Tag Archives: invitations

Anonymous Decisions

“Please bow your heads and close your eyes.”

For all of their bluster, fundamentalists are a private bunch when it comes to something as dearly personal as raising ones hand to give a non-specific response at the end of a sermon on a generic topic. There have to be some boundaries of personal space after all.

The anonymous hand-raising also gives the speaker the chance to speak “evangelistically” about the number of respondents. Not that most pastors would out and out lie but they might just claim to “see hands all over his room” when in fact exactly three people out two hundred have raised their hand and one of them is only eighteen months old.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus! Unless you’re making a decision at the end of the service. Then the protocol is “every head bowed, every eye closed, nobody looking around.”

Old-Fashioned Altars

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.