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I am a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and have just been a member of this Church for the past two years. Prior to that I belonged to a Baptist Church for more than 30 years. In the Black community the altar call is a time during the service where people are asked to come up to the front of the Church for prayer. The Alter is the communion table that is considered sacred in both Churches. However in the A.M.E. Church there is an extension from the communion table to a kneeling rail where people go and kneel and pray. The process differs only in method as in the Baptist Church the Pastor usually prays over those who have come up and in the A.M.E. Church individuals come up to pray and then the Pastor or another minister or lay person will pray. In both Churches the period at the close of a sermon is called the invitation, this is where the pastor or another minister will say the doors of the Church are open and invite someone to accept Christ, join the Church or come up for a special prayer. This is traditionally done at the close of every service and in some instances after Sunday School. While this is not Biblical it is a custom that allows a person to confess their faith in Christ and asked to be baptized. There are only 2 doctrines of both faiths that are from the Bible and that is the Lords Supper and Baptism.
As to why churches have altars today--there is no good reason for them. The altars were where the Jewish priests sacrified the animals as a temporary propiation of the sins of the people. We don't sacrifice animals anymore since Christ sacrificed Himself once and for all. There is no need for an altar in a church today.
After being in Church for 27 years and hearing about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, I was drawn to visit a Baptist church. My parents held the Baptist church is disdain. I went on Sunday February 2, 1975 to a little Baptist church in Toledo, Ohio. I heard for the first time in my life "Ye must be born again!" I have NEVER heard this in my entire life by anyone. I was drawn forward to the altar, was prayed for and had the pastor lay hands on me, and guess what, I received Christ as Lord and Savior! PTL Life has been wonderful ever since.
The Bible does not mention the modern practice of altar calls that some denominations practice today. Depending on whether or not you adhere to the regulative or normative principles, you may or may not agree with them. Since they aren't discussed in the Bible, I would say they are not biblical. However, there are many traditions we practice today that are not mentioned in the Bible, making them unbiblical. That in and of itself does not preclude certain traditions from being practiced. Personally, having been in a denomination that employed altar calls for 19 years, my perception was that they were the product of pragmatic thinking. Employing emotional manipulation through music, lighting, and compelling speech hardly seems honest. There was a definite lack of emphasis on the power of the gospel. If the gospel of Jesus is not compelling enough, then nothing will be. To answer your question In short, they are not biblical. Ultimately it is a matter of adiaphora, providing the altar calls preclude any sinful behaviors, or teachings, as witnessed in some more charismatic circles.
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