30 thoughts on “Kleenex At The Altar”

    1. I grew up in a GARB church in Indiana, and while we had altar calls three times a week, and at every special event and revival service, and there were often tears when someone came forward, Missouri was the first place I saw Kleenex set out ahead of time. Maybe it’s a more southern tradition. It all seemed so contrived to me. “We’re going to make you cry, so we’re setting the Kleenex out now.”

      Reminds me of the time I visited a small Bible church in Michigan, and the soloist, before beginning her “special” told us about how convicting the song was going to be and said that if, during the song, we felt a need to get right with God, “walk, don’t run to the altar.”

  1. Aw now, let’s not pick on true contrition. There have been more than a couple times that I’ve needed tissue at my very non-fundie church. If the law doesn’t condemn you, check your pulse. If it does, you’re ready to receive the Gospel.

    My church has an alter call every week. Everybody goes up. It’s called Communion.

  2. We would always have an alter call for the same three people. Of course, it was always for those who needed to get right with God, but we were a small church and never had visitors, so the fact is that it was the same people who always needed to get right with God.

    Anyway, they always used tissues, and this post reminded me of them.

  3. I don’t know. . I guess no one was truly able to repent before the “altar call” or “public invitations” were invented.

    Besides, where would we be today without having to stand through twenty five verses of “Just As I Am” each Sunday for years growing up!?

  4. Haha. I think Loren is right!

    At the church I used to go to, they had tissues not on the “old-fashioned altar”, but on the first row of pews. I think the point was for those in need of consolation from tears. However, I think more people used them to blow their noses when sick. 🙂

    You should see the church I go to now. (It’s part fundy, part not the way I see it so far.) They even have arm rests on the “altar!” Literally. You can kneel, and then plop your arms up there for comfort, and then grab a tissue if you need one! Kinda funny…

  5. ^ Haha, Jim. Although now that you mention it, could it be the speaker as well?? Everyone in Fundyland knows that it’s a mortal SIN to use modern-day sound devices!!

  6. A few years ago, I sent a question to Ask the Expert at Christian History Magazine about the origin of altar calls. Here’s the link to their interesting answer:

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/asktheexpert/may2.html

    Suffice it to say the chronology can be summarized as follows:

    Roman Catholic churches re-crucify Christ in the mass over an “altar”
    Anglican churches retain the altar, occaisionally inviting folks forward “for prayer”
    Methodists (Wesleyan pietistic Anglican revivalists) utilize it as a way to receive converts and excite more conversion.

    However, the Reformed tradition renamed the furniture from which the Lord’s Supper was served, calling it “the table.” The Baptist churches of America largely descend from the Reformed Particular Baptists of England, so surely they originally called it the table as well. With the advent of revivalism, they would begin adopting the practice of “altar calls.” Considering the strong anti-Catholic vein in the more extreme forms of Baptist fundamentalism, I find it ironic that they would revert from the “table” to the “altar.” But of course, now that there’s such a strong antipathy towards Calvinism among them, I can see how they would be reluctant to return to calling their altars “the table.”

    Of course, that brings up the whole transformation of “the altar” from the table from which the Lord’s Supper is served to the row of steps across the front of the sanctuary atop of which stands the “pulpit” (or rather, lectern). So for me the next question is, who stopped calling the table the altar and started calling those steps in front of the pulpit the altar?

    And with regard to the standard issue altar Kleenex, perhaps Kleenex and other tissue companies, should market boxes of Kleenex for this specific purpose? Pictures of repenters kneeling? Exterior shots of church buildings? The possibilities are limitless…

    Anyway, that’s how I see it.

    1. I always took the “altar” in “altar call” to mean the place where people “sacrificed” themselves to God, as in Romans 12:1. So it seems some churches have removed Christ’s sacrifice for us from the front and center, and replaced it with our (hardly worth mentioning) sacrifices for HIm.

  7. Our church has kleenex boxes in each pew… which is perfect, in my opinion. They’re usually needed during the special music, and especially after someone in the church has passed away.

    I go to a church that is called an “Independent Fundamental Baptist Church,” but we’re jokingly called “Bapticostals” because we are SO much livelier than your typical IFB church. Our pastor also isn’t your typical IFB, he’s MUCH better than that! Oh, and we actually get practical, Scriptural messages! I love it!

  8. Practical preaching is the worst kind – it always leaves you with the thought that you must now DO something for God, instead of the wonderful message of Grace that God has already DONE everything for you.

  9. I guess I should’ve explained what I meant by “practical.” It’s not the kind that makes you feel beat up and guilty as you head home. Actually, our pastor teaches us how NOT to feel defeated, and how a Christian is supposed to live a victorious life. This is the first church I’ve been in where the pastor taught that you shouldn’t feel guilty for not reading “x” amount of pages in your Bible, because if you’re reading your Bible at all, even if all you can handle is a chapter a day, you’re doing good and the Lord is pleased.

  10. But yeah, it’s definitely not about “doing” something here at my church… and we have plenty of faithful people who are happy in their service to the Lord. Of course, our church isn’t perfect, because the people aren’t perfect, and we’ll never have a perfect church till we get to Heaven.

    Oh, and you know who I am btw… as long as you’re the same “exIFB” that’s posted here before. Remember kjbonly.com? I still appreciate that you started that forever ago… even if the site went nowhere. I believe the Lord really used you in bringing my husband and I together. If it weren’t for that, I probably would’ve headed off to GSBC to get an MRS degree… since it seemed like there were no other options in the Fundy church I was in at the time.

  11. I was generally the one at the piano playing 15 verses of Just As I Am, and pleased as anything that it got me off the hook of “going down front”. Even when I wasn’t playing, I never went to the old fashioned altar. There were times I felt that I wanted to talk to God about whatever happened to have impacted me that day, but I was NOT going to trot down the aisle just to please people. I knew I would be more concerned about what people were thinking than anything else. I would pray in my seat and start by apologizing to God for being stubborn and prideful and not going down front. Turns out God didn’t care where I was, only that He and I were communicating. This guilt has really bothered me in some places, especially the small church I was in in Arizona. The pastor’s wife was at the altar every Sunday just to pray. We were, are still are, great friends, but I still could not go there when it seemed that it would be more for my own personal PR than to talk to God. They did not pressure me, but I still felt guilty.

    Once again, SFL has helped me lay to rest an imposed guilt. Thanks, folks!

  12. I missed it originally but I just caught the modisty grip on the skirt and side-saddle sit at the Altar.
    Now tell me is she really able to do business at the altar if she is having to worry about her modisty that much? Now if the M-O-g is on the stage and she is bowed down what kind of view is he getting?

    No matter how you present it the so called altar is not conducive to modisty. And the position of the body is not the issue anyway… it is the position of the heart. So what is the so-called altar for?
    Headcount for sermon/pulpiteer manipulation effectiveness.

    1. Well, speaking from experience, if you wanted to do a lengthy prayer, this was the only way to sit without all the blood leaving your legs and you not being able to stand up. Because, the alternative is to sit geisha style which only works for short prayers and…. well, geisha.

      As far as the frontside. This is why you must never lean over. If you do, put your hand on your chest where your shirt is or make sure your head/hair is covering yourself.

      Can you tell that I was an uber-fundie?

  13. One of my fundy friends recently posted the above photo to his Facebook page. Thankfully he’s the type that can laugh at himself and fundy traditions, so I don’t think he posted it seriously. But it was still a surprise to see an SFL picture on his site.

  14. I always thought altars came with kleenix, no matter what the denomination…

    Also, in my church, when people are coming into the church off the courtyard or out of the Sunday Schools, they come in through the small doors beside the altar. As a person with allergies, I often found the box of kleenix stationed where I could quickly grab one or two on my way to my seat very handy! :mrgreen:

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