Wretched Radio With Todd Friel – Is the sinner’s prayer biblical? 11 Reasons why the Alter Call is a bad idea.


Wretched Radio With Todd Friel

(Transcript of Radio Show podcast)

Is the sinner’s prayer biblical?

11 reasons the Altar Call is a bad idea

Todd Friel,  “Here we go.”     

Person 1, “You be the judge.”                                                                                          

Person 2, “You want answers. I will get down the titles.”                                                                                                                                                                 

Person 3, “You want answers.”                                                                               

Person 3, “I want the truth.”                                                                                           

Person 2, “You can’t handle the truth.”                                                                                    

Judge, “Order in the courts.”

Todd Friel, “This is Wretched Radio. Wow a big week in Louisiana for the Southern Baptists they had their big annual chin dig. Probably the biggest story at least according to most would be the nomination, the election of a black president. That is clearly huge for The Southern Baptist Convention. But I would like to suggest to you that the biggest story that really didn’t get a whole lot of covering that could of had, dare I say even greater implications was the debate over The Sinner’s Prayer. That is right they actually had a debate in The Southern Baptist Convention about The Sinner’s Prayer. They resolved that it is a good thing. I love The Southern Baptist Convention I truly do, but I truly disagree with them on this one. I truly believe, now you can disagree with this but I believe that if The Sinner’s Prayer were done away with by Southern Baptists, by Evangelicals, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Evangelical Free church, Lutherans, Methodists – anybody who is using it I think it would change the church. I really do I think it would change the church.”

Tony Verkinnes, “Right it would kill it, it would drive it right into the ground.”                                                                      

Todd Friel, “False conversions.”                                                                                                                  

Tony Verkinnes, “What is wrong with you?”                                                                                       

Todd Friel, “No, no I don’t think it would.”                                                                                  

Tony Verkinnes, “Will somebody take his side for a second. This is as best as I can do.”                                                                                                   

Todd Friel, “Thank you                                                                                                            

Tony Verkinnes, “Sorry.”                                                                                                    

Todd Friel, “That is a different segment.”                                                                        

David, “Oh that is right sorry yeah.”  

[plays clip]                                                                                                                      

“Always criticizing.”

Todd Friel, “We are doing this one.”                                                                               

Person 1, “You be the judge.”

Todd Friel, “Now will you play by the rules?”                                                                       

Tony Verkinnes, “I will get the rule book out now.”                                                                                         

Todd Friel, “Sorry about that. Didn’t mean to mislead in any way, shape or form. The Sinner’s Prayer I think has, I understand the heart behind it. It is not like Southern Baptists or anybody else are trying to pull some sort of fast one. “Hey we will trick people into thinking they are saved when they are not.” They don’t they are evangelistically minded. I just think that it is such a misleading thing. Now it seems to me as best I can tell from a bird’s eye view the issue and the debate as people are blogging about it, as they are discussing it from The Southern Baptists Convention. The issue seems to stem around Calvinism versus Arminianism. Personally if I were engaged in this discussion I would remove it from that issue. I would say this has nothing to do with that. The question is, is it biblical? Answer no. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. I have seen the verses that were used. I do not believe that it supports a sinners prayer concept. I do believe that the Bible would lead us to say, “hey an individual must call out to God for mercy.” We call that prayer, not a problem.

But that is not the modern sinner’s prayer. The modern sinner’s prayer is not opening up the value and vision and puritan prayer book and reading a prayer of abasement, “I am a worm. I am a wretch. I am vile. Help me, have mercy on me.” An individual calling out to God from his heart, instead it is an individual who says, “Repeat after me. Dear God I am a sinner.” Now The Southern Baptists in their vote on this. I was going to say on the election of the issue which would be kind of funny because that is another debate that is going on. They said, “we have got to make sure that we are talking about the gospel in its fullness.” Well okay I am grateful for that because way too often how many times have we seen a sinners prayer that doesn’t teach about God. It doesn’t teach about sin. It doesn’t teach about the wrath that is to come and it is pervasive in Evangelical Christianity. Now I happen to have an example of that and I am not going to play it for you because it is a guy we like here. He is a fellow who we have no reason to believe he is not a Christian. He is a high profile Evangelical who just did a big sermon, did a big speech and then told people what they must do to go to heaven and it was and I don’t want to play it because you all know who it is and it would muddy the water unnecessarily and it is just typical. It is typical. It is the training that we all get. “This is what you do. Dim lights, play the music, certain key. They tell you what key to play in. Say this and then the choir sings that, and you then you say this. You have them do that,” and I don’t see that in the Bible any place. I don’t see somebody leading somebody else into. “Sir what must I do to be saved?” Said the Ethiopian eunuch . Philip replied, “repeat after me Dear Lord I am a sinner…” No you don’t see it at all.

And so this from The Christian Post reporter – Sinner’s prayer can lead to salvation says Southern Baptist Traditionalist. I agree it can I just think that in most cases it has not. My Southern Baptist friends you have seen the problem 60 percent is the best statistic we have on college backsliders. That is the best one we have got from Life Way. Closer to 80%, let’s split the difference and call it and call it 70 percent. Why? Most of those kids were led in a sinner’s prayer. There is something wrong.

“The resolution passed last Wednesday by a majority vote of around 80 percent.

Well a little progress. You know if you keep that like the liberals. Just keep banging away on it doing another study, another vote say, “hey it hurts our feelings that you do a sinner’s prayer.” Then maybe we will see some progress. They said that, “repentance and faith involve a crying out for mercy and calling on the Lord. More commonly known as the “sinner’s prayer,” as a “biblical expression of repentance and faith.”

Look I agree wholeheartedly with the repentance and faith. The calling out to God for mercy but that is not the sinner’s prayer. It is just not, a sinner praying. Fine repentance and faith – yes the repeat after me routine. That is not repentance and faith. That is parroting what somebody is saying. Now here is the strong caution in the resolution.

“The Sinner’s Prayer is not an incantation that results in salvation merely by its recitation and should never be manipulatively employed or utilized apart from a clear articulation of the Gospel.”

Amen but too often most times it is. Most times it is. I know that because virtually every time after a sinner’s prayer has been given. What does the individual say, “congratulations you are now a member of the kingdom.” Read page 57, maybe page 50 at a Purpose Driven Life. No talk about sin, no talk about the cross, no talk about Jesus, no talk about God, no talk about the wrath that is to come, the resurrection, the ascension, penal substitution, or the atonement. Nothing, say this prayer – one sentence. “Lord I am a sinner. I ask you into my heart amen.” “If you said that prayer. I believe in you and I receive you.” Does that sound like repentance and faith? “Now then you must believe to receive.” But believing and receiving isn’t what you must do to be saved. We biff it on this all the time. “We ask Jesus into our heart.” Well doesn’t Jesus come into our heart? Well yes he does come into our heart. But he doesn’t come into our heart by us asking him into our heart. Repentance and faith and we muddy the water, cause complications, confusion when we add other things and bring in different terminology that is the result of salvation but not the method of salvation.

A pastor, a high profile pastor said he believes that every one of the 265 kids who are individually counseled and led in prayer at vacation Bible School in the past few weeks has been saved. Well I think then if we are serious about this and I know The Southern Baptists they love people and they want them saved. But let’s track. Let’s put a little dear tag on those kids and let’s see how they do when they get to college. Those 256 kids who were led in a sinner’s prayer at a vacation Bible School let’s see how they do. There is no way that they were all saved. There is just no way. Statistics support it. Furthermore we know this to be true don’t we when we understand soteriology. Salvation is something that we can’t discern on the outside. Let’s say it is Bob Glenn giving the most masterful long gospel soaring presentation ever in the history of the church and people fall down and they weep. I would still say not all of them are saved because I don’t know what is going on in there and we see false converts in the church in the Bible and we see it practically today in numbers that simply should not be acceptable.

The Southern Baptist pastor who made those comments said, “that doesn’t mean that the prayer didn’t work. That just means that maybe they didn’t get mentored or discipled.” 

So he is basically stating the reason that we have backsliding is because they didn’t get mentored or discipled. You can’t mentor and disciple somebody who is not a mentor or a disciple. You can only disciple a disciple. You can’t disciple a heathen. They have got to be saved. Furthermore  don’t we believe in Eternal Security? If they are saved they are going to keep running after Jesus despite our failure in the church and I have to say overall this is an area where the church has not failed. The church has done just fine in providing opportunities for people to grow overall. Certainly Evangelicalism has it covered. There is enough Christian material out there for everybody and everything. Certainly discipleship is not the issue. We have done well there. Problem is they are not interested in following after Jesus because they don’t love Him. Because they didn’t respond rightly to the gospel or we plucked fruit that was not ready and we delivered a stillborn over and over again. It is not mentorship, it is not discipleship. I would beg you dear pastor please just consider is it biblical? Now that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Just because it doesn’t say that there is nothing there about The Sinner’s Prayer, doesn’t  mean there can’t be a Sinner’s Prayer. But it is not there for starters, we don’t see any demonstrations of that. Think about it soteriologically. We lead somebody to Jesus. We point them. God needs to convert them. Look at the results. Would it hurt for us to clean it up? Would it hurt? We can’t much worse than 80 percent backslider rate can we?

Alter Calls another issue that needs to be addressed which could be radically effective in changing the face in Christendom. My question for you is this. Would you rather have a million people who profess to be Christian but only two hundred thousand are or two hundred thousand that profess it and are? I know what I prefer. I know we are attracted to numbers. Biblically always attracted to numbers. How many people are in Israel? Count them. How many people are in church? Count them. How many people this Sunday? Head count from the ushers in the back of the church. We like numbers. How many people got saved? How many people attend? How many people have you got on the whole? How many people came to the conference? How many people did the altar call? How many people signed a card? We like numbers. Would we rather have inflated number or accurate? Accurate has got to be the correct answer. Eight hundred thousand false converts blaspheming the name of the Lord. Now wonder why the heathens don’t like us. That has got to be a part of the reason. Now they should be hating us because of our message not because we have got a ton of false converts who are blaspheming the name of the Lord with their behaviour and their wretched theology and I don’t mean Wretched as in this programme. I mean wretched theology.

Alter calls are another issue. Can they be done right? I think we can certainly have a loving conversation about that. But let us consider what they have produced. Pastor Ryan Kelly – Desert Springs church.

Number one The Alter Call simply is absent from the pages of The New Testament. We don’t see it at Pentecost.

Number two The Alter Call was historically absent until the 19th century. Charles Finney introduced it and he had some manipulative methodology whether you believe that he was a Pelagian or not. He manipulated people into the kingdom so he thought. He altered their emotions to point to Jesus. But regeneration was not his bag and he created The Alter Call. That is informative.

The Alter Call very easily confuses the physical act of coming forward with the spiritual act of coming to Christ. Now it can happen simultaneously but too often people are confused. “I went to the altar. I am saved.” The Alter Call, the Bible never offers us assurance on the ground that we went forward. So it confuses assurance.

 The Alter Call partially replaces baptism as the means of public profession of faith. I don’t know that I have ever heard that before. That is an interesting point. Now you Lutherans, you might want to go, “mim yam yam.” Right now, Presbyterians you won’t like this so much. But if you rightly believe in Believer’s Baptism as the statement to the world, “I am a Christian.” How many times have you heard the preacher say, “this is a testimony to the world that you are coming? Everybody in the Bible always did a public profession.” I am not so sure about that so you need to do it publically. That should be baptism not an Alter Call.

The Alter Call can mislead us into thinking that salvation happens primarily on Sunday’s after the service or up front. The Alter Call can confuse people regarding sacred things and sacred places as the name Alter Call suggests. The Alter Call is not sensitive to our cautious and relational age where most people come to faith over a period of time and with the interaction of a good friend. The Alter Call is often seen as the most important part of the service. Here is another point I haven’t pondered. What is the most important point of the service? It is the sermon. Now you say, “I do it at the end of the sermon.” Right, well let’s face it, it feels like something different. You just preached on Nehemiah, “and if you here today and you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.” The music starts it certainly seems like a different part of the service. The Reformers would say it is the sermon. Why? We get to hear from God through the man who has studied his Word. That is the highlight not an Alter Call.

And finally another problem with The Alter Call that I really wish that we would keep on debating and keep on thinking about. God is glorified to powerfully bless the things He has prescribed – preaching, prayer, fellowship, singing, not the things that we have invented.

This will be number eleven. The Alter Call teaches the congregation to evaluate the success or effectiveness of the preaching of the Word by The Alter call. Don’t tell me you haven’t done it. You ever opened up an eye when it’s supposed to be closed when you head is bowed? Nobody, oh it wasn’t a good sermon today. Let’s rethink The Altar Call and The Sinner’s Prayer. Hey really? Seriously we can’t do worse. This is Wretched Radio.”

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