Old-Fashioned Altars

December 13, 2008

benchAlmost all fundamentalist services end with a plea to walk the aisle down to an “old-fashioned altar.” This is usually acompanied by standing with “your heads bowed and your eyes closed. Nobody looking around.” while singing approximately 347 verses of an invitation hymn such as Just as I Am or Jesus is Calling.

In reality, the “old-fashioned altar” is a misnomer since the practice of come-down-front invitations is not that old nor is the front of the church strictly an altar since the only blood that is shed there happens during church business meetings.

Fundamentalists have Methodist camp meetings and the work of evangelist Charles Finney in the 1800’s to thank for the modern day come-down-front invitation. What is not clear is if Finney also fathered the technique of saying “If nobody comes on this next verse then we’ll close the service” (inevitably followed by one more person traipsing down the aisle to the collective groans of everyone who has a roast slowly turning to leather in their oven back at home.)

How did they get people saved before “Just As I Am” was written in 1849? It’s almost impossible to imagine.

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