Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. Romans 12:1 Amplified Bible
John Brown* stood about 5’5” in his stocking feet but he was a spiritual giant in our lives while he, was our pastor. Though he had been through all the same training as other pastors in our denomination, his sermons always had the earthiness of the potato farm he had grown up on in Maine. I still remember his messages about the work of harvest and the barns filled with potatoes drying on the shelves. But of all the talents that Pastor Brown brought to the table, his gift of altar call outshone them all!
The root of why he delivered an impassioned altar call each week was rooted in his experience while he served overseas in the military as a young man. To outward appearances all was well. He had a good home a bright future and his whole life lay ahead of him. But despite what others thought, during that time, he felt lost and lonely, wondering what was the purpose of it all. He told us that his loneliness turned to despondency and depression till finally one evening he sat with a revolver in his hands wondering if it would be better to simply end things there. When he was at his lowest point, Jesus spoke to his heart, and gave him hope. Right there, John dedicated his heart and life to the Lord and to his service and made a promise that whenever he had opportunity to preach that he would always give people the opportunity to come to the Lord in prayer.
Though I myself responded a number of times to those altar calls for various struggles in my own life, I simply took his gift for granted, till, one Sunday when a visiting evangelist was preaching. I have no idea what the guest speaker preached on that day, but at the end, he gave an altar call, just as our pastor normally did but no one came forward. Now at that time our church had close to a thousand in attendance on any average Sunday morning. The organist continued playing softly for a while, and the choir sat quietly in their places, yet the altar still remained empty. A bit embarrassed, the evangelist turned and asked Pastor Brown if he could dismiss us in prayer. I had already begun wondering what was for lunch and was gathering our bibles when our diminutive pastor stepped up to the microphone, cleared his throat and began, “Now I don’t think some of you people were listening much to the sermon this morning.” Pastor Brown began. He went on to impress upon us our need for responding to the message, and before you could bat an eye there were twenty folks at the front asking for prayer. Now that’s the gift of altar call, and I am so glad that our pastor had it in spades! He taught us that no one can tell from the outside what is hidden inside our hearts. How about you? Are you ready and willing to open your heart to the Lord today? God is listening and able to help you and I right now – but He will never drag us to the altar. He is leaving the choice to us!
* The name has been changed to preserve the privacy of his family.