. His point was that indicators tell you nothing about character, integrity, honor, etc. They will simply be preferences in how you carry out good or evil.

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  10. Lydia wrote:
    “…One young couple left because an elder told them AT THE HOSPITAL it was God’s plan their first baby would die and HE would show HIs glory through it.”

    Only a monster would do something like that. Their god is more in line with the gods of the Greeks and the Canaanites. The God of Abraham isn’t anything like that.

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  11. Hey Muff,

    I totally agree it is pagan and think that is the root of it introduced early on where Augustine sort of made it prolific with his dualism and it went from there to Luther and Calvin who systematized it.

    When your entire belief system revolves around God’s Sovereignty being deterministic that is the only place they can go with something like that. If God is controlling all events, what else could it be? I make NO excuse. They are unqualified and cruel. And I pray people run from this stuff into the arms of Yahweh, who is also Jesus Christ. Long suffering, loving, patient–HESED.

    I have another one. One couple I have known for about 10 years who were totally immersed in this movement through the big name gurus went to be missionaries to a third world country. Their child died tragically there in an inexplicable accident. The wife totally went nuts over God determining the accident and became an athiest. He had only made a living in ministry so they kept that quiet when they came back to the states. He teaches now at some denominational college.

    And you guys wonder why I am like I am about it? I have seen the fallout too much living at ground zero. I think Calvin a horrible tyrant who wrote about a god in his own image.

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  12. Lydia, now I remember that some web sites say Hitler and I share the same indicator!… 🙂 But very, very good point you make there about the limitations of this typing. Thanks for fascinating me with your input.

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  13. @Lydia:

    But if you were not familiar with Reformed speak/definitions you would not catch it. Sovereignty,predestination, election.

    My Dear Wormwood,
    Refer to my previous epistle on semantics, specifically the redefinition of words into their “diabolical meanings”.
    Your Ravenously Affectionate Uncle
    Screwtape

    They get you on the other issues later mainly elder authority stuff/gender.

    Bait and Switch.

    A friend of mine who graduated from SBTS about 7 years ago with an M.Div told me about he and his wife trying to join a Reformed church here that is full of SBTS profs. He was turned down because he revealed that he is a 4pt Calvinist during the process. I think the fact he was M.Div from SBTS and NOT a 5pter was the problem.

    Purity of Ideology, Comrade.
    Purity of Ideology.

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  14. Lydia,
    I believe that no Horse Sense equates to: “You don’t have the sense that God gave a goose.”. Another one that is showing my age. I’m not sure how smart geese are, but they can be a feisty old bird.

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  15. Gary W, In what passage of scripture does it say that 1st century Christians became Christians by being baptized. They were still told the gospel first and believed that gospel. Therefore had become Christians before hand. Baptism has always been a sacrament after that belief.

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  16. I believe the early Christians, those who believed in Jesus Christ – for the word ‘Christian’ today has an entirely different meaning, whom many were jewish and only continued in the tradition of washing themselves simply because they were still jews. This is no longer necessary for those who believe in Christ, we are baptized with the Holy Spirit, there is nothing else needed to clean us. It is man who baptizes with water.

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  17. Brenda R,

    Jesus Himself commanded his disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19 ESV). Upon hearing good news about Jesus, the Ethiopian Eunuch immediately sought baptism. Acts 8:35-38. At Acts 16:32-33, we read that after Paul and Silas spoke the word of the Lord to the Jailer and his family “he was baptized at once, he and all his family.” (ESV). At Romans 6:3 Paul speaks of “all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus.” Although the Corinthians were getting it wrong, as with so much else, we do know that Paul baptized Crispus, Gaius and the family of Stephanas. See also Galatians 3:27, Ephesians 4:5, Colossians 2:12. Whatever he might have meant, Peter made it clear that he considered baptism an integral part of being saved. 1 Peter 3:21. Then there is the ever troublesome “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16 ESV).

    I’m not intending to provoke a discussion on the meaning, significance, effect or necessity of baptism. I’m simply saying that modern preachers and evangelists, including Billy Graham, have replaced baptism, as practiced in the early church, with the altar call. I submit that maybe they are ill advised to have done so.

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  18. Hi Gary

    Here’s something to think about – When thinking about “Baptism.” 😉

    Was wondering…
    *Which baptism* are you talking about, when you write…
    “I’m simply saying that modern preachers and evangelists, including Billy Graham, have replaced “baptism,” as practiced in the early church…”

    I ask you; Which “baptism?” because, In the Bible, I find folks…
    *Baptized* different ways – *Baptized* into/with different elements…
    *Baptized* for different reasons.

    I used to think “Baptism” always meant, With Water, Into Water.
    BUT – Some “Baptisims” are NOT with water. Oy Vey!!! 🙂

    Baptize = baptizo = simplest meaning = immersion, submersion.

    1 – John the Baptist “Baptized,” into/with *water,*
    For *the remission of sins.*
    ….. Mat 3:11, Luke 3:16, Acts 19:4,

    2 – And Jesus “Baptized,” with *the Holy Spirt and fire*
    So His Disciples *shall receive power.*
    ….. John 1:33, Acts 1:5, Acts 1:8, Acts 11:16,

    3 – And the Holy Spirt “Baptized” believers, “into” *The Body*
    So WE, His Ekklesia, His Sheep, can ALL be, *One body.*
    ….. 1 Cor 12:12-13

    4 – His Disciples are to be “Baptized” in *The Name* of…
    The Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.*
    …. Mat 28:19.
    Is *water * the element here? Water is NOT mentioned. Or…
    Is the element “The Name of?”
    “Name” is Srongs 3686 – authority, character.

    And, In the Bible, did any of **His Disciples** ever “Baptize” someone…
    Immerse them, Submerse them, in “Water.”…
    And end that ceremony by saying, – As so many do today….
    “I baptize you – “In the name of…
    The Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

    I can NOT find one of His Disciples saying this – this way.
    BUT – Jesus gave this command to His Disciples…. What’s up???

    What if it is meant to sound like this? When “Making Disciples?
    “Baptizing them, immersing them,
    In *The Name* of, In *The Authority, and Character,* of….
    The Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.?????

    5 – Some are – “Baptized” in *The Name* of the Lord Jesus.
    “Name” is Srongs 3686 – authority, character.
    …. Acts 2:38, Acts 10:48, Acts 19:5.

    6 – Many are – “Baptized” into *Jesus Christ.*
    …. Rom 6:3, Gal 3:27.

    So – Which way do folks “need to be Baptized?”

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  19. Amos, once more, Good morning!

    And, well, there you go launching into the very thing I said I wasn’t trying to provoke, a discussion on the meaning, significance, effect or necessity of baptism. Or such like. Still, my understanding is that unqualified Scriptural references to baptism would have been understood according to the ordinary sense and meaning of the word, which is immersion in water. Any other form of baptism, such as baptism by fire, or baptism with/by/in the Holy Spirit, will be qualified as such. If you’re interested, and if I can find it, I could email you a position paper I once did on the question of baptism with/by/in the Holy Spirit.

    Whether or not my understanding is correct, revivalist preachers in the tradition of Dwight Moody and Billy Graham will tend to agree with my reading. Therefore, in order to be consistent with their convictions, their altar calls should not merely be invitations to say the sinners’ prayer. Rather, they should consist of invitations to be baptized. I submit that there would then be fewer stony ground conversions. Either way, one problem I see with altar calls, as typically practiced, is that they leave no time to count the cost. Even an altar call to baptism would suffer from this deficiency. On the other hand, neither the Ethiopian Eunuch nor the jailer and his family were afforded over much time to consider the cost. On the other hand again, again, they weren’t under the pressures that tend to be inherent in mass meetings.

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  20. Gary,

    I understand scripture such as Mark 16:16 , to mean once an individual has come to believe in Jesus Christ he is also baptized with the Holy Spirit, they go together and are not seperate, always. At the end of this scripture it does not say if an individual is not baptized then he is condemed; if one does not believe in Christ then he is not baptized, and therefore will be condemed. I also have come to believe the bathtub on wheels/river baptisms are no longer necessary as John answered and said to them all, ” as for me, I baptize you with water; but one greater than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

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  21. @pondering:

    Then these men go about boasting, counting, how many people they have ‘saved’.

    Because Souls — not people, Souls(TM) — are the currency of Heaven. I encountered this belief in the Seventies, when I was involved in some really dysfunctional “Me & Jeesus and Nobody Else” splinter “Fellowships” that grew out of the Jesus Movement of the Sixties. Heavily into End-of-the-World, Altar Call/Magic Words Salvation, and WITNESSING WITNESSING WITNESSING.

    The attitude was that on J-Day, God will reward you ONLY on the basis of “How Many Souls(TM) Did You Save” and NOTHING else. Save the most Souls(TM) and you have higher rank in Heaven (save enough Souls(TM) and you get to sit at the Right Hand of Christ).

    That was the carrot to WITNESS WITNESS WITNESS. The accompanying stick was the Ezekiel proof text about the Watchman at the Wall, that “If You Keep Silent and They Are Lost, GOD WILL HOLD YOU ACCOUNTABLE.” i.e. If You Don’t Personally Save Every Soul(TM), God WILL Punish You.

    Put the two together and you have Wretched Urgency on steroids, with additional bragging rights (and Divine brownie points) for the best Soul-Winners(TM). The pressure to Save Souls(TM) was insane, and led to equally crazy desperation tactics to maximize your sales record. And, of course, the successful Soul-Winners had their special favor with God go to their head as they believed their own PR. Casting around “How Many Souls Did You Save? I SAVED MORE!” was a Godly form of one-upmanship.

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  22. @Lydia:

    It concerns me how so many young people are falling for Oligarchical and gendered thinking.

    Because they see themselves climbing to the top as the future Oligarchs, the future Inner Party with all its Rank and Privileges. Just join early and Be-leeeve Completely and they’re in on the ground floor, the Inner Ring with the Alter Kampfer chevrons.

    Less cynically, Young People are immortal in their own mind and searching for self-importance by Doing Great Things; they jump at any opportunity to Be Important, and what’s more Important than a New Mass Movement that will Reshape The Entire World? (With the opportunity to rise high in the process.)

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  23. Gary W

    My apology for “ignoring” your request. And then…
    “launching into the very thing I said I wasn’t trying to provoke, a discussion on the meaning, significance, effect or necessity of baptism.”

    I have been accused a few times of being “Rebellious.” 😉

    And, I agree when you write…
    “Rather, they should consist of invitations to be baptized. I submit that there would then be fewer stony ground conversions.”

    And many less “revivalist preachers in the tradition of Dwight Moody and Billy Graham” if they had to “Baptize” in Water, all those coming forward that day.

    Can you picture all those “revivalist preachers” with wrinkled, water soaked, skin?
    Having to hold on to, then lift up, hundreds of folks who are being dunked?
    😉

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  24. “Before they consider you to be saved, do these elders expect you to believe a certain set of non-salvic doctrines, such as, say, a young earth creation, or a pre-tribulation rapture?”

    In my experience, those went hand-in-hand with Altar Call/Say the Sinner’s Prayer. And extreme Shepherding, “Total Separation from the World (It’s All Gonna Burn)”. Hardcore Anti-Catholic (“Whore of Babylon prophesied in Revelation”.) Certainty that your own “Fellowship” was the only Church who got it right and all others were Apostate. (i.e. the same view of Church History as the SDAs, Mormons, and JWs.)

    These groups sprang up out of the macro-anarchy of the Sixties (same as the Jesus Freaks and Calvary Chapel) and stayed fiercely Independent (“Just Me and Jeesus”), drifting into dysfunction like all those IFBs of a previous Revival generations.

    Funny thing was, these Independent Fellowships/Churches were only anarchistic on the macro level. Within their own group and/or not-a-denomination, they were control-freak conformity. The ones I was involved with did NOT have a single Cult Leader (unless you count an absentee Jack Chick or Hal Lindsay); instead, conformity was enforced mostly through Groupthink consensus.

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  25. Can you picture all those “revivalist preachers” with wrinkled, water soaked, skin?
    Having to hold on to, then lift up, hundreds of folks who are being dunked?
    😉

    Why do you think my church (RCC) went to pouring and sprinkling?

    Logistics for mass baptisms, especially in areas where a large amount of water was scarce.

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  26. Gary W

    Yes – Please email me
    “a position paper I once did on the question of baptism
    with/by/in the Holy Spirit.”

    Two reasons…

    I’d like to see what you came up with.

    And, I’ve NEVER, ever, read, “A Position Paper.” 😉

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  27. HUG

    Yes – “Jack Chick or Hal Lindsay”

    Two of my hero’s of the faith….

    Once upon a time – In a land far, far, awry. (Correct Spelling)

    😉 😉

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  28. Gary W

    I was surprized to find, Alan Knox, a PHD student in Greek,
    saying similar things about Baptism, on his blog.

    http://www.alanknox.net/2012/07/the-verb-baptize-in-ambiguous-contexts-in-the-new-testament/

    “When Jesus instructs his followers to “baptize”, does he mean “immerse in water”? Perhaps. This is the traditional interpretation. However, water is not mentioned in this context at all. As we’ve seen before, when the meaning of “baptize” is “immerse in water”, we usually find water in the context. If the phrase “in the name of the Father…” was changed to “in the water…”, then we would immediately know how to interpret the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo).

    Could it be, then, that instead of “immersing in water”, Jesus has something else in mind? Could it be that in order to “make disciples” (the command), we need to “immerse” people in the “name” (character, authority, etc.) of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? This seems to fit better into the context, especially when “teaching” is considered along with “baptizing”.”

    I like Alan – He is NOT blogging at this time…
    And has lots of good stuff still on his blog…

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  29. Pondering,

    Your reading may be correct. Although I personally tend to take a both/and approach when it comes to water baptism and Spirit baptism, maybe the Mark passage, and others, refer to Spirit Baptism as opposed to water Baptism. Certainly I agree that one need not be baptized in water to be saved. I consider myself to have been saved for some years before I was water baptized.

    Probably I created some confusion when I said “people became Christians [i]n the first century of the Christian era by being baptized.” I absolutely did not intend to say that being baptized is what saved them. I do, however, think that baptism was the means by which they submitted to our Lord and Savior. If I am correct, then I also submit that such a manner of yielding to our Lord was, and still would be, more likely to yield lasting results than our current emphasis on coming forward to say the sinners’ prayer, and maybe sign a commitment card.

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  30. HUG,

    Now, this has nothing to do with altar calls, but you mention the RCC being seen as the “Whore of Babylon prophesied in Revelation.” Well, the verse is, “And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” (Revelation 17:5 KJV).

    Well, my question is, if the Roman Catholic Church is the whore that sittith on many waters, just which institutions, exactly, are her harlot daughters? Hmmm?

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  31. Gary W

    “just which institutions, exactly, are her harlot daughters?”

    Do WE, His Ekklesia, His Church, His Called out Ones…
    Get a prize if WE, His Sheep, His Disciples, answer correctly? 😉

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  32. Gary W

    Or do WE, His Bride, His sons, His kings and priests…
    Get to live FREE…

    2 Cor 3:17
    Now the Lord is that Spirit:
    and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is LIBERTY.

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  33. Amos, you will definitely experience the reward of an unexpressed attaboy if you reach what I deem to be the correct logical conclusion of the supposition that the RCC is the “Whore of Babylon prophesied in Revelation.” What the actual identity of the whore and her harlot children might be, however, I’m not at all certain. Not that I don’t have my thoughts . . .

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  34. Gary W

    Or do WE, His Bride, His sons, His kings and priests…
    Get to live FREE….

    When WE, recognize “her harlot daughters?” And – “Come Out.”

    Rev 18:4
    And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, **Come out** of her, my people,
    that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.

    2 Cor 6:14-17
    Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: f
    or what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?
    and what communion hath light with darkness?
    15* And what concord hath Christ with Belial?
    or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
    16* And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?
    for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said,
    I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
    17 Wherefore **come out** from among them,
    and be ye separate, saith the Lord,
    and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,

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  35. “Well, my question is, if the Roman Catholic Church is the whore that sittith on many waters, just which institutions, exactly, are her harlot daughters? Hmmm?”

    Exactly Gary. And why do people assume that Revelations was written ONLY for a future audience of a state church coming out of Rome and not the audience of it’s era?

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  36. Gary W,
    Belief and repentance followed by Baptism to publicly acknowledge that you believe in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ is the combination Jesus Himself showed the world. An alter call can’t replace any of it. I don’t care how big of a celeb preacher they are. I don’t think not being baptized is going to keep anyone from Heaven it is a symbol, but nonbelief and lack of repentance will most assuredly.

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  37. Gary, Like you, I would rather not discuss in depth the Baptism issue. I think from my study there is a whole other aspect to it bridging the OT with the NT and the defintion of repentence. There is a book that touches on this in the first chapter that I think you would find interesting. It is about church state relationships throughout history but starts with John the Baptist. It is written by one of my favorite lesser known scholars, Leonard Verduin. He also wrote the Reformers and their Stepchildren which is excellent.

    Here is a link:

    http://www.amazon.com/The-anatomy-hybrid-church-state-relationships/dp/0802816150/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1405877579&sr=8-1&keywords=anatomy+of+a+hybrid+leonard+verduin

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  38. Regarding something Headless Unicorn Guysaid, either on this thread or one a few threads ago (I saw it last night but cannot remember the exact thread), about people who say they “agree to disagree.”

    I am a big believer in “agree to disagree.”

    I don’t use that phrase or mindset because I’m being trounced and beaten in an online (or RL – real life) debate, but because I genuinely prefer to get along with other people, rather than get into endless fuss and fights with them, especially if the fight is getting nasty and heated.

    I get deeply annoyed by people who do not abide by “agree to disagree,” and I unfortunately find the rejection of “agree to disagree” is commonplace on various sites and blogs, including some portions of participants on spiritual abuse blogs and forums (I’ve not seen too much of it here on this particular blog, but on others or Facebook groups).

    Especially in regards to issues of militant atheism, homosexuality, and militant Islam (I dislike all three myself) – those members who are very left wing politically will represent you as being a “bigot” or a “hater” or an “intolerant” meanie.

    If you do not support Islam, homosexuality, and atheism, you will be argued with on such blogs as though you are a narrow minded hater. Or, if you point out that at times, some members those three groups (Muslims, stalwart atheists or homosexuals) themselves can be very hateful, violent, or discriminatory against their opponents as well, you’ll still get raked over the coals in the comments section.

    I am expected to fully agree with all things Islam, homosexual, and atheist, but if I do not, the lefties on those sites will not just “agree to disagree” and let it go.

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  39. Amos,

    Can you picture all those “revivalist preachers” with wrinkled, water soaked, skin?
    Having to hold on to, then lift up, hundreds of folks who are being dunked?

    That I would like to see.!!! Can you imagine the damage to their suits?

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  40. “Belief and repentance followed by Baptism to publicly acknowledge that you believe in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ is the combination Jesus Himself showed the world. An alter call can’t replace any of it. I don’t care how big of a celeb preacher they are. I don’t think not being baptized is going to keep anyone from Heaven it is a symbol, but nonbelief and lack of repentance will most assuredly.”

    Brenda, Have you ever wondered why Jesus would insist on being Baptized by John when He was actually sinless and the Baptism John was doing was focused soley on repetence? It is an interesting question to ponder. And I agree with you that the act of baptism does not save. However, I will argue with evangelicals all day long that confessing belief without true Metanoia does not save either. I always go back to Jesus’ first “sermons” after the desert experience: Repent and believe.

    Repentance lived out is just as “horizontal” as it is vertical. Which means how we live now and deal with justice is very important.

    That is not something we see in many evangelical circles these days. They have redefined sin to fit their desires and call it piety to brag about being sinners. John the Baptist would be appalled.

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  41. Lydia said,

    Exactly Gary. And why do people assume that Revelations was written ONLY for a future audience of a state church coming out of Rome and not the audience of it’s era?

    Are you saying it’s both? I could maybe argue both, but there are some elements that are futuristic, such as the literal, visible return of Jesus Christ on a white horse. That has not happened yet.

    Like

  42. HUG has mentioned above and over at TWW and here about being turned off to evangelicalism via Hal Lindsey’s “The Late Great Planet Earth” and a few other reasons.

    As I said at TWW and Internet Monk’s site months ago, I still agree with Lindsey’s prophecy views.

    Lindsey’s views don’t bother me, and it’s rather irrelevant to me how many times the dude has been married, why do people bother bringing this non-point up – rhetorical question (his being divorced 3 times and on Wife 4 does not necessarily mean his prophecy views are false – it’s apples vs. oranges situation).

    What finally got to me about the Pre Trib, and such views, is I simply got burnt out and tired by them.

    I was fascinated by prophecy since my early or mid teens and read many books about it, and watched many hours of TV shows about it (on Christian networks). I stil think the futurist, pre trib, dispy views are the correct ones, but…

    By the time I got to my mid 30s, I was worn out. I have heard so many sermons or studies on TV (and in some churches in person) where the host explains who the Anti Christ is, and how the world ends, it gets so old.

    Lindsey used to say the end of the world was coming via the USSR, back in the 1980s. After 9/11 (and the USSR fell apart years prior), he began focusing on Islam.

    It’s not just him, other TV prophecy preachers have done similar.

    Every time something happens in the Middle East, like Hamas launches rockets at Isarel, or Iran makes threats about ‘wiping Israel off the map,’ immediately talking heads like Rev John Hagee churn out a new prophecy book exclaiming (like on the Sanford and Son TV show), this is it! This is the Big One! The world’s gonna end soon soon soooooon.

    These guys have been predicting the Soon End Of The World every other year since I have been a teen. I’m in my early 40s now, and the world is still chugging along as it’s always been.

    I now come across these shows on TV when channel surfing, yawn, and usually turn the channel.

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  43. Gary W

    Received your ‘Position Paper” letter. Read it twice so far.
    I will do that again before commenting.
    And I like the way you presented it.

    Interesting how one little two lettered word
    can be translated so many different ways. Mercy Lord..

    And, you type using Greek letters. I’m impressed, typing in Greek.

    I used to know a little Greek…

    But, then he moved to the west coast. 😉

    Like

  44. I was watching a TV preacher today, and he issued an altar call.

    He said a line I’ve heard other preachers use.

    I forget exactly how it goes, but it’s something like, “Because Jesus suffered publicly for you on the cross, I ask people to step forward publicly to accept Christ.”

    Like

  45. ‘I am expected to fully agree with all things Islam, homosexual, and atheist, but if I do not, the lefties on those sites will not just “agree to disagree” and let it go.’

    Daisy, the left is just as bad as the right they claim are hateful. It is just the actual issues they support are different. Methods are pretty much the same on both sides. Both sides have a propensity to censorship and group think using similar methods of peer pressure. The left declares the right hateful and the right declares the left heretics. I will admit the left is better at it, though.

    The powers that be for each side love this. It is the way they keep deep convos on issues from happening. It is a way to cut down on thinking, free exchange of ideas that could go a long way to fix some of our serious problems.

    What either one cannot see is both of them pander to tyranny in some form whether from government or the church. Micromanaging either our spiritual life or our physical life. I think all tyranny is bad. And I don’t think for one minute the church or the government really cares about what is best for me as an individual. But even trying to have serious indepth convos with either side is becoming almost impossible. And that suits their gurus/leaders just fine.

    Like

  46. Amos, thanks for granting more credit than is due. While I could type in Greek, especially if you don’t insist on accent marks and other diacriticals, it is much easier to simply cut and paste.

    Like

  47. “Sigh, another book added to my impossibly long Amazon wish list. Thanks Lydia!”

    Tell me about it! Verduin is always worth it, I promise. He is a very deep thinker and incredible scholar. I wish he has written more. His books are only now being discovered by the peasants.

    Like

  48. Daisy, you say, “These guys have been predicting the Soon End Of The World every other year since I have been a teen.” Hal Lindsey. Al Gore. Six of one. . .

    Eh, wonder who all I’ve offended now.

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  49. Lydia, great points. I would add that Jesus’ first “sermon” was to the majority peasants–considered unclean or marginally devout by religious elite like Pharisees. He told them “repent (change your mind) and believe the good news.” It was a call to embrace something good, not a warning to avoid something bad. So, the message has facets, not just a salvation from sin or wrath. In fact, John’s message was a call to right living and justice, not religious in nature at all. Later, Jesus’ message was a call to purity of heart, not outward purity, which is the stuff of human religion. These parts of the core message are minimized or ignored by evangelicals who instead make it all about “accepting Jesus as Savior” (and doctrines that implies) in some conversion experience. I see salvation more of a process and direction and a new paradigm, rather than an event.

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  50. Lydia,
    Have you ever wondered why Jesus would insist on being Baptized by John when He was actually sinless and the Baptism John was doing was focused soley on repetence?

    Yes, actually I have. I really think he was the example for us. He was perfect in every way and by being Baptized He was showing by example what he expected from us. He showed the disciples the sacrament of the Lord’s Table that we are to observe. He showed us everything that we need to know to live like Him. I for one fall very short of that example, but he loves me any ways. I agree without doubt that saying a prayer without a heart change is worthless, which would also make baptism worthless. You may as well go for a swim without the Spirit dwelling in your heart.

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  51. Daisy,

    TV prophecy preachers

    I refer to Matthew 24:26 when anyone brings up the whole, it won’t be long now topic. [ No One Knows That Day and Hour ] “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.

    TV prophecy preachers certainly do not know more than the Son of God. I think most of these guys fall under the false prophet heading and will be more severely judged. I wouldn’t want to be them. God is patient and wants no one not to accept Him, but I don’t think He is going to have great Patience with these folks.

    Like

  52. Exactly Gary. And why do people assume that Revelations was written ONLY for a future audience of a state church coming out of Rome and not the audience of it’s era?

    Are you saying it’s both? I could maybe argue both, but there are some elements that are futuristic, such as the literal, visible return of Jesus Christ on a white horse. That has not happened yet.”

    Oh sure, I agree there is prophecy about the return of Christ and rejoining the heaven and earth in redeeming God’s creation for those who have lived as redeemed people. I am not sure I agree the white horse is a “literal” horse Jesus would be riding. Why not a white helicopter if prohecy of transportation is the issue? Because the audience would not understand and it was written for the people of that day to give them hope.

    A white horse stands for something, obviously and we could discuss the different views all day. We tend to read the bible through our post enlightenment western literal black and white eyes and we miss the confusing literary story telling genres the 1st Century person was used to hearing. Even going further back to the OT, the “sea” communicated/represented something “dark, uncontrolled and evil” to people in stories. Something we have rarely been taught to take into consideration when we are reading the OT.

    But to give just one example of where I am coming from I will mention the much discussed “mark of the beast”. The Classical Greek word charagma translated as mark (of the beast) in Revelation 13:16 also means stamped or coin as in stamped coin and there was something going on in Ephesus (Domitions favorite city) about buying and selling in the Angora that made this a problem. (Domition insisted on being called a God and punished to death those who refused). Some ancient manuscripts render the number as 616. So if Revelation written later around 95 this makes sense. If written earlier around 60, we look to nero?

    The point I am making is that we must seek to understand how a 1st Century person would have understood this letter written to them of John’s Revelation. The information of the “mark” affected them even in Ephesus where it is thought John went after Patmos and the Revelation was first heard read. Some scholars insist the author was using a chiastic structure in various places often used in both OT and NT. I find that structure incredibly confusing because we are taught to communicate differently… but understanding that helps to make sense of some passages (like in Eph 4-5) that others use to proof text and beat us over the head with!

    Here is something it took me a while to wrap my head around: The Romans referred to Christians as atheists. In their view that is exactly what they were.

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  53. HUG,
    “How Many Souls(TM) Did You Save”. I don’t think God is going to judge us on this because he is aware that is his job, not ours. People get some crazy notions some times.

    Like

  54. @GaryW:

    Oops! Controversial preacher would be Bell, Rob Bell, wrote “Love Wins.”

    And promptly got piled on in the “Rob Bell vs Team Hell” smackdown.

    Like

  55. @GaryW:

    Daisy, you say, “These guys have been predicting the Soon End Of The World every other year since I have been a teen.” Hal Lindsey. Al Gore. Six of one. . .

    Both Hal Lindsay and Al Gore are coming from an Apocalyptic tradition, but expressing it in completely-different ways. God/The Plaaanet is Angry With Us For Our Sins Against Him/Her And We Must REPENT!!!!!

    Previous “Left Behinds for Brights” have included Inevitable Global Thermonuclear War, Ozone Hole, Global Cooling Crisis, and Marxist Economics. In all cases, World-ending Apocalyptic Crisis Enthusiasm (though Marx at least had a Millennial Utopia after his Armageddon of The Revolution).

    Apocalypse without Hope leads to despair and suicide. A lot of Apocalyptic memes offer hope that We Can Avoid The Apocalypse if we just Take Action and do X. (X varies, but ALWAYS agrees with whoever is making the Apocalyptic prophecy.) Hal Lindsay (cribbing from John Nelson Darby) substituted a passive Escape Route where God will beam you up before anything bad can personally happen to you. (Do I need to describe how dangerous an addition that is?)

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  56. @Daisy:

    By the time I got to my mid 30s, I was worn out. I have heard so many sermons or studies on TV (and in some churches in person) where the host explains who the Anti Christ is, and how the world ends, it gets so old.

    Lindsey used to say the end of the world was coming via the USSR, back in the 1980s. After 9/11 (and the USSR fell apart years prior), he began focusing on Islam.

    It’s not just him, other TV prophecy preachers have done similar.

    It’s analogous to writing SF set in the near future, or “future histories” where you have to plug your storyline of The Future into an ever-changing Present whose changes can invalidate your entire premise.

    The Second Russian Revolution in 1991 block-obsoleted a LOT of future histories and near-future fiction (including technothrillers), which assumed the Cold War would continue long into the future. Hal Lindsay fanboys took it further, where their “History Written In Advance” required the USSR and the Cold War to continue literally until the end of time.

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  57. @Daisy:

    I am expected to fully agree with all things Islam, homosexual, and atheist, but if I do not, the lefties on those sites will not just “agree to disagree” and let it go.

    They are just as Fundamentalist as any of the Right Wing Haterz in pulpits they denounce.

    Funhouse mirror reflections of each other, like Josef Stalin and Ayn Rand.

    Or the half-black and half-white aliens going for each others’ throats in that third-season Old Testament Star Trek script.

    Like

  58. @GaryW:

    Well, my question is, if the Roman Catholic Church is the whore that sittith on many waters, just which institutions, exactly, are her harlot daughters? Hmmm?

    One faction views the Whore of Babylon as some sort of economic system (like Rome sitting on its seven hills bleeding her outer provinces to support bread and circuses and bling-bling at home; remember where the seven churches in the earlier part of Revelation are located). This often leads to denunciations identifying the Whore of Babylon as the USA and her destruction as Global Thermonuclear War. (“God’s Judgment for America’s sins sits ready and waiting in the Nuclear Missile Silos of the Soviet Union!!!!!”)

    But the most consistent thing I heard along those lines was the Whore represents corrupted economic system, the Beast corrupted political power, and the False Prophet corrupted religious systems. And Christ’s return ends the corruption forever.

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  59. Hug, I got to the point I totally avoided Escatology at all costs. It got to be ridiculous during the 90’s, too with the Left Behind books. One mega had David Reagan in about 4x per year to packed crowds. He was big into the temple mount stuff in Israel.

    My cousin was a missionary in Romania and when home on sabbatical took some of the current Left Behind books during their hayday with her back to show her colleagues. They were confiscated at the border and her papers marked. It was very unpleasant a situation that freaked her out.

    One reason it really started to bother me big time is that there IS something significant about the timing and historical rise of Zionism, the Hebrew language almost dead making a comeback through Hertzel, the process of Jews in Europe buying so much land from the Assyrians (who laughed all the way to the bank) and then the founding of Isreal in 1948 which became only democracy in the ME and so on. But people take it to ridiculous levels and put meanings into things that are a total stretch.

    It started to remind me of the DaVinci code or something. Anyone remember Jack and Rexella Van Impe? In college on Sunday mornings we would watch them while drinking Mismosas for breakfast. What a trip!

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  60. “Funhouse mirror reflections of each other, like Josef Stalin and Ayn Rand.”

    Except Ayn Rand had no military and escaped the Russian Revolution.
    Which explains why she became an athiestic objectivist. (She got her new name off a typewriter, btw) I loved her book, Atlas Shrugged, though. I went through a Rand phase in my 20’s. It was short lived. :o)

    Stalin, had prepared for the seminary to be a priest when the communist religion called him. Funny how life goes.

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  61. @Lydia:

    Except Ayn Rand had no military and escaped the Russian Revolution.

    More important, Rand (“The Only Truly Rational Mind Who Ever Lived”) didn’t have the absolute power of life and death over a country and everyone in it that Stalin had. If she had, I have no doubt her Objectivist regime would have been just as bloody as Stalin’s Communist regime.

    And now for something a little weirder:
    Ayn Rand as a My Little Pony Villain!
    http://www.fimfiction.net/story/5172/5/the-bad-apple-chronicles/apple-shrugged
    Join Bad Apple, Riverboat Gambler Con Pony and special agent for the Equestrian Crown as he infiltrates Vault’s Vale in “Apple Shrugged”.

    Like

  62. Hug, LOL! Now that was clever.

    Just thinking of an Objectivist regime made me ponder lots of arrogant Howard Roarks running around blowing up lots of buildings not built to their precise specficiations. :o)

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  63. Lydia said, Anyone remember Jack and Rexella Van Impe?

    Yep. They’re still on TV. I used to watch them in the 1980s, and have seen their show off and on since then.

    Their show doesn’t really amount to much.

    Every single episode is the blond lady (Rexella) reading a batch of that week’s news headlines, the deep voiced guy offering DVDs for sale, and 20 minutes of Van Impe yelling Bible chapter names and numbers, such as (I’m just making these up, have no idea if these are actually in the Bible or not),

    ~Presenting every episode of Jack Van Impe ever created~
    [Jack Van Impe speaking]
    “Hey everyone, Romans 4:23! Genesis 1:34! Don’t forget Galatians 5:22, Isaiah 52:3, Psalm 125: 79, and Hebrews 55: 2. On top of all that, you must bear in mind that right before Jesus comes, Acts 10: 15 is true, and expect Peter 56:21!! And how can anyone forget Micah 15:34? Repent! Repent! The Lord is coming soon! And what about 1 Corinthians 6:7! 1 Thessalonians 5:3! 1 Thessalonians 17:29!!”
    ——————————
    BTW, in the early years, back in the 80s and into the 90s, Van Impe was very much against Roman Catholicism, but in the last ten years or so, he became a huge fan of Roman Catholicism.

    The flip flop was breathtaking. I’ve no idea what moved the dude from being in disagreement with the RCC to now he is a very big RCC cheerleader (unless he has since flip flopped yet again. I’ve not watched an episode in several months).

    Regardless of if you are RC, or not RC, or agree with RCism or not, the “about face” seemed weird to me.

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  64. Daisy,
    From what you’ve said I’m glad I never watched Van Impe. My Mama didn’t like tv evangelists and I never took up the practice.

    Like

  65. HUG,

    Glad you escaped some of it. I didn’t come across the two types of tracts I mentioned until my late teens, when I could critique or just laugh at them.

    I’m also immensely thankful to have escaped the Gothard empire and the crazy world of fundamentalist Baptists largely due to being from the Pacific northwest.

    That wacko stuff I described witnessing was in an Assembly of God church.

    Like

  66. Anyone else ever sit through Thief In The Night? I can relate to being worn out by eschatology debates, and this was one reason why. These days I guess I’m panmillenial, as in it will all pan out in the end. Sometimes I find amillenialism mildly attractive though. Don’t really have an opinion on the Great Tribulation.

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  67. Gary,

    No, you didn’t create any confusion! And, I was just sharing what I have come to understand baptism to mean. Isn’t it refreshing that each individual is welcome to share their thoughts and concerns here at SSB. All of these conversations are intended to bring about more healthy, mature believers in Christ – as each discussion makes us think for ourselves instead of being told what to think! 🙂

    Like

  68. All of these conversations are intended to bring about more healthy, mature believers in Christ – as each discussion makes us think for ourselves instead of being told what to think!
    Pondering–AMEN!!

    Like

  69. Has everyone seen O Brother Where Art Thou? 🙂 Remember when Delmar went and ‘got saved’ ? He said, that preacher done washed my away sins! What Delmar said is what many preachers believe today: that it is they who have the power to wash the sins of the people away.

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  70. Tim, Thank you for sharing that. It is always good to have something to laugh about throughout the work day. I enjoyed that.

    Like

  71. I grew up in a non-abusive Baptist church. I currently go to an non-abusive non-denominational mega church. Both churches have “invitations” every Sunday. I never saw anything wrong with it, but I see how it could be manipulative.

    I got saved at age eight or nine. The pastor gave a sermon on Heaven and then said, “If you’re not sure if you’re going to Heaven or not, pray this prayer.” I prayed it because I thought it was a magic charm to get into Heaven, but shortly after that, the Spirit began working in my heart, and I got saved for real.

    So altar calls can be a good thing, but I think kids esp. need to be taught that the mere acts of going forward and praying won’t save you.

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  72. As a Catholic Bishop, I do not use altar calls or altar call songs in my liturgies. This does not mean I discount them though. As a young enlisted Chaplain Assistant in the Army during the Vietnam era, I was assigned to an Assemblies of God Chaplain. During our first meeting he told me he did not expect to be assigned a Catholic assistant. He didn’t know too much about Catholics but didn’t think I would be too comfortable working for him. E explained that I would be expected to assist him with a “special” service on Tuesday nights. I told him I was trained to assist at Protestant services. He said this one was different because various charismatic gifts of the Spirit would be present and, frankly, he prayed to be assigned a pentecostal assistant. I said, “How do you know your prayers weren’t answered?” He looked at me with a big question mark on his face. I said, “I may be Catholic but I am also charismatic and have been given some of the gifts. I am the only Charismatic Chaplain on the post. I assisted with altar calls and took to my heart some of the old time Gospel songs like “He Touched Me” and “Just as I Am.” I think altar calls should be changed a little bit though. The preaching and music are compelling but I think folks should be called forward who want to commit their lives to Christ as well who want to (usually silently) confess their sins or receive prayers or a blessing. In our tradition, every time I celebrate Divine Liturgy, I invite people up to the altar to receive the actual Body and Blood of Christ. our type of altar call. I also invite folks to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation to unburden themselves. May God bless each of you who read this.

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  73. Welcome Bishop Robert!

    Thanks for sharing your altar call experience. I’ll bet your chaplain was surprised. I was raised Catholic and our parish priest was one of the very few Charismatic Catholics in the area. I’ll never forget his kind heart.

    Like

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