Yesterday Keith Thomason shared with the church his spiritual journey during an extremely difficult period in his life. Last year he faced a life-threatening experience when he underwent a liver transplant. His story resonated with many of those present. The evidence was seen through their tears, and especially through their coming to the altar for prayer, commitment, and to put actions to the truths which God made known to them through Keith’s testimony. What he experienced in a terrible time of trouble, facing a very real danger of death, also became a dark time spiritually for him. Yet, God showed His faithfulness to Keith in a such overwhelming way that he simply could no longer keep silent about how real God is in his life. That is how it should be for every believer. How can we remain silent about the transforming, life-changing power of Jesus Christ? Yet, for many of us, it takes an earth-shattering event to shake us out of our complacency. God certainly used Keith’s story to rattle some cages–in a good way!
Also, God impressed upon my heart to share with our congregation what I have come to believe about altar calls/ invitation times through many years of preaching and being a pastor. On many, many occasions through the years, people have approached me the days following a worship service or sermon. These are well-meaning folks who are simply concerned about their pastor, and do not want him to be too discouraged when no one approaches the altar after a worship service. “I don’t understand how people can see you pouring your heart out like you do, preaching the Word of God with boldness, obviously bringing a well-prepared and hard-studied message, and not be any people coming up to the altar as you’re trying to lead us…” As I say, they seem to me to be concerned about my own well-being. In reality, I am much more concerned about their well-being than my own!
I will admit that I go through periods of frustration and discouragement. But, not enough to dissuade me from doing what I do! My preaching/pastoring career began on Labor Day Weekend 1990. Almost 27 years to the day. As I shared this observation with our congregation yesterday, I said, being very frank, yet lovingly–“Don’t worry about me; worry about yourself, if God has made known to you something He desires for your life, and is waiting for you to respond. That’s not on me; that’s on you.” I meant business too, because when the Spirit of God convicts us, and we refuse to respond–that is where spiritual crisis begins. It leads to a wandering in our faith which undermines everything we claim to believe.
The moral of the story–stop resisting the Holy Spirit! He is working in our worship services. God is moving upon the hearts of our people. But, if our altar calls continue to go unanswered, then my friends, we are on borrowed time! “God, please remove the barriers of pride or embarrassment that are hindering your people from yielding to the impulses of your Holy Spirit in our worship!” Let all of God’s people say—–“AMEN!”