What's On Our Mind?
A series by Brother Kemery on what biblical conversion is:
False Converts and the Altar Call
Part 2 - The Church
Matthew 28:18-20 states: "And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All authority is given to Me in Heaven and in earth. Therefore go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things, whatever I commanded you. And, behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the world. Amen". I am often amazed how many times I hear this passage quoted, with the only focus being given is the salvation message, and no emphasis given to the portion about baptism and teaching people to observe all things. Of course where do we generally get baptized and the learn to observe all things? The church.
The altar call has become big in many ways through mass evangelism campaigns, most notably with campaigns like the Billy Graham crusades. Now with these crusades what they would do is go into a town and recruit churches. The idea became Graham would preach the gospel people would respond to the altar call and then get referred to churches. This may sound ok, but what ended up happening is a breakdown. People would respond, but by the time all was said and done few ended up in church. This does not even get into the questionable and heretical churches like the Billy Graham ministries would recommend. So you would have a big focus on the event, but once it passed nothing, meaning you would see no impact on the local churches or more people in the area following Christ. When we read the New Testament, you see Peter and Paul preaching the Gospel and then starting churches. They were directly involved. In the case of Graham and other evangelists like him they would preach and then leave. This latter pattern of divorcing evangelism from the starting of and raising up of a church is never seen in the New Testament.
The church I was a leader in had an altar call ministry (the one I talked about in the previous article) which more or less followed the same pattern. Now yes it was in a church and it could be argued it met the requirement I just mentioned. However in that church the separating of the Gospel from church life also happened. I could give many examples, but on one of the major holidays (I think Thanksgiving) I remember the church going to the homeless giving away food and coming back and reporting something like 25 people received the Lord. The church was overjoyed (except me and a few others like me who knew what really went on). Needless to say the people who were supposedly saved were not in church the next Sunday and never really mentioned again. All this to point out the pattern of divorcing evangelism from the church is accepted in the church as a matter of practice and understanding.
When we look at the command in Matthew that I cited above, it is three fold. People are told to preach the gospel, be baptized and observe all things Christ commanded. Look at the command. Which part is the most laborious? Obviously the observe all I commanded part. When does that happen? Thoughout a lifetime. A person joins a church and the Bible is taught. People are encouraged and exhorted to study and obey it. To do so must be done in the context of the church. So this is where the lion's share of our focus should be.
So with this we often hear about how many people were "led to the Lord". I believe this is a dangerous statement because it bases success on the altar call response, not faithfulness to delivering the correct Gospel message. It also in many ways bases that answer to how the person responded to the salvation call I have been talking about, not a Biblical standard. The best way to see if someone has been "led to the Lord" is their response to parts 2 and 3 of the Great commision mentioned here, meaning did they get baptized and are they seeking to follow Christ? So in other words time will tell. However we look for responses but not growth. A big event in easy, but teaching encouraging people to grow is hard and long. Further we should not try to decide if someone is saved or not saved, especially based on a response. They need to hash that out with the Lord. Rom. 8:16 states: "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God”. What gives us the idea we can step in and do what God says the Spirit will do in Romans 8:16? I mean really.
The final result is another form of easy believism, that is believe in Christ, get saved, but you don't have to grow, you don't have to go to church. We may not say this, but imply it by our actions. This is why it is important to be part of a good church. We want to be able to preach to someone and lead them to a place they can grow in Christ. Can there be exceptions? Of course. We see that in Acts 8:26-40 with Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. But what do we see everywhere else in the New Testament outside of this passage? People coming to Christ and becoming part of the church and growing.
So what should we do the next time we speak with someone about Christ and they say they desire to follow Him? Invite them to a crusade to hear a message that frankly any Christian should be able to give? I mean let's be honest, listen to a Billy Graham message. His messages are often praised for their simplicity. Well the flip side of that if it is so simple why do we depend on power evangelists to preach it? Paul the greatest power evangelist (outside of Christ) of all time said in 1 Cor 2:1-2: "And I, brothers, when I came to you, did not come with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified”. So next time we speak with someone if they show interest in salvation, tell them the next part which is being baptized and learning all Christ commanded, and of course where do they learn that? In a church that teaches those things.
Finally we often speak to people who are enthusiastic about Christ but have no use for the church. They come up with all kinds of reasons not to go to church. Where in the New Testament do you see this? Nowhere. People believe and become part of a church. So next time instead of inventing our own wisdom remember the words of the apostle John: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they were of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out so that it might be revealed that they were not all of us”, (1 John 2:19) and after remembering exhorting if necessary.
-all scripture taken from Modern King James Version
- Brother Jack Kemery