"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

The Uncomfortable Nature of Kingdom Work

 
Last Sunday, February 9, 2014 Emmanuel Enid had a guest evangelist preach at all three of our morning worship services. Contrary to our normal custom, all three services featured the same style of worship rather than separate traditional and contemporary worship services.  A ten minute segment from the third worship service is posted here (see above) to give you a feel for what the worship was like on that day. To familiarize yourself with our guest speaker, evangelist Scott Camp, you may go here. Several adults and young people made public professions of faith in Jesus Christ during the three services. Each of them has a story, all of them gripping. One fifty-five year old man was in tears as he explained how desperate he was that morning, and how Christ had saved him. A woman in her seventies told me, "I asked Jesus into my life this morning and He has already lifted the burden off of my shoulders." One young man had been coming to Emmanuel for weeks with his girlfriend and when Scott Camp gave the invitation in the third service, he was the first one down the aisle to receive Christ as his Lord and Savior. The bear hug he gave Scott Camp after the service was amazing. Don Burris runs our jail ministry, and he brought twelve offenders Sunday morning. Nine of them received Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Though Emmanuel Enid baptizes on average one hundred people every year, last Sunday was the first time in many years Emmanuel Enid had what some label as "an altar call." We are preparing for an Easter Event at the Enid Event Center, a time when we will be inviting people who need Christ to attend an Easter service in a non-traditional venue, so the worship services at our church this past Sunday, February 9, 2014 were designed to introduce our people to the evangelism team that will lead us on Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014.

I have been pastor of Emmanuel Enid for twenty-two years. Every message I give includes an invitation to trust Christ. However, I don't give "altar calls" in the traditional manner most Baptists give them. It's not that I believe altar calls are wrong or sinful, it's that the methodology I've chosen as a pastor is just...well...different. I invite people to turn to Christ during the message, and then we invite those who've given their lives to Christ to stay afterwards and tell us what God has done. Emmanuel Enid experienced something last Sunday that was unusual in recent years (an altar call), and it made a few people that I love and respect very uncomfortable. Two or three went on Facebook and expressed their displeasure publicly. One young lady whom I respect, a high school senior who feels God's call to be a missionary, has never before heard her pastor give an altar call at Emmanuel. She wrote an "Open Letter to Emmanuel" on Facebook.
"I was definitely disappointed in my church today.   
When worship seems like a performance and the speaker seems to care more about conversions than relationships, the church is going backwards, not moving forward. Emotional manipulation is not what coming to Christ is supposed to look like.  People can be "converted" or "say the prayer" all they like, but it won't save them.  Only Christ truly saves them.  Today truly did sadden me because the people that I have thought about asking to the Easter service mean so much to me that I do not want them to perceive the church or Jesus Christ as manipulative and do not want them to be manipulated into accepting Christ and not understand what being a Christian really means.  It cheapens salvation to only focus on the fact that it saves you from eternity in hell.  It is so much more than that.  It is the bridge between you and God.  It means that you admit that you are no longer in charge of your life and surrender yourself to Christ's control.   
My prayer for Easter Sunday is that people will not be emotionally manipulated, but will actually receive Christ because God is truly working in their lives and has finally called them to himself.  I am also praying that people will not be turned against the church or more importantly Jesus because of what is talked about and how it is presented."
A few other church members also expressed their displeasure with what happened Sunday. I've taught our folks at Emmanuel that their pastor has no hierarchical spiritual authority over them, and they have every right to question, to disagree with, and to even criticize their church leaders and their pastor. I'm glad this young lady felt the freedom and had the courage to write what she wrote about our church. I responded to her on Facebook in this manner:
"C____, one thing I love about our church is that we have raised young women, like yourself, to be strong, intelligent, and wise! Keep on speaking your convictions, loudly and boldly! Also, be sensitive that others may feel differently - particularly the 30 or so who publicly professed faith in Christ today. I know one of the men gave me a big bear hug and said "this is the greatest day of my life." What is uncomfortable for some, may be very thing needed for others. Thanks, again, for being a strong, confident and bold young woman! Our world needs more like you."
In this age of social media, it is often easier for people to communicate via the Internet than it is face-to-face.  I have no problem with those who feel the freedom to express their displeasure about Emmanuel or me via social media. Frankly, discussion and disagreement over an important subject like this one is healthy for God's people! If nothing else, Sunday's worship service, the message, and what happened at  Emmanuel is being discussed by people. It's a good thing that folks are talking about the worship services at Emmanuel, even though some of the discussion arises out of discomfort with what happened. When people think through what they don't like about worship, then they are thinking through issues instead of simply doing churchy things by rote.

I am going to do something unusual in this blog post. On most occasions I write about subjects in general, but today I'd like to address the particular discomfort some felt Sunday at Emmanuel with the methodology of calling sinners to come to the front of our meeting place to profess their faith in Jesus Christ (some would call the altar call "manipulative"), the style of communication adopted by the guest evangelist (clear, but forceful), and the difficulty some members are having with an emphasis of inviting people in need of Jesus to an Easter Event to hear the same evangelist preach.

(1). For a while now I've felt we at Emmanuel are too comfortable and a little too self-oriented in our worship. We like that Wade Burleson speaks 28 minutes, that the worship service fits "my style" of worship, and that everybody is made to feel at ease at Emmanuel. We are large enough to offer various styles of worship in different services on a typical Sunday, but this past Sunday we had one style--a style we will be using for the Easter Event. That may have caused some people to be uncomfortable. The avoidance of discomfort is not one of our purposes at Emmanuel! On the contrary, I believe it is essential every now and then for us to be shaken out of our comfort zone in order to be reminded that the Kingdom of Christ has very little to do with our comfort and everything to do with Christ's reign over us.

(2). Evangelists in the Kingdom of Christ have been given the gift of evangelism. I am a teacher with the gift of teaching. All Christians are called to be soul winners, but there are some who are particularly gifted to motivate Kingdom people to win souls. Even I need a fresh reminder from evangelists that unless I am continually building relationships with people in need of Christ, and actively and intentionally telling my lost friends of their need to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior and King, I am no different than the man who sits in his posh house and dines on sumptuous fare while he watches his neighbor's house burn to the ground through his kitchen window. Evangelists stir our hearts to notice the spiritual condition of those we love. Yes, I believe God saves His people. But I believe He uses His people as instruments to deliver sinners through telling them the truth about Jesus Christ. I believe when we have no desire or joy in seeing the lost come to faith in Christ, we have lost our Kingdom focus. Evangelists like Scott Camp, a friend of mine for many years, have burning hearts to see the lost saved, and their gift of evangelism can energize our church to become more active and intentional in our evangelism.

(3). For six months I have been praying for--and preparing our staff for--the Easter Event. I believe it can be the greatest evangelistic outreach for our church since Franklin Graham came to Enid in 1993. One of the persons saved at that 1993 was Judy Bonnet, a lesbian who gave her life to Christ at the Franklin Graham festival and then spent every day of her life until she died of cancer helping other people come to know the saving power of Jesus Christ. The entire purpose of our 2014 Easter Event is to invite lost, un-churched people to an Easter service where they will hear about Jesus Christ. This is not your grandmother's Easter at Emmanuel. We are praying that God will save hundreds of people who will hear the Good News for the first time! Scott Camp, saved while in jail for drug and alcohol problems, is precisely the kind of person who can reach people with the Good News on Easter. If I have said it once, I've said it a hundred times: This 2014 Easter Event is not like any past Easter service at Emmanuel Enid. The focus is totally, one-hundred percent different. Not everybody is going to like or accept change, but I believe this Kingdom event is needed in our church and in our community. It gets us focused on our friends and family who are lost.

(4). Because we believe and practice grace, those church members who do not wish to participate in the Easter Event will be loved and accepted as they are. Our members are always free to attend other churches on Easter Sunday or any other Sunday. We are not a cult. Follow the Spirit of God, and if the Spirit is leading you not to participate in Emmanuel's Easter Event then don't participate and have no guilt. The Holy Spirit is far more important for the direction of your life than any pastor. All I ask is that before you give in to any discomfort over inviting lost people to the Easter Event that you take it to the Lord in prayer and listen to Him.

(5). Some who were uncomfortable during the worship services this past Sunday (February 9) and are choosing not to participate in the Easter Event might respond that they too are concerned for the lost, but it is the manner and method of the evangelist that bothered them, and that is the reason why they don't want to participate in the Easter Event. They say, "We are used to hearing from you about grace, God's grace in saving sinners, and the tactic and methodology used by the guest evangelist during the message and the invitation (i.e. "pray out loud," "come to the front," "turn and ask the person next to you, 'Do you know for sure you are going to heaven when you die?" etc...) made us very uncomfortable!" My answer:
"The Apostle Paul said, "I become all things to all people in order that I might win some." If you truly believe, as I do,  that God will never fail in saving His people, then you must understand that the same God who used a donkey to speak His word to Balaam can use whatever means He desires to speak to sinners. Last Sunday, February 9, 2014, God spoke to the hearts of many men and women through an evangelist that is not your pastor. You are uncomfortable with his methodology? I understand. Let me ask you a question: 'Are you rejoicing in the salvation of those nine Department of Correction offenders? Are you happy over the conversion of that electrician who has been brought to church for two months by his girlfriend? Do you delight in the salvation of the woman in her seventies that morning? Of course you do! Then why are you allowing your personal discomfort over another's methodology to overwhelm your joy for the salvation of several people? Kingdom work at times will make Christians uncomfortable."
By the way,  I'm not unsympathetic to any concerns over evangelistic methodology. I have written in the past on the very subject of altar calls. I have said over and over that true Christianity is measured in changed lives, not numbers. When is the last time you've ever heard me talk about numbers? I'm talking about numbers now because the goal for the Easter Event is to invite lost people to come so that the 4,000 seat arena is filled! We are asking God that there be many "professions of faith" at the Easter Event (far more than there were this past Sunday), and it is our responsibility as a staff to disciple and follow-up on all these new professing believers. Time will tell whether these hopeful converts are truly converts, but at least we are getting excited about seeing lives changed.

Take for example the man whose life was radically changed by Jesus Christ this past Sunday, so much so that he grabbed several Easter Event advertising pens and left Emmanuel and went "to the most wicked place I could think of" and passed out all the pens to the employees of the sex shop. That man told me he was overtly and utterly rejected when he issued his invitation to the people there to attend the Easter Event, but he's so excited about the Easter Event that "I'm going back next Sunday after church with another stack of pens."  By the way, this is the same man who tried to kill himself before he met Christ. Now he can't wait to go see his lost friends and invite them to the Easter Event. That's powerful. Of course, not everybody has responded like this man to the prospect of inviting people to the Easter Event. I understand that not everybody is affected the same. It doesn't mean one person is better than another.

Let me tell you a true story. I was speaking to evangelist Scott Camp several weeks ago over the speaker phone with Rachelle listening. I told Scott, "Listen, Scott, when you come to Emmanuel Enid
on February 9, 2014, I do not want you to give an altar call."

Scott was very quiet. Dead silence on the phone.

"Scott, I know that to tell an evangelist not to give an altar call is like telling a duck not to swim. But listen, I know my people. I know what makes them comfortable. I know how they think. If you give an altar call, some will be offended because they've never seen it done and they will think it is manipulation. I know your heart. I trust you. That's why I'm asking you to come to Enid on Easter, but on February 9, I'm asking that you motivate our people to invite their friends to come to the Easter Event on April 20, 2014 and then close in prayer and turn it over to me. At the Easter Event in April, you can close the service the way you usually do with a traditional altar call."

To Scott's credit he said, "Okay pastor, I'll do whatever you ask."

A few weeks later, in my time alone with the Lord, the Spirit spoke to me and convinced me I was wrong in placing restrictions on Scott for February 9. I called him back and said this:

"Scott, the Lord has changed my mind. You are the evangelist. I am a pastor. I am asking you to come and do what you are gifted by God to do. Follow your heart. Do as you desire in terms of an altar call. Truth is, our people will see what it will be like at the Easter  Event. If some don't like it (and some won't), then it was not meant for them to be at the Easter Event. Our purpose is to get the lost to come to the Easter Event, and it would not be right for people to come to the Easter Event and not know how it will be! February 9 will show them."

Was I right in changing my mind about the altar call? I think that question should be answered by those who gave their lives to Christ Sunday. I'll be talking to them this week as we give them John Blanchard's newest book "Meet the Real Jesus" and tell them about the "New Believer's Class" we will be starting. I think I know what they will say. The success of an evangelistic service cannot be measured by whether or not members were comfortable. The Easter Event will be successful if people come to know Jesus Christ. We are not designing the Event for church members to be comfortable.

(6). I have been so convicted that this Easter Event is needed by our community that I went to a friend and asked him to fund it. It's not cheap, and when I told him how much we needed, he responded, "How can you put a dollar amount on the price of one soul?" and then gave me $10,000 more than I asked. As we reach out to those in the community who do not attend church on Easter, one of the things we will be doing is making sure anyone and everyone who comes to the Easter Event has something to eat. People from our church who work in the New View Apartments, those who minister to the homeless in the parks on Tuesday night through Forgotten Ministries, and a number of our volunteers in the Celebrate Recovery classes that we host on Sunday night have told us that offering a meal after the service for families will help. Thus, in cooperation with the city, we have confirmed 2,000 box lunches for anyone who wants to stay at the Event Center and eat lunch after the Easter Event - for free! Of course, many of our members will be going to restaurants or to their homes after the service, inviting their guests to join them, but for anyone in our church who desires to eat at the Event Center with those they invited, we will be providing lunch. This isn't about "numbers." It's about seeing souls saved, and we are doing all we can to make that Event accessible to all socio-economic and racial groups in our community.

(7). Ultimately, it's my responsibility to cast vision for this event. I have the vision, but only the Holy Spirit can transmit what I feel from my heart to yours. Julie Davis woke up 2:30 am Monday morning and felt impressed to write something down and give it to me. I woke up at that same 2:30 am hour Monday morning and felt impressed to pray for Enid and for the Easter Event. Here's what Julie wrote to me, giving me permission to use it however I deemed best:
"If our lives were to flash before our eyes on a cinema screen, we would all instantly see our sinfulness and come face-to-face with our need for mercy. Last Sunday at Emmanuel Enid, many experienced being caught by Christ's convicting grace, and were saved.
For this, we celebrate the power in the conviction of sin, and the peace these men and women now have, as result God's Grace that soften and saved!
This is a moment marked in time, and in the life of our church, where the Divine Love of God melted hearts down, and His hand extended hope to the lost. I believe the Holiness of God was displayed for us to see, as His loving and powerful presence drew these new brothers and sisters into His Great Hall of Faith, where He displays His children as Trophies of Grace.
Thank you Emanuel for reminding us once again, that Amazing Grace and it's sweet sound, is a two-sided coin. Because of the wretchedness of sin, God's mercy comes down to rescue us into the transforming folds of His grace, where we are forever saved, sealed, and made new.
Let us not stop here while the momentum is still rich. We've been called to such a time as this and there's work to be done. Let's not apologize for providing and creating an atmosphere in our church where forgiveness ushered in and The Spirit of God moved in the hearts of men and women.
And let us never forget that throughout time, God as our Loving Heavenly Father, has used many gifted Evangelists and Worship Leaders as instruments that help tender the hearts of His prodigal children, while He ushers them home to a forever relationship with Him.
 Celebrate what God Almighty has done today!!!
Let us come around our new family members and invest in the opportunity to disciple them in their journey of faith; where relationship with Jesus, The Father, and The Holy Spirit, can continue to grow in grace, and hearts and lives are forever changed!
Be blessed! Julie Davis
On my way to Emmanuel's building on Sunday night to do some Think Ministry interviews, I called our pastor of singles and evangelism. I asked him, "Kevin, do you feel like what happened this morning has empowered our people to catch a vision for the lost and invite them to the Easter Event."

He didn't answer.

I asked him again, thinking Kevin didn't hear me. Then I realized why he wasn't talking.

Kevin was weeping. I got emotional too. His passion moved me.

When Kevin got control of his emotions he told me he was torn up over the spiritual state of his own family. Kevin didn't grow up in a Christian home. He's burdened for the salvation of his parents, his siblings, and all his nieces and nephews. "I'm going to invite my entire family to come to the Easter Event. I want them to come to know Christ. I don't want my family to end up in hell."

May God grant a renewed passion in our hearts for the lost of Enid. May He pour out His blessings on Emmanuel's Easter Event for His name's sake and the advancement of His Kingdom.

We just finished our staff meeting today. God is up to something big at Emmanuel Enid. Be prepared for some discomfort. Kingdom work sometimes requires us to leave our comfort zone.

I love you all.

Wade Burleson
Pastor, Emmanuel Enid


33 comments:

Don Burris said...

I couldn't agree more with this post....we must do things differently from time to time if we expect to see different results. I communicate with the offenders I bring to Emmanuel weekly and I know first-hand what a difference Emmanuel is making in their lives. 9 offenders came to know Christ (tears are flowing as I'm typing this, praise God for getting us out of our comfort zone!!

C Fielder said...

Great blog! Sunday was so moving in my life. I pray and hope what is coming to Enid this Easter is like a storm brewing. And it will wash away people sins and leave them "clean". This is what Enid needs I believe.

Wade Burleson said...

Don and Carl,

Thanks to you both for your help yesterday. Don, it was amazing to see those men give their lives to Christ yesterday. Thanks for your faithful love and service to them week after week. Carl, I saw the man weeping as you were counseling with him. Pretty moving. Kingdom work indeed.

Kim Olson said...

I was left quite torn by the message Sunday. We are called to tell others about Jesus, and Mr. Camp is following the call placed on his life. I am a sinner saved alone by the grace of God. I have freedom in Christ - freedom from guilt. The part of the message that left me uncomfortable was Mr. Camp saying that unless I'm boldly sharing Christ with others, I'm backsliding. To me, this statement is contrary to the grace teaching I've heard for so many years. I know I'm not alone in that feeling.

God uses many tools to save His people, one of which is Mr. Camp. Obviously God used his message to stir the hearts of the many who came forward as a profession of their newfound faith. Praise the Lord for his saving grace!!!

I have and will continue to wrestle with my thoughts and feelings regarding the Easter service. God can do amazing things!

Wade Burleson said...

Kim,

I understand what you are saying. Any time any of us hears a guest speaker teach or preach, everyone of us should be like a Berean and "search it out from Scripture" to see if it is true. Disagreement is healthy. I'm proud of people for the courage and acumen to disagree with Christian preachers and teachers! I think my point is we as Kingdom people can overlook a lot of things with which we disagree and things which make us uncomfortable for the sake of the person who has "CONVICT" written on the back of his shirt as he prays to receive Christ. In other words, it's OBVIOUS I don't "agree" with Scott's methodology because I DON'T use it, but that doesn't mean I don't give HIM the freedom to use it. Legalism works both directions. Grace people can be legalist and demand everyone be as grace oriented as they, or grace people can truly be gracious and accept those who do things differently than we. I know you believe, and practice grace. So do I. Thanks for your comment!

Hillbilly Views said...

What happened on Sunday was not what I would call comfortable for me. As I spoke this morning before our meeting at work to 3 men whom I trust and call brother, I recounted to them what happened Sunday morning.

“If you died today would you go to heaven? Raise you hand, no raise both of them.” My hands were lifted as high as I could raise them, then I looked at my wife who had tears in her eyes, but her hands were folded in her lap. What in the world was going on, I could not understand.

The most important person in my life, the women who I have shared all of life’s struggles, the person who I have shared my greatest hurts and fears. The person who gives me the greatest joy, the person whom My God brought to me, My perfect, was in tears.

If that was not enough after church She told me that while she had heard others say the words she never had anyone ask her directly that question. It moved her to tears.

The saddest part of it all was “I” never ask her, I just assumed her answer would be the same as mine: not because of any thing I have done, or will ever do, But because of loving god who sent his son to stand in my place, can I raise my hands.

I am just glad someone ask her the question. Call it an alter call or what ever you want. He did on Sunday what I have not done, and for that I am thankful.

My Boss bowed his head and prayed with me for my wife. Was I comfortable? No, I was humbled.

Wade Burleson said...

Wow, Hillbilly.

Wow.

Thanks for sharing.

Tom Ross said...

Wade,

I live on the other side of the planet, out beyond where the black stumps dot the landscape and it is important for us all to be professing our beliefs. Now if it were possible, I would be happy to come along . . . . . but the distance excludes me except in spirit.

Now to say, “I love the Lord,” is only lip service if I do not put legs on what I willingly profess when rubbing shoulders with the great unwashed around me by becoming invisible as the character of my Christ is put on display through me by my very actions in my life. Now what Christ spoke during his time on earth 2,000 or so years ago was too hard for his brethren to accept and they chose to turn away instead. Jesus said, “If a man will not take up his own cross and follow me, then he cannot be my Disciple.” “”not one of you can be my disciple if he does not renounce all of his possessions.” And should I also dare to add, “Abilities?”

Jesus also said, “No one can come to me unless the father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Now when people ask me to pray for the salvation of their lost relative(s), I quietly ask if they have asked God to include their “relative/friend/acquaintance” in those whom He will draw to himself? When they respond with a “yes” I then ask why they are not thanking God for doing just that and why are they showing their unbelief by continually offering up the same prayer instead of thanking God by faith that he has heard that prayer and is now drawing their requested “relative/friend/acquaintance” to himself. With God it is not always about the instant coffee feeling. Sometimes we have to patiently wait for the outcome to happen in God’s own time.

That being said, we can still keep an ear out to God’s quite voice and when told to by God, invite them to come along to a church activity where their relationship with the “God” that they worship is challenged. (Sometimes I even find that my relationship is also challenged.)

I have stopped asking my friend(s)/acquaintances whether or not they have been “Saved” and instead ask them, “How is your relationship with the God that you are worshiping right at this moment?” The question is a great way to break through the awkwardness of asking them where their relationship with God is, as it is not a “Judgemental Question” about whether or not they are saved. It is a question about their relationship with God and one that opens up a great way for me to reveal the importance of my own personal relationship with and dependence on God.

That way can I/we become the salt for the people around us.

Again Jesus also said: - “Salt is good, but if salt loses its flavour, how can its flavour be restored? It is of no value for the soil or for the manure pile; it is to be thrown out.”

I have to keep reminding myself that the circumstances that I find myself in are not as important to my God as is my response to Him within those circumstances. So often I find that I truly miss the mark but God uses these experiences as a means of refining me into the person that He desires me to be through His Grace.

Shalom

Tom Ross

Cammeron said...

I dont understand why, if what we have is already so great, so we need to bring in something so different? I agree with kim, the part that bothered me the most was not the altar call, but the rules i felt he was placing on us. If i didnt "agree" with someone on such a big issue, i would give them the freedom to use it somewhere else.

Wade Burleson said...

Cammeron,

I understand! As I've told you on several occasions, YOU bring more people to Christ THROUGH Emmanuel than about anyone I know! There are many, however, who will never be reached by me, but WILL be reached by a Scott Camp. The challenge to consider the spiritual state of others is something needed, but if anybody has listened to me for any length of time, then they KNOW that there's no reason to ever be flustered by anyone who attempts to motivate through guilt. Let me say that again - "There's no reason to be FLUSTERED by anyone who motivates by guilt." Simply acknowledge that the method being used is contrary to what you see taught in Scripture and move on. My desire to share Christ is not out of guilt. Scott has helped awaken in me a desire to see people come to know Christ. All my guilt is gone.

Victorious said...

While I consider myself a "virtual" member of Enid church via the EChurch, I feel my thoughts may be welcomed.

I'm 100% in favor of altar calls. I know even though they can become routine, rigid, and yes, manipulative, they serve a purpose. They invite sinners to come to know the Savior. A helping hand is extended and an offer to pray with them. Then someone rejoices with them. How can that be offensive?

I have seen and heard the burden for souls in Wade's face and the tone of his voice during EChurch. Seeing sinners willingly come forward to know Jesus is a faith-building experience for the congregation as well. To see the Holy Spirit at work is a joyous occasion!

And last but not least, emotions are wonderful! We were designed to express them. How can we forget the woman who wiped the feet of Jesus with her tears? And Jesus Himself expressed a wide range of emotions throughout His ministry. If David came down my street dancing before the Lord, you would surely see this 70-yr.old woman out there joining him!

Thank you for this post, Wade. I'm with you and your church members in spirit.

Wade Burleson said...

Thank you, Victorious. Though we have never met, your comments on E-Church at Wartburg have always been an inspiration to me. Thanks for joining us every Sunday.

Brindusa said...

I'm obviously not a member at 'Emmanuel' (I wish I could be!)... My Romanian church background has made me *so* weary of the raise-your-hand-while-we-are-softly-singing-Just-As-I-Am-To-You-I-come type of altar calls, which is the default in most Ro. churches (which are Armenian). Yes, it is highly manipulative emotionally. Some people even go as far as to pretend to be unsaved and walk the aisle or raise their hands so that lost people would somehow go along with it... It's pitiful and I've had more than enough of it! I have nothing against calls, but calls for people to trust Christ right where they are, in their seat, to cry out to Him... not to perform a physical act - it is not equivalent to being saved.

However, that wasn't even the main point I wanted to make in this comment. Rather it is how much I appreciate the way you not only 'allow', but encourage others to think for themselves and to feel free to disagree with you. I can't tell you how much I appreciate this attitude. Very far from much that I've seen here, even in Calvinistic churches... where the pastor calls all the shots. Thank you for this!

Brindusa said...

"....altar calls, which is the default in most Ro. churches"

...which *are* the default, sorry.

Doug Barnes said...

I'm not going to cover my whole journey as a Christian. I will say that I'm 53 years old and that when I was in third grade I attended Emmanuel in Enid ( total coincidence in light of knowing of Wade much later.)

Here's what I can speak directly to. Three years ago we were attending a large church, as large as Emmanuel. Three services, three different styles. 4000 people, all pretty similar in beliefs and socioeconomic class but still individuals. Tons of ministry opportunities, all different. Something for everyone, local, national and world ministries.

Then my wife and I became involved in a urban ministry for kids on Wednesday nights in the city of Memphis. Then we sold our house in the suburbs and moved into that same area. Then we started a bible study for adults. THEN, the Baptist church with 16 active members that was letting us use their facility gave us their 55,000 sqf building. This all happened in the last 18 months or so.

We probably have 75 kids on Wednesday nights, we have about 70 regular adults and kids on Sundays. We have white people and black, people on SNAP and people that shop at Kroger with no thought of what groceries cost, we have single moms in the projects and families that homeschool.

What I can tell you after the past two years is that I've learned out there is no "right" way to minister to people. Our leadership team lives with the constant prayer and hope that we are correctly discerning God's word and wishes for this eclectic group. We have learned to be flexible and non-judgemental (never on core beliefs though) on music, worship styles, food and politics. I assure you that most of our black families have never heard of Hillsong United or KLOVE and I'd never heard of James Cleveland or 97.5 Hallelujah.

I can tell you it's been the best learning experience in my Christian life. We, like you all rarely do an alter call. But I know at this point in my life if someone was truly compelled by the Spirit to offer one I'd just see it as a way for someone unlike me to get there. I love our worship diversity, it's always interesting and I could talk for hours about how it's changed me. But, its 1:30AM and I need to finish a painting I'm working on.

Great post Wade, I love the way you empower people to ask questions and make us all think about our Kingdom work.

Wade Burleson said...

Brindusa,

Thanks so much for seeing what others here may take for granted. More than a few who have moved away to other cities and have told me they received a rude awakening when they discovered disagreeing with their new pastor is not something that is tolerated, much less encouraged. We too wish you were here!

Wade Burleson said...

Doug,

Great story! Please keep me updated with your Kingdom work! Truth is, we want to claim you - third grade is never too young to claim a missionary from Emmanuel on the field in the US of A. :)

Blessings to you and your wife. Keep on reaching the neighborhood for Christ.

Paul Burleson said...

Wade,

I'm neither a stranger to you [obviously] nor to the people who make up Emmanuel fellowship. But not being a member, I have to rejoice over several things if I may.

One is that your members CAN speak without fear of correction, intimidation, or being ostracized for doing so. Knowing them as I do, they probably would speak anyway, but freedom from such is so rare in church life today.

Another is that a difference is actually seen between theology and methods. One [the former] comes from a sacred Word study and the other [the latter] is adaptable to circumstances and purposes.

Too many people make it the reverse it seems to me.

Finally, I love giving an"alter call." [I'm not sure I like that term.] But to give people who have met with and heard from the Lord, in a corporate setting, a way of sharing that experience, whether it be a responding to the gospel, for prayer, or just TO pray together with someone else, in a personal manner, is an important moment. You DO give an alter call, [invite people to do something about what they've heard, it is just in a different fashion than the traditional.

Finally, I love the thing I hear in all commenting, including the ones who are disturbed by something. The thing I'm hearing is RESPECT. To "owe no one anything but to love them" is ALWAYS evidenced by the presence of respect I'm thinking.

I'm going to stop here, but my list of wonderful things I see going on in the Emmanuel fellowship could continue well beyond the boundaries of hijacking another's post..

I'll be talking to Mary about joining you on Easter. [Since it's a "we" thing it becomes a mutual decision.] I'm hoping we'll agree to come. ;)


Wade Burleson said...

Paul,

I know you agree that the word "altar" is exclusively used of Jesus Christ in the New Covenant Scriptures. All other altars are gone this side of Calvary. So, technically (and I like how you point this out) a biblical altar call is inviting people to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. That can happen without any physical movement within any church building. But, as someone eloquently pointed out to me Sunday morning, some folks like (or need) an "Ebenezer" moment with God - and sometimes coming to the "front" of the church assists them in meeting God in a fresh and unique way. I like what Doug said above about the variety of methodologies. I agree with him! Thanks for the comment!

Cammeron said...

A favorite quote of mine was brought to mind. No one can make me feel inferior without my consent.

Wade Burleson said...

Cammeron,

Love it.

Anonymous said...

I'm old school Baptist so will just call it an "invitation" rather than an altar call. And I've seen the very manipulative and detest those, but done right I believe they are absolutely essential to the church.

I love the planned Easter Event and wish we could be there, but too many sandhills to cross to make it.

My prayer for some time now has been for SBC churches in general to become much more evangelistic once again. It need not be manipulative, and can be effectively done both by evangelists and teaching pastors.

But I must admit I am absolutely stunned that there is push back over an invitation in an SBC church.

That is like complaining when you find out the pope is Catholic:)

Linda

Wade Burleson said...

"But I must admit I am absolutely stunned that there is push back over an invitation in an SBC church."

90% of our church has no Baptist background. Also, our people see transformed lives on a regular basis without a "walk the aisle" style invitation, so what they saw Sunday was different. I'm trying to help those who were bothered to see that no methodology is sacrosanct, and to demand that all evangelists be like us is contrary to the message of grace and acceptance we teach and believe.

Chuck Andrews said...

Wade,

You said a mouthful when you said:

“Legalism works both directions. Grace people can be legalist and demand everyone be as grace oriented as they.”

Ouch! That hurt. It is what I needed to hear.

As soon as we “demand everyone be as grace oriented as” us we have lost our grace orientation. We have cast our judgment against the method used and the messenger who used it. We have created our own man made traditions of grace that restricts God in “how” He works.

Seldom does this become more obvious than when an issue becomes an emotional issue. When the traditional invitation is given and it produces an emotionally positive response in some and an emotionally negative response in other the call of the invitation is the same for both – surrender all to Jesus. For one it may be an opportunity for salvation. For the other it may be an opportunity to grow in grace.

I’m praying Emmanuel will experience both. What better environment for a newborn believer to be than in a family that is continually growing in grace.

Paul Burleson said...

Wade,

For what it's worth, I DO think you are correct about Jesus being our alter in the NT.

I also find it interesting that in Matthew 17:5-8 the disciples experienced Jesus in a manner they never had. Because of that they wanted to build an "alter" [The Greek word is booths] for each one of the three that appeared on the MT.

I'm thinking that there was nothing wrong with what Peter said or their desire. But they couldn't stay and booths [alters] tend to create that desire, it seems.

A transfiguring moment with Jesus is just that. Especially corporately as a fellowship. It's a momentary experience that enables us to hear from Him [the preached word in the hands of the Holy Spirit]] with perhaps a new insight as to who Jesus really is as our life. But go out into the road of life to live His reality out among people, WE MUST.

By whatever method that moment is experienced is of little significance. But being transformed by it is of great significance.

That many more corporate moments of transformation be a reality in the gathered portion of His Body called Emmanuel Enid, is my genuine prayer.

What a great thing to be talking about!!

Victorious said...

Just to add that I was overjoyed to hear of the prison offenders who went forward in an act of repentance.

Praise the Lord!

Anonymous said...

Wade,
I must compliment you on the kind and understanding manner in which you have dealt with this matter. It is reminiscent of the way the father reasoned with the elder brother.We all have to face situations in the family or church with those who suffer from EBS (Elder Brother Syndrome).

Some people have an unreasonable fear that they might be moved down the pecking or petting order when changes are made. Their protective instincts make them less generous to accommodate and tolerate anything beyond their selfish comfort zone. They may even adopt a moral high ground to justify their actions. In response, they will either pout, sulk and withdraw. or they will snap, bite and try to foment dissatisfaction.( The latter is to be preferred because you know where you stand with them ).

But all reasonable people are open to persuasion and re-assurance, and I'm sure your admirable response will go a long way toward better understanding, acceptance and restoring lost joy.

Thanks be to God who gives us wisdom and strength for every situation.

Gordon

Bob Cleveland said...

I doubt there's a more alter-call-oriented area than Alabama. And probably not a more thoroughly Southern Baptist area. So I assume that it's normal practice in most of our major church areas.

I know from information published in the Alabama Baptist, our state SBC newspaper, that attendance in SBC churches in the 6 major metropolitan population centers, is 33.28% of membership (and recall that attendance includes visitors and children too young to be counted as members), whereas other denominations report 53.97%.

From those numbers, I must conclude something that we're doing, which differs from other denominations, is the cause for the seeming failure to keep people coming back to church. Personally I think it's the simple fact that once the walk the aisle, the church treats them as a finished product. And we do.

Mark Burleson said...

It seems my first comment was lost in cyberspace. My apologies if this posts twice.

A few random thoughts:

1. Paul and Wade. I agree I've not much cared for the term "Altar Call." I much prefer the term "Call to Christ" Regardless of where we stand on Arminianism\Calvinism, I think we agree that we are vessels used by Him for His glory.

2. I love the song "Oceans" and the young lady does a great job.

3. I'm celebrating with you over the lives that have been changed and praying for your Easter services.

4. While I also understand the not wanting to talk numbers, it becomes the issue when we focus on the number and not the person behind that number. They are someone who has been forever changed by His Grace and are a story and testament to His Love. When we forget that is where we start losing focus.

Lee Wiser said...

Greetings Brother Wade,

I became aware of Emmanuel Enid through The Wartburg Watch. I especially appreciated last year’s study in Hebrews. I appreciate your blog as well.

I was finally able to see the service in which Scott Camp preached, having previously read some of the thoughts of some who were uncomfortable with his methodology.

Reflecting on that service brought to mind the circumstances of my own conversion. In June of 1972 God used a Jesus Movement-era rock band to attract a crowd in a cul-de-sac surrounded by student apartments in the community of Isla Vista CA. I was in attendance with some friends from school. There was no preacher, but band members shared between songs. During the course of the concert someone gave me a simple gospel tract. The gospel message was convicting, but equally so was the diversity of the crowd. A combination of students, hippies and “regular people” were all in one place worshipping God and getting along. That there was harmony in the crowd was noteworthy because this event took place very near the location of the Bank of America that was burned in 1970 during an out-of-control anti-war demonstration, and tensions in Isla Vista were still high.

When I told my story to traditional church people some were very surprised that anyone could come to Christ in such an unorthodox setting. Christian rock bands, hippie-type young adults and such were, to put it charitably, outside their traditional comfort zone back in those days.

I came to Christ is a service that would have made some people uncomfortable. Obviously Brother Scott’s way of doing things rubbed some the wrong way. I would encourage anyone who was uncomfortable that day to graciously not focus on the messenger, rejoice that Christ was proclaimed and come alongside those new believers.

I look forward to hearing about the Easter Event in a couple of months.

Blessings

Mike Copeland said...

Hello Wade, this is Mike, Debra's husband here in So. GA. I came across your Blog through a "friend" on Facebook which has filled-in the Gap for fellowship my wife and I have lacked due to our position of non-compromise. She has left FB and although I know 98% of what goes on there is of the Flesh, some interesting re-connections have been made along with those new ones who are searching for a non-religious "family". I really want to commend you on your transparency and willingness to take a stand where others in leadership have fallen into following the Pastoral Model. Please, as the Lord leads come by our place online which features short videos and what we call a Balanced Media Ministry. We have been independent for 24 years (no 501(c)3 here) and fasting and praying for direction. My parents are 87 years old in California, and although I have been in touch by phone on a weekly basis, it has been 27+ years since I've seen them. I was brought to tears because Kevin and I have the same concerns about our families. So please encourage Kevin that at least they are not located on the other side of the nation as mine are. Thanks for your service and sincerity Wade, we will be lifting up the Easter Event for the Glory of God and the Souls of Men (and Women)!! Mike www.saltandfire.com

Wade Burleson said...

Mike,

What a great comment. I've relayed it to Kevin and asked the Lord's continued blessing on your ministry!

Wade Burleson said...

Mike,

What a great comment. I've relayed it to Kevin and asked the Lord's continued blessing on your ministry!