“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
We all know this verse well. Whether or not we can say it and it be true for our lives is an entirely different matter, but let’s just assume that we’re all unashamed of the gospel.
And why would we be?
It’s good news
The BEST news.
It’s indescribable joy.
Right-standing with our Creator.
That all sounds pretty awesome if you ask me.
So here’s a problem.
A BIG PROBLEM (YES I NEEDED THAT IN ALL CAPS).
And I’m freaking calling it out yo.
There’s a weird thing we have started to do at church and it’s not only unbiblical, it’s dangerously offensive to God.
Covert altar calls.
What the heck is a covert altar call?
You’ve definitely seen one before. It goes a little something like this…
Pastor: If you’ve felt the Lord speak to you tonight, and you realize that you are in need of his love, and blah blah blah, it’s time to make a decision. Now, everyone please close your eyes. If you are one of those people who realize you need Jesus, I just want you to raise your hand, so I know who you are. Don’t be shy, no one’s looking around. It’s just you and Jesus. That’s right. Thank-you. If you made that decision tonight I’d like to speak with you afterwards in secret where no one will see you. Praise the Lord, etc, etc, blah blah.
Can I say something?
That is not the way to make the greatest decision of your life.
I get that having everyone bow their heads and close their eyes (even though 76% of the congregation is still gonna peek) may have started innocently as an attempt to be kind to people that are feeling scared and insecure, and to not single people out or have too much pressure on individuals to make a decision in front of everyone but here’s the friggin thing. When we purposefully coddle these insecurities and fears that would otherwise hold the individual back from making the decision publicly we are telling them that it’s okay to be ashamed of the gospel. We’re telling them there’s a reason to be ashamed of their decision to follow the greatest man who ever lived.
When we create an environment that allows people to covertly follow Jesus, we are helping them start their relationship with God on fear. Now, yes, it doesn’t have to be a public decision, and you can make that decision in the privacy of your home but in this particular situation if the Holy Spirit is prompting people to make the decision then and the only thing holding them back is their fear of what other people are going to think of them then they should not make that decision.
Not make it?
“Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”
Fear is looking back.
Insecurity is looking around.
And when we remove these obstacles from people’s decisions to follow Christ we are allowing fear to override love.
The bible says that perfect love casts out fear.
So if we have fear we cannot have perfect love.
So if we make our decision to follow Jesus simply because no one is looking and our fear is coddled into comfort, we are not making the decision out of love.
The decision to follow Christ should be a joyful one! It should be one where people are so excited to do it that they don’t freaking care how many people see them, they are filled with joy at the thought of being in relationship with him.
The bible says that all of heaven completely goes bananas when someone enters the Kingdom.
In the meantime, while heaven is going buck wild up there, the church is silent and quiet, raising shaking hands hoping that no one sees them.
That is not the atmosphere of grace.
That certainly does not sound like good news.
We as a church should be so excited when someone comes to Christ, that people are excited to come to Christ, because they know that they will be celebrated and not looked down upon.
I don’t think that altar calls are the greatest thing the church has invented, but if we’re going to do them, can we do them right?
Can we be okay if no one makes a decision?
Do we have to be so concerned with numbers that we forsake sincerity?
Do we have to be so wrapped up in acceptance that we forsake joy?
Do we have to be so caught up in comfort that we forsake boldness?
The decision to follow Christ is a bold one, and we have made it an easy one.
Shame on us.
Jesus was not concerned with numbers or making sure everyone’s insecurities were being coddled and comforted. He was concerned with sincerity and love.
And these covert altar calls are void of these things.
They are riddled with shame, fear, and worry.
They are atmospheres of insecurity.
And they tell people that the cost of following Jesus is minimal.
And they tell people it’s natural to be ashamed of accepting grace.
Nicodemus was a man who was first concerned with his reputation and insecure about following Jesus. He met Jesus in secret at night and talked with him, because he felt there was something different about him. But only later, after Jesus had died, did Nicodemus come out in the daylight and identify himself with Jesus.
He had counted the cost.
He had overcome the fear.
He had been filled with love.
And love made him do that which fear told him not to.
Because he was not ashamed of the gospel, and he was most certainly not scared what people would think of him, because he knew that none of that mattered in light of the grace and newness of life he found in his beloved Savior.
And all of heaven roared with unexplainable joy, because the world had lost its grip on him, fear had been made void, and a man who once was once in darkness, had made his decision to follow Christ in the light.
And that is worth celebrating.
Jesus’ blood is worth more than a shadowed hand in a quiet room full of people with their eyes closed.