I grew up in a church where the altar held deep significance for me as a teenager and young adult. It is where I gave my heart to Christ, asked forgiveness for my sins, and consecrated my life to Christ. It is where I received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
As a congregation, we were often called to kneel and pray at the altar toward the end of many church services. We prayed until we were finished, not always needing a formal dismissal. It is where we came to be prayed for by fellow Christians if there was a personal need, where our pastor and elders anointed with oil and prayed for the sick.
The altar was the place people were invited to come if they wanted to accept Christ as their Savior, a place of surrender and consecration.
Yes, the altar still holds significance for me…and yet, I can’t remember the last time I had the opportunity to go to the altar.
I hear the excuse that “we don’t want to embarrass you, so just raise your hand if you want to accept Christ as your Savior.” Every time I observe this dynamic, I can’t help but feel that the person who is making the most important decision of his or her life is being short-changed.
Is it really that we don’t want to embarrass them, or is it that we have our praise songs all planned out and we don’t want to deviate from the schedule? Is it that we can’t run overtime since the second service will be starting soon?
I know things are different now. I know churches are larger and more organized these days. But have we left something behind? Will our children grow up not recognizing, or experiencing the significance of the altar?
Just a thought, but a thought worth considering.
Altars are mentioned throughout the Bible as having different types of significance. They represent a place of encounter with God, a place of forgiveness, worship, and intercession.
For many of us, an altar represents the occasion and place where we had a personal encounter with God. Although our altar experiences are significant, if we don’t have the opportunity to come to a physical altar, there can be an altar established in our hearts—an altar of worship and prayer, of submission and consecration.
“Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; And on the harp I will praise You, O God, my God.” Psalm 43:4 (NKJV)