The altar call is an appeal in which the speaker invites attendees to come forward as a way of acknowledging their decision to follow Christ. Many consider Charles Finney (1792-1875) to be the founder of the altar call even though early Methodist used a similar approach known as the "mourners bench."
I have had the privilege of working on the field at large stadium events where altar calls have been given, and I have also offered many appeals to come forward as well, primarily in the early years of my ministry.
Let me begin by saying that anytime we give an honest appeal for a person to turn to God, it's a good thing. But in our zeal to "get people into the kingdom," we sometimes run the risk of offering false assurance. This is a very real danger in the church today. Many come forward after a sermon, but do they change? Often, it's the "I'll give Jesus a try" attitude, rather than a broken heart desperately seeking a Savior — the American gospel versus the true gospel. more >>
Pope Francis has called on Christians everywhere to campaign to end the death penalty and life imprisonment, a goal which has been achieved in the Vatican state. Meanwhile, a recently released Gallup poll found that six in 10 Americans support capital punishment.
"It is impossible to imagine that states today cannot make use of another means than capital punishment to defend peoples' lives from an unjust aggressor," Francis said Wednesday in a meeting with representatives of the International Association of Penal Law, Catholic News Service reported.
"All Christians and people of good will are thus called today to struggle not only for abolition of the death penalty, whether it be legal or illegal and in all its forms, but also to improve prison conditions, out of respect for the human dignity of persons deprived of their liberty. And this, I connect with life imprisonment," he said. "Life imprisonment is a hidden death penalty." more >>
Alternative rock musician and Dove Award winning Christian Michael Gungor of the musical collective, Gungor, is now calling for unity in Christendom months after being branded a heretic and other names like "twofold son of hell" for challenging the literal interpretation of the book of Genesis in the Bible.
Gungor, the son of a preacher, rattled the Christian community this year when he revealed that he and his wife, Lisa, the faces of the musical collective, don't literally believe in stories from the Bible on such topics as creation and the flood, a departure from orthodox Christian doctrine.
The revelation drew the ire of many Christian fundamentalists who have consumed Gungor music to the point of making some of the collective's popular songs like "Dry Bones" and "Beautiful Things" worship anthems. more >>
Is Islam a religion? This question, and others perceived as Islamaphobic, were debated by several professors at Union Theological Seminary in New York City Wednesday, with the panelists seeking to encourage the audience to participate in meaningful inter-religious dialogue.
With the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) gaining power and territory in the Middle East, questions regarding Islam and the beliefs and traditions among Muslim sects have been asked repeatedly. Numerous academics have weighed in on the question of whether Islam is truly violent and an authentic religion; three professors, along with one activist, came together at Union Theological Seminary to examine the issue further.
"We can understand Islamophobia as being an imitation, created and recreated across time. It builds across time and space … iteration leads to transformation," argued Ermin Sinanovic, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the United States Naval Academy, who has extensively studied Islam and Muslim-Christian relations. more >>
Concerning religious trends and surveys—especially among younger Evangelicals—continue to serve as doleful reminders that aggrieved outrage and resentful rebellion is en vogue, while faithful Christian discipleship is out of style.
It is undeniable that Evangelicals are drifting further away from the traditional Christian teachings cherished and defended by our parents and grandparents. According to a 2008 Pew Research study, Baptists have experienced the greatest net loss of childhood members within the Protestant tradition with a childhood and current religion net change of -3.7. The Catholic Church is the only other Christian tradition with a greater loss, with a net change of -7.5 in children abandoning their faith.
Numbers are important, but stories behind the data are more telling. As a Sunday school teacher, I see this young Evangelical resentment and desertion in action. Of course, the easy part of my teaching responsibilities is sharing the Gospel with middle school-aged students. The hard, heart-breaking part comes later, when I ask my students if they will make a confession of faith in Jesus Christ and their answer is, "I'm still searching." more >>
Within the last few weeks, we have seen a lot of commentary on Bart Campolo, a former United Methodist youth pastor and son of famous liberal evangelical speaker and author Tony Campolo, leaving Christianity to become a devotee of "secular humanism." Before his "deconversion," Bart became semi-famous in his own right in some Christian circles, among other things founding the Mission Year young-adult service organization.
Ed Stetzer wrote a thoughtful piece for Christianity Today on how evangelical Christians can react in a constructive and loving way. Another wayward son of a famous evangelical, the ever-nuanced Franky Schaeffer, responded by blasting that centrist evangelical magazine as "the disgusting reactionaries of Bob Jones ilk, just dressed better" and Stetzer as a "smarmy prick."
My interest here is neither in second-guessing the senior Campolos' parenting nor in determining if their son was, according to Christ's parable of the sower, a "path person," a "rocky soil person" or a "thornbush person." more >>