February 24th, 2010
Ehrhard, Jim. Dangers of the Invitation System. Parkside: Christian Communicators Worldwide, 2008. 32 pp. $2.95.
This is another booklet offered by Christian Communicators Worldwide. This particular booklet was written by Jim Ehrhard who just recently felt God calling him to lead Teaching Resources, a ministry based in Little Rock, Arkansas, full time. I personally have benefited from this ministry which publishes a quarterly magazine choc full of useful mini biographies and exegetical teachings from Scripture on subjects that matter to the church today.
This little booklet is obviously a critique of the current method of sharing the gospel on Sunday mornings employed in many churches. In this short, 32 page book, Jim offers a brief history of the alter call. After finding the alter call lacking in many areas, biblically speaking, Jim offers what he calls a better way. Simply put, that better way is to exhort men and women to turn from their sins and turn toward Christ. This appeal is to all who are listening. Please note that the author painstakingly makes it clear that we are to exhort all to repentance of sin.
Clearly, Jim Ehrhard is taking down a sacred cow in many churches and pulpits with this particular booklet. Unfortunately, the alter call has replaced evangelism in the actions (if not the thoughts) of many pastors. I, personally, am in a denomination that seems to live and die by the alter call. I can relate to making the mistake of not having one after a sermon and then feeling the wrath of the congregation as they filed past me at the end of the service. (To be truthful, it was an honest, rookie mistake!)
What Jim is not saying is that we must never have an alter call. He is simply warning that many have put too much stock in that time of the service as though if the call is not offered, someone may miss out on their salvation. Jim explains both the negatives and positives of the alter call and then looks to Scripture to see what we ought to be doing. He does this with gentleness and respect and for that I am thankful.
Again, the cost of this book is such that many copies can be purchased and given away. I would recommend that every pastor read this book objectively and see if Jim offers sound, biblically based reasons for finding the alter call methodology lacking. While I still personally have an alter call when I do preach, I do not put so much stock in them to think that if I did not do so someone might not get saved.
Elliff, Jim and Daryl Wingerd. Restoring Those Who Fall. Parkville: Christian Communicators Worldwide, 2008. 20 pp. $2.25.
Reason for this Review
I include this little booklet as part of the above review for two reasons. First, we have made it so easy to join a church that, as I have stated in other places, our greatest evangelistic opportunity is in our pews on Sunday morning. Second, because when we allow unbiblical precedents to determine who is and who is not a believer, we inevitably will encounter major spiritual problems within the local church.
This pamphlet is merely a statement on church discipline that can be adopted by any church in any denomination. It has been said by many in the past that when church discipline leaves the church, so does the Holy Spirit. Elliff and Wingerd offer scriptural support for the necessity, though often times misused, of church discipline.
I can honestly recall confronting a pastor I was serving with regarding his need to bring biblical church discipline back into the church. His answer was a simple, “It is too difficult to deal with. They are not going to listen to it, anyway. I might as well not worry about it right now.” Unfortunately, this is a common mindset across the church in America.
Many may find this pamphlet too harsh (see the section on persistent and willful non-attendance) and will not pick it up to read. That is too sad because what the church needs now more than ever is corrective discipline. Everyone in the ministry ought to be familiar with what the Bible says about corrective church discipline. Jim Elliff’s ministry is certainly doing their part to teach others.