What does coming to the front have to do with salvation?

What does coming to the front have to do with salvation?

“Come to Jesus!”, “Come now!”, “Come to the front, Jesus is waiting here for you.”, “Get up and come quickly!”, “He died for you. The least you can do is take a few steps towards Him.”
This style of evangelistic plea has become the focal point of almost every major evangelistic outreach of our day, and the common end of most Sunday worship services. But, are such altar calls and invitations Biblically warranted?

CHARLES FINNEY AND THE INVITATION.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, Charles Finney, a traveling evangelist with piercing eyes, tremendous personality, mesmerizing communication skills, and very little biblical knowledge, began the time of invitation that would soon come to be practiced at virtually every church in America. Finney became known for his incredible ability to stir up large audiences of people and get them to respond to his messages by beckoning them to come forward during his sermons. To many, it appeared that Finney had found a new method of evangelism that was extremely effective, and with the call to the front, results could be seen immediately.
Finney was successfully drawing massive audiences and seeing thousands of people come to the front for salvation. Surely this must have been a great move of God, right? Sadly, Finney’s bigger-than-life personality and his magnetic ability to get people out of their seats to come to the front caused many to overlook the fact that his doctrine was fundamentally flawed.
Finney had distorted the gospel of God, substituted his own version of the gospel and was actually calling on people to believe and respond to “another gospel” that was not from God. Finney did not believe that man was born sinful and required a Savior for the forgiveness of sins. He rejected the biblical truth that we are saved by Christ’s righteousness being applied to us. Finney also did not believe in the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, nor did he see any need for it. He believed that it was impossible for Jesus Christ to die for the sins of others.1 He even went as far as to teach that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross was just a great example of selflessness, but in no way brought about salvation.2 Finney writes, “It is true, that the atonement, of itself, does not secure the salvation of anyone.3 He had created a Christ who was nothing more than a moral example for people to follow, but Whose work did not and could not save anyone. In fact, Christ’s righteousness, Finney says, “could do no more than justify himself. It could never be imputed to us . . .”4
However, the altar call, which was created by a man who rejected the true gospel, has become so popular, that modern Christians just assume that this is the way that it has always been since the time of Christ. The invitation system is so prevalent that one would be hard-pressed to find a church that does not use some form of Finney’s “altar call” methodology.

WHAT’S AT THE FRONT ANYWAY?

So, what about you? Have you ever wondered what is at the front of the church that is not at the back or side of the church for salvation? Truthfully, there is no square footage of a church that someone must go to be saved. God could save a person no matter if they walked to the back, side, front, or even remain seated. Yet, countless pastors and evangelist promote the front as the place to come to be saved as if it is a means of salvation. What does walking forward have to do with one believing the gospel of God? Does physical movement somehow aid in salvation? Is there some connection between being saved by Christ and walking forward while music is playing at the end of church service?
Many professing Christians describe their salvation with such an action as “going to the front,” or “walking the aisle” as well. Such Christians often speak of their physical response of “going forward” as if such activity is an essential element of their salvation. This is a common mistake of Christians living in a “come to the front” era. In supposedly, telling others about our testimony, we often put the emphasis on the walk forward, instead of the message of the gospel. To an unbeliever, it would be easy for them to assume that “going forward” is what a person does to be saved.

IS THE “COME TO THE FRONT” METHOD USED IN THE BIBLE?

While the altar call may be a widespread practice today, there is no scriptural support for such a practice. A quick search of the sermons of Christ and the Apostles shows that the whole “come to the front method” was never used. This methodology is entirely foreign to the Word of God. Many evangelistic sermons are recorded for us in the book of Acts, yet not once is there a call at the end to come to the front. The people are never told to come to the front for salvation; instead, they are told to believe unto salvation.
 
In his book, The Invitation System, Iain Murray presents the following points to consider regarding the high-pressure methodology of the “Invitation” as used in the modern church:
  1. The invitation system, because it represents an outward response as connected with ‘receiving Christ,’ institutes a condition of salvation which Christ never appointed.
  2. Because the call to come forward is given as though it were a divine command, those who respond are given reason to believe that they are doing something commendable before God, while those who do not are falsely supposed to be disobeying Him.
  3. By treating two distinct issues, ‘come to Christ’ and ‘come to the front’ as though they were one, the tendency of the invitation to mislead the unconverted in regard to their duty. The real issue is as stated in John 6:20 ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on him who he hath sent.’5

 

That being the case, does the “come to the front method” of evangelism add a non-biblical step into salvation? It is difficult to see how the modern emphasis on coming forward would not be seen as contributing in some degree to a person’s salvation. In fact, I have commonly heard preachers and evangelists say things like, “If there are 100 steps to your salvation, Jesus will take 99, but you must take the first one.”, or “Come now, Jesus is waiting here for you, all you have to do is come Him.” It is easy to see how such words could lead to the belief that walking forward is contributing to one’s salvation. Could such an invitation be seen as adding to the gospel? Could it even be adding human effort (works) as an essential component of the gospel? Some might not believe that “going forward” is that much work, but if it is contributing in any way even just one percent, how can that not be a mixture of God’s grace and human effort?

“OH NO, I WALKED FORWARD! AM I SAVED?”

No one is saved because he or she went forward during an invitation, but some are saved despite their going forward during an invitation. It is possible that some who “come to the front” have genuinely heard the gospel and believed in the gospel for their salvation. Perhaps they understand that walking to the front is not adding to their salvation or required for salvation at all. And maybe they have just followed the speaker’s appeal to walk forward now that they are saved. If their faith is in the Jesus Christ of Scripture, then they are saved no matter if they walked forward, backward, or just stayed seated.
 
However, it is also possible that a person could not have heard the gospel, not believed in the gospel, and still walked forward under the compulsion of the speaker, peer pressure of friends, or an entirely wrong view of what is needed for salvation. Clearly, such a person is not saved; instead, they have just gone for a walk and gotten a bit of exercise, which has most likely lead to a false conversion. The point is, that genuine salvation and “coming to the front” are not synonymous.
 
As you reflect on your salvation, perhaps you too made a trip down the aisle. However, this does not mean that you are or are not saved. We should never look to a “come forward” event in our lives as proof of our salvation. It is good for professing Christians to, as the Apostle Paul says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.”6 Paul was not calling on the Corinthians to reflect on a time when they walked forward as a test of their salvation, but he is calling on them to make sure that they believe in Jesus Christ and what He has done to provide salvation.
 
There is no biblical support that a person needs to come forward to be saved. Many preachers and evangelists act as if coming to the front is a biblical command; however, Jesus nor His Apostles ever used such a practice. With such great emphasis placed on the visual act of going forward, many people tend to confuse their physical activity with the spiritual action of salvation. We, as Christians, should keep this in mind when we evangelize or share our testimonies with others. Even if we did walk an aisle, or go to the front, during an invitation, we must be careful that we do not make such an action a part of the gospel that we are proclaiming to others. The gospel’s call is not to walk forward but to repent, believe, and walk in obedience to Christ.
 
1. Charles G. Finney, Finney’s Systematic Theology, ed. James Harris Fairchild (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 320-322.
2. Ibid., 209.
3. Ibid., 217.
4. Charles G. Finney, Finney’s Systematic Theology, ed. James Harris Fairchild (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 320-322.
5. Iain Hamish Murray, The Invitation System (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1973), 26.
6. 2 Corinthians 13:5


Six Ways to Grow Closer to Other Christians

Six Ways to Grow Closer to Other Christians

Many professing Christians will walk into church this Sunday, smile at a few people, shake a hand or two, talk about the weather a bit, listen to a sermon, sing a few songs, and walk away believing that they have just fulfilled what it means to live in Christian community. Is this all there is, or should we be looking for more? 

The Apostle Peter addressed the Christians of his day, and us, to go far beyond merely being in the same room as one another for one hour per week. He calls believers to be deeply involved in one another’s lives. 

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing (1 Peter 3:8-9).

In this passage, Peter gives six back-to-back instructions that we all should be striving to possesses personally, and as a local church.

  1. Unity of mind: Sometimes translated, “harmony.” It has been said, that people can only live in harmony by themselves.
    Put any two people in a room for a long enough time, and very soon they will not be in harmony. For Christians, this should not be. We must always let our unity in Christ supersede our differences. The world is a hostile place full of people who are dividing, and fighting, over all kinds of issues. Believers are to strive to live in unity, peace, and harmony with one another. As Paul writes, “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11).
  2. Sympathy: To sympathize with another Christian is not to just be aware of other’s needs, but a deep desire that also results in taking action to help. As believers, we should make sure that no Christian is suffering alone.
    Look at the high level of sympathy which Paul exhorts the Corinthians to express, “but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:25-26).
    If you are the one suffering, let others know about it. If people don’t know, then they cannot help. 
  3. Brotherly love: While we are to honor all people, there is extra special love that we are to have with those who are in the family of God. We are commanded by God to love one another. Other Christians need the love that only other Christians can provide, and loving others is a vital part of fulfilling your purpose in life. Brotherly love cannot, and should not be confined to a building referred to as a “church.” It is a love that should be active all week long.
  4. Tender-hearted: Be sensitive to the needs of others. This is the opposite of having a hard, calloused heart. There is a dire need among Christians to open our hearts and to be sensitive towards one another.
    Is your heart tender towards Christians in your local church? Do you seek to know them and understand their hurts, pains, trials, and sufferings? As a Christian living in community with other Christians, be on the lookout for those who are needing sympathy. Those who hurt the most often hide it the best.
  5. Humble mind: Humility is considering others more important than yourself. This is the polar opposite to the way the unsaved world thinks. They put themselves first; however, you are commanded to put others first.
    Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).
  6. Do not repay evil for evil: Sadly, it appears that this command was given to those within the church. Is it possible for Christians to say bad things about a fellow Christian? Of course, and anyone reading this knows that such a thing can and does happen, but how are you to respond? Peter is very clear. We are not to repay them with evil. He had just instructed the believers to not repay non-believers with evil, and how much more forgiving, patient, and long-suffering should we be with our fellow Christians. 

Summary:

These exhortations by Peter are a punch in the gut to modern Christianity, and maybe even to you personally. Are you striving to live in Christian community with unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, a humble mind, and not returning evil for evil? 

If you have been thinking that attending church is the extent of your involvement with your fellow believers, repent and start incorporating Peter’s instructions immediately. 

Do you want to have a stronger, heathier, more intimate church? Well, it starts with you. 
~ Trey Talley


Should You Choose a Church Based Upon Your Race?

Should you choose a church based upon your race?

The Apostle Peter, writing to a racially diverse group of people from different regions, cultures, ancestries, said of them, “But you are a chosen race…” (1 Peter 2:9). Why was Peter calling people of many races “a” race?

Race, or ethnicity, has to do with common ancestry. For instance, the Jewish leaders relied heavily on their ancestry lineage to Abraham. They believed the genetic link to Abraham made them right with God. However, Jesus infuriated the Pharisees by letting them know that, even though Abraham was their genetic father, Satan was their spiritual father.

They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did,but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.You are doing the works your father did.”They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. (John 8:39-44)

These particular Jews were related to Abraham by blood, but not by belief. As the New Testament progresses, we see a new race of people becoming increasingly revealed that transcends earthly ancestry and traditional views of race. The new race is created by God Himself. And it is a race that is not made up of one particular skin tone. In fact, this new race of people cannot be determined by outward appearance. It is a race of people who look incredibly diverse, yet have all been born-again into thesame family of God.

In the book of Acts, we see that salvation come first to thousands of Jews (a people racially connected to Abraham)1 . Later, the same gospel that saved the Jews on Pentecost was proclaimed to the Samaritans (a racially mixed group of people, part Jew and part other)2 .If this wasn’t shocking enough, Peter was commanded to go and preach the gospel to even the Gentiles (a people with absolutely no ancestral affiliation to Abraham)3 . As Peter was preaching the gospel to them, a whole household of Gentiles is saved. This was so shocking to the Jewish leadership that Peter was called back to Jerusalem to give an account for what he had done. After Peter’s eyewitness account, the Christian Jewish leaders finally realized that salvation through Christ was for people of all races. “When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life’” (Acts 11:18).

It took years to convince the Jews, and even the Apostles, that all races were saved in exactly the same way and that unity in Christ was far more important than unity in a race. As Christians, they now had ancestry that superseded any other. God was their Father, Christ their Savior, and the Holy Spirit indwelt all of them. Racial reconciliation was more and more realized as the Christians understood mankind’s universal need to be reconciled to God by Jesus Christ.

The new race of people was utterly mixed from the human perspective: Jew, Ethiopian, Samaritan, Gentile, Roman, Asian, and etc.…  All different shades of skin, but one shade of soul; forgiven by the same sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. These believers had different blood, but the same belief in Jesus Christ. They had different earthly fathers, but one Heavenly Father.

By the time Peter writes 1 Peter, we see that he has fully realized that the body of Christ is a beautiful gathering of people from all different ancestries into one new race in Jesus Christ.

So, should you choose a church based upon your race?

Of course not! To do so is a radical slip backward in our understanding of the work of God in redemption to create a new race. To emphasize our skin tones or genetic differences is to return to the racial discrimination that Jesus abolished. Such ethnic emphasis divides and disregards the unity that we all have in Jesus Christ.

Remember, the Apostle Peter was writing to a racially diverse group of people, yet he did not emphasize their differences at all. Instead, the first two chapters were spent emphasizing their sameness, same: God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, mercy, grace, regeneration, inheritance, etc.

So, as you look for a local gathering of believers to be a part of, don’t look for a group that represents your skin tone the best, look for a group of people that reflect God’s glory the best.
 
~ Trey Talley

References

1. Acts 2:22, 41

2. Acts 8:4-12

3. Acts 13:34-48



Our New Location

The Church at Pecan Creek started as a small group of people meeting Sunday nights at Northview Baptist Church in Lewisville, TX. As our congregation grew, we moved to the Pecan Creek Elementary School in Corinth, TX. We enjoyed two wonderful years there and are very thankful for the hospitality we were shown by the school and the staff. 
 
On November 12, we moved into our very own building at 1811 Shady Oaks Drive, Suite 105, Denton, Texas. We are so excited to have our own place. Lots of work was done in the two weeks before we moved in. We painted, put in new floors, fixed and painted ceiling tiles, bought and cleaned chairs, had several construction projects going on, among many other projects. 
After two weeks of intense work, our first Sunday was such a blessing. We had a full house and a wonderful fellowship. 
We would love for you to join us for worship and to check out our new facility.
 
Over the next few months and years, we will be making improvements to the facility. If you would like to donate to help us make these needed updates, you can donate here: https://www.thechurchatpecancreek.com/give/