I recently re-read Martyn Lloyd-Jones, classic Preaching and Preachers. I came across a section toward the end that is basically ten reasons not to have an altar call according to Martyn Lloyd-Jones. They are as follows:
- It is wrong to put direct pressure on the will.
- Too much pressure on the will may produce a condition in which what has determined the response of the man who ‘comes forward’ is not so much the Truth itself as, perhaps, the personality of the evangelist, or some vague general fear, or some other kind of psychological influence.
- The preaching of the Word and the call for decision should not be separated in our thinking.
- This method (of the altar call) surely carries in it the implication that sinners have an inherent power of decision and of self-conversion.
- There is an implication here that the evangelist somehow is in a position to manipulate the Holy Spirit and His work.
- This method tends to produce a superficial conviction of sin, if any at all.
- By doing this you are encouraging people to think that their act of going forward somehow saves them.
- This practice is based ultimately on a distrust of the Holy Spirit and His power and His work.
- It brings into question the doctrine of regeneration.
- No sinner ever really decides for Christ.
My Personal Thoughts
The caveat for me personally is that I was saved during a “revival” where the church participated in a play called “Heaven’s Gates, Hell’s Flames.” I walked my aisle and prayed my prayer yet on that night, the Lord legitimately saved me. I now know that it had nothing to do with my actions, but, I can also attest to the fact that the Lord did use this method to call me to Himself.
That being said, I am cautious with what we refer to as an altar call. For example, I preach at a youth camp each summer where I do not have an altar call because I know if you get one, you get them all. There are more false conversions than not I am afraid.
On Sunday mornings, I have what my congregation would call an altar call though I have never referred to it as such. I have, however, made it a point to state in the sermon that there is no “saving zone” and that if the Lord is truly working on you, you will not help but be able to tell someone.
While I may be criticized for not having an altar call, I am alright with that. The criticism of man is nothing compared to the criticisms I will face before God (James 3:1).
What do you think? I would love to engage in conversation with you.
 These can be found in Preaching & Preachers, Zondervan, 2011. PP 285-294.
 ML-J never offered an explicit 8th argument. He jumps from 7 to 9. As best I can tell, this is his 8th argument.