August 10, 2023
Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
The preacher was standing at the front of the Sanctuary as we sang those words. It was Burfordville Baptist Church where my Dad was the pastor. It was the third night of a weeklong revival at our little church. I had listened as the preacher spoke of how the Holy Spirit can make us into new people and that we could rekindle our “first love” of God.
My eight-year-old heart was feeling a stirring I could not name. And then came the moment: an invitation. We all sang “Just as I Am” as the preacher beckoned those of us forward who wanted to accept Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and be made new by being washed in Christ’s blood. I found myself stepping into the aisle and walking towards the front.
Some of you probably have called it the Invitation, others the Altar Call. Here at Ardmore we call it the Time of Response (we want to allow room for a wide variety of ways to respond to the Word of God). We Baptists seem to think that altar calls were handed down on the third tablets of the commandments, but it’s actually a fairly recent practice. Altar calls began during the Second Great Awakening and most people tie them to the ministry of Charles Finney, where he would call people to immediately respond to the Gospel working in their lives and be made new.
In his new book Losing Our Religion: An Altar Call for Evangelical America, Russell Moore seems to be standing at the front of the sanctuary and calling on American Christians to walk the aisle and rededicate themselves to what they believe. Russell Moore, as many of you know, was a prominent leader in the Southern Baptist Convention for many years. During the 2016 election, he spoke up about the politicization of the denomination. He did not believe that the SBC should be beholden to any candidate or party (on either side of the aisle). Because of his convictions, he was eventually forced out of his position and now serves as the Editor-in-Chief of Christianity Today.
During the fall, I will occasionally be blogging my reflections on different parts of the book. Please feel free to get a copy and read alongside me. Here are the dates when I will be sharing my thoughts on various parts of the book:
September 14 – Introduction
September 28 – Chapter One: Losing Our Credibility: How Disillusion Can Save Us from Deconstruction
October 12 – Chapter Two: Losing Our Authority: How the Truth Can Save Us from Tribalism
October 26 – Chapter Three: Losing Our Identity: How Conversion Can Save Us from Culture Wars
November 9 – Chapter Four: Losing Our Integrity: How Morality Can Save Us from Hypocrisy
November 30 – Chapter Five: Losing Our Stability: How Revival Can Save Us from Nostalgia
December 14 – Conclusion
Russell Moore is someone who deeply loves the Church and has the audacity to hope that the Church can practice what the Church claims to believe about the Gospel. This is a deeply important book. And I believe it’s so beneficial, that I am inviting you to read it alongside me this fall. I doubt you will agree with everything he says (I don’t). But I believe that the observations he makes are words of invitation to us all. And I hope I am willing to be brave enough to walk the aisle, just as I am.