Thinking Out Loud: How do we encourage inquirers?

This week I came across a post by Thabiti Anyabwile entitled, What About Altar Calls?, which I also highlighted in this weeks Interestingness. His article has caused me to think about altars calls this week, and to ask a question of my own, which I am hoping you can help me with.

Background Information

First, let me give you some background information. In his article, Thabiti answers the question: “Why he does not do altar calls?”

In order to answer that question, he provides a list from Pastor Ryan Kelly of Desert Springs Church. The list is as follows:

1. The altar call is simply and completely absent from the pages of the N.T.

2. The altar call is historically absent until the 19th century, and its use at that time (via Charles Finney) was directly based upon bad theology and a man-centered, manipulative methodology.

3. The altar call very easily confuses the physical act of “coming forward” with the spiritual act of “coming to Christ.” These two can happen simultaneously, but too often people believe that coming to Christ is going forward (and vice-versa).

4. The altar call can easily deceive people about the reality of their spiritual state and the biblical basis for assurance. The Bible never offers us assurance on the ground that we “went forward.”

5. The altar call partially replaces baptism as the means of public profession of faith.

6. The altar call can mislead us to think that salvation (or any official response to God’s Word) happens primarily on Sundays, only at the end of the service, and only “up front.”

7. The altar call can confuse people regarding “sacred” things and “sacred” places, as the name “altar call” suggests.

8. The altar call is not sensitive to our cautious and relational age where most people come to faith over a period of time and often with the interaction of a good friend.

9. The altar call is often seen as “the most important part of the service”, and this de-emphasizes the truly more important parts of corporate worship which God has prescribed (preaching, prayer, fellowship, singing).

10. God is glorified to powerfully bless the things He has prescribed (preaching, prayer, fellowship, singing), not the things we have invented. We should always be leery of adding to God’s prescriptions for His corporate worship.

After giving his reasoning, Thabiti explains that their church does give people an opportunity to respond to their services, they just do it differently. Thabiti says,

“We give them a number of ways they may follow up on what they’ve heard, from talking to an elder or Christian friend after the service, to scheduling an appointment during the week, to letting us know they would like us to visit with them, and so on.”

My Question

My question is not regarding Thabiti’s practices, which I am in agreement with. My question is about how to facilitate a way by which someone can talk with an elder, schedule an appointment, or let you know they want to visit.

Here are my questions:
  1. How do the elders effectively communicate their desire to talk further with someone who has questions?
  2. How do you go about encouraging others to take the elders up on their offer?
  3. What systems can we put in place to make it easier for people to contact and schedule an appointment with the elders to talk further?
  4. Or do we even put a system in place at all? Do we just let the Holy Spirit work in people’s lives?
  5. Or should we still do altar calls, just do them differently? That raises another questions: Is there a better way to do altar calls? In other words, are there better ways to allow people to respond at the end of the message than we are currently practicing?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Please post them in the comments below.

Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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