Introducing people to faith in Christ is a central component of what it means to be the church.
Like me, many of you were raised and still minister in an environment where the Great Commission is followed by a public call to salvation at the end of every church service.
The Altar Call is such an integral part of many Evangelical churches that we feel like we’re letting God and the people down if we don’t do one every week.
I have struggled to do this effectively for my entire pastoral ministry. Some of that struggle is because I don’t have the spiritual gift of evangelism. Yet. I recognize that not having the gift of evangelism doesn’t exempt me from obeying the command to evangelize.
Why The Public Salvation Call Is Harder In A Small Church
In addition to not being gifted in that way, I have also discovered that the public salvation call (like a "come to the front" or "raise your hand" invitation) is also much harder to do in a small church environment than in a big church, for two reasons:
First, it's intimidating. In a small room you’re likely to be the only person responding, so you really stand out (that "close your eyes and bow your heads" request is regularly violated, after all.)
I know, I know … many of you are cracking your knuckles right now, getting ready to start typing "if they really meant it, they'd want people to see them." But that's simply not true.
Not everyone is comfortable standing out in a crowd for any reason, no matter how much the decision matters to them.
While we don’t want to make this important step so easy that it doesn’t really register with people, we shouldn’t make it harder than it has to be. We can’t exclude the sincere seeker just because they’re shy, or because they’re wanting to start their walk with Jesus in a more personal, private way.
Second, for the pastor and the church, the weekly public salvation invitation is more likely to be a discouraging event than an encouraging one. Here’s why.
Many healthy churches see an annual water baptism rate of about 10 percent of their weekly attendance. If your church runs 1,000, that means 100 baptisms per year, or two per week, which means you can expect about four or five raised hands on a typical weekend.
Meanwhile, a very healthy church of 50 or so (which is the normal church size) will see about 5 baptisms per year from maybe 10-12 raised hands per year. That's less than one response in a typical month, meaning you'll end most services on the down note of "no one raised their hand ... again.”