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A church's success can be measured only by the emphasis it places on offering men and women the chance to choose Christ.
God forever fixed the value of a human soul when He "so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16, KJV). Souls are priceless. They are of more value than all the treasure of earth and sky.
The church where the gospel is preached without an evangelistic appeal, that is, a call for men and women to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and declare themselves on the Lord's side, is a failure. I realize that the public decision for Christ is a rare teaching in the world today, but in our meetings, everything is subservient to the decision to follow in the footsteps of Christ.
Frequently, we are asked why we do not embrace the more prevalent custom of having people go to a rear room, sign cards and shake hands with the minister, instead of having a public altar call. We are asked to explain why we insist on asking people to stand, come down those long aisles and kneel before the world at the altar rail.
The reason this public stand is advocated is because Christ took a public stand for us. He did not go off into some private bedroom and die by Himself, where no one could see Him.
Instead, Christ took the cross upon His bleeding shoulders, carried it through the gate and mounted Calvary's rugged hill. There, hanging high before the eyes of all men, He took His stand.
Would we not take a public stand for Him? And wouldn't we be proud through all eternity that we rose from our seats and walked forward before the assembled multitudes, bowed our knees before the Lamb of God and confessed Him before them all?
The Moment of Courage Often, I think our professed modesty in not wanting to make a public display of our religion is in reality akin to cowardice and moral weakness.
Many souls miss salvation simply because they lack the one moment of courage to make the break. The decision is made in their hearts, but they cannot bring themselves to the physical confession of it. Here is the "No man's land" of the evangelistic battle-the mental barbed-wire entanglement to which the convert has come but which he has not the courage to cross.
Yet the Lord has said, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 10:32).
When a public altar call is given, seldom is there an erect head or an open eye in the building. The presence of Him who said, "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32) permeates the entire place.
Often during my big tent meetings, hundreds have stood and surged forward with faces that shone as though they were sweeping toward the gates of heaven. I have seen them rise simultaneously all over the large auditoriums in Denver, Chicago and New York City, from the main floor to balconies, until it looked as though the entire congregation was moving to the altar.
Is There One More? - Always we will ask, "Is there another-just one more?" This call usually brings at least a dozen. But the last one to come, the most reluctant and fearful, means more to me than the hundreds already on their knees-because it was the very last one.
Sometimes there is no time for this appeal because something unexpected happens and, from out of nowhere, something turns the usual order of the service upside down. At such a time, there is just one thing to do-quickly step aside and let the Lord have the unobstructed right-of-way.
Just such an occasion as this remains very vividly in my mind and in the minds of the Angelus Temple congregation. It was during a Sunday night service, and the Temple was packed.
Two weeks before, special services were held for the sailors of the Pacific Fleet, and the Temple had been packed then, too. Hundreds of regular attendees gave up their seats that night to make room for the men.
The main floor of the vast auditorium was a veritable sea of blue uniforms. When the altar call was given, the altars and the platform overflowed.
On this second Sunday night, many of the boys returned. The Temple was packed with its usual Sunday night crowd.
Hundreds were standing along the sides of the main floor. Still hundreds more were on the streets, unable to gain admission.
Everything went along as usual until the announcements were made. Among the notices was the news of the dreadful disaster that took place on one of the Navy tugboats in the San Diego Harbor the week before.
The accident occurred when a careless or thoughtless boy tossed a lighted match too near a gasoline tank. Several members of the crew were killed in the catastrophe.
I said to the crowd: "Who knows, but that some of those brave boys were here last Sunday night? And, who knows, perhaps in God's divine mercy, some of them were saved?"
Just then a sailor who was sitting on the steps leading to the platform arose and made his way toward me. When he reached the pulpit, he asked permission to deliver a message for his buddy who had met death in the explosion.
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