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The Invitation System and the Altar Call

by Peter Ditzel

I am going to ask you to come forward. Up there–down there–I want you to come. You come right now quickly. If you are with friends or relatives, they will wait for you. Don’t let distance keep you from Christ. It’s a long way, but Christ went all the way to the Cross because He loved you. Certainly you can come these few steps and give your life to Him . . .

The words above are Billy Graham’s as quoted by Iain H. Murray in The Invitation System (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1967) 3-4. Billy Graham was certainly famous for using such an invitation. But these words could just as well be those of thousands of other preachers who use basically the same formula week after week: the emotional music, and maybe asking everyone to sing Just as I Am. Then there is the invitation. A preacher may first ask people to bow their heads, close their eyes, and/or raise their hands. But always he will eventually tell them to come to Christ by coming up the aisle. Sometimes the preacher will also call those who want to rededicate their lives to Christ. It’s certainly common enough. But is it biblical? Should we be doing this?

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