When I was a child, I always remember an altar call after the sermon. After the final song, the pastor would always say a closing prayer. In the closing prayer, the pastor would let the congregation know that they could pray with a pastor one on one. The pastor would take a one on one approach to sharing how they could get right with God.
The church I attend now does an altar call at the end of the sermon. Up until I participated in this church, I had been at several other churches that did not do an altar call. I feel that it is imperative for the pastor to reach out to the congregation after the sermon. You never know when a message that you give will touch someone in a way that they want to cross the line of faith.
Someone could be sitting in your audience that has never attended church before. This exposure may be the only exposure they have had with the Church. This time could be the only time that you may cross their path again.
Do not underestimate the power of the altar call. It is naïve to think that congregants will just reach out to you on their own. Some people need the one on one connection to grow in the word. We have all came toGod in different ways. Giving an altar call at the end of your sermon lets your audience know that you care about their spiritual well-being.
Why has the altar call gone away from some churches?
I think that the focus of the church has changed from leading people to faith to teaching faith to believers. The pastoral staff is now more comfortable teaching scripture to those that already believe in Jesus. They have turned their focus away from reaching out to nonbelievers. Instead, the church leaders expect their congregants to go out into the world and preach the word of God.
It is a quite a drastic shift from Churches of the past where the doors in the church were open wide to anyone that would enter. Now Churches have been corporatized, and personal connections are being left to the members of the Church. When this happens, you are getting varying degrees of outreach. When your Church leaders find it more convenient to talk from the pulpit instead of talking one on one, problems develop.
I believe that one of the greatest shifts in Church attendance is reflected in an altar call at the end of the service. Reaching out to those that are wondering and searching for the truth, is imperative. As Christians, we are all responsible for preaching the good news. But, pastors are instructed to shepherd their flock. When we do not reach out to the sheep that are astray, we are not fulfilling God's intentions for our Church leadership.
1 Peter 5:2-4 “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”