My Personal Christian Blog

Thanks for sliding into my blog site. This blog bog is a spin-off from my website at Call me a Night Owl, as my full-time mission and hobby are jabbering from midnight until 8 a.m.ish with chatter bugs across the world. Hoot, hoot! Being a retired newspaper guy and a Curious George, I've written and assembled a whack of stuff that I hope you'll find interesting and thought-provoking. Check out the Stories bar on the right side, below, for all my articles - from my web site and this blog.

January 12, 2017



By Paul Tatham

If evangelist Billy Graham is known for any one aspect of his gospel crusades, it was his signature song of invitation, Just As I Am.

It was the culminating hymn that the mass choir, led by song-leader Cliff Barrows, sang emotively while hundreds of audience members streamed forward to receive Christ as their Savior.

Led by the Holy Spirit, after Graham’s clear portrayal of an eternity without God, respondents knew exactly what the evangelist was asking of them.

It was simple. God is sinless, we’re not, and our only hope of making it into Heaven is to accept Christ’s death on our behalf. And, best of all, good works have nothing to do with it.

We don’t have to earn our way into Heaven. Salvation is free for the asking!
But not all “altar calls”—as they are commonly branded--are created equal.

I have sat through many of them in local churches, typically delivered at the culmination of the sermon while the organ plays softly in the background.

Such appeals are thrilling, but, quite frankly, many of them leave me scratching my head. I try to put myself in the position of someone who has never heard God’s simple plan of salvation but find myself thinking that it’s not that simple.

If I were in the audience, lost and on my way to Hell, I’d likely be confused. What exactly is the pastor saying, and what exactly does he want me to do?

Firstly, what is the pastor saying about getting into Heaven? Is he able to break it down into bite-size pieces that even a five-year-old can chew? The gospel, literally the “good news,” is as simple as A, B, C:

1. Admit—we must admit that we are a sinner, unworthy of Heaven (Romans 3:23)
2. Believe—we must believe that God’s Son Jesus died for our sins and rose from
the grave (John 3:16)
3. Call—we must pray and, by faith, receive Christ into our life (Romans 10:13)

With a few pertinent illustrations added to clarify each point, that’s the gospel in a nutshell. Yet, it’s not always delivered as clearly as one might hope.

Here are a few suggestions, humbly offered, that might disperse the fog:

Don’t over-explain it, don’t under-explain it

Salvation is not a terribly deep concept to grasp. Don’t dig so deeply that you bury half the audience in religious dogma and verbiage. On the other hand, don’t whiz by the basics so fast that the other half of the audience is lost in your wake.

Don’t tack on a gospel invitation as almost an afterthought

Sometimes preachers tack on an invitation to accept Christ when they have made no mention of the gospel in their message. The message, for example, may have dealt with the Old Testament story of Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal. Closing out his message, the pastor then adds an altar call. Elijah’s showdown on Mt. Carmel, juxtaposed with Christ’s death on the cross, will leave many in the congregation wondering what one has to do with the other.

Don’t mix appeals

Something else that causes confusion is to ask the audience to respond to one of several appeals. This is not the time to multitask. Preachers sometimes ask people to “come forward to receive Christ as your Savior,” but also tack on an appeal for those seeking baptism, or to join the church, or to go on a mission trip, etc. Those are all certainly worthy appeals, but if they are all tossed into the same basket, they can be confusing.

Don’t dilute the true gospel

Don’t water down salvation. Some preachers seem to miss the gravity of salvation. They will make statements along the line of, “Won’t you accept Christ? He wants to be your Friend.” It’s if Jesus is viewed as nothing more than your new celestial golf partner. 

Of course, it is true that Jesus wants to be your “buddy,” but He also wants to be so much more. He died a horrible death and suffered the shame of having His heavenly Father turn His back on Him. 

He rescued you from having to spend an eternity in the Lake of Fire. Because we feel we must be ever alert to the sensitivities of so many today, preachers are reluctant to even use the word “Hell.” 

Few are able to convey just how repugnant our sins are to a perfect Savior. As a result, it’s been a long time since many of us have seen someone coming to the altar tearfully repentant. The great British evangelist Charles Spurgeon warned of dry-eyed conversions.

For those who make appeals for salvation, we applaud your efforts. But perhaps your labors will yield more fruit if you implement these suggestions.