Mennonites, in the main, by the late 20th century did not use the altar call, that is, the calling of persons to the front of the church by an invitation to repentance and faith, conversion, or for special ministering to some need through prayer and counseling. This means that one could go to many Mennonite congregations and never hear such an invitation given. The altar call originated in the "new measures " of Charles Finney (1792-1875) and in frontier and holiness camp meetings. Many Mennonites, particularly in the "Old Mennonite" (Mennonite Church) tradition opposed such revival techniques, including the "anxious bench" and altar call. Some Mennonites and Brethren in Christ, particularly those open to holiness teaching were more ready to accept them. Some Mennonites largely ignored the issue.
With the coming of an emphasis on spiritual renewal, particularly evangelistic tent campaigns and congregational revival meetings (late 19th century and early 20th century), people were invited to respond to the message by coming to the front of the tent or church, to kneel or stand there in order to be ministered to by a counselor. Sometimes people were invited to move from the front to a prayer room provided for counsel and prayer.
Some Mennonite groups which emphasize more evangelistic and revivalistic preaching use the altar call more consistently. Invitations to public confession of faith or to a fresh step of commitment are not uncommon, particularly in a series of renewal or revival services. There are some congregations which call for response regularly in the service. Many times the invitation is to stand or to raise the hand to make the response known, with the invitation to talk to with the pastor or a special counselor following the service.
One of the influences of the charismatic movement is that the use of the altar call is prominent in newer congregations, which are more open to change. This call to the altar is many times for persons who desire prayer, a greater fullness of the Spirit, or greater surrender to service.
Wittlinger, Carlton O. Quest for Piety and Obedience: The Story of the Brethren in Christ. Nappanee, IN: Evangel Press, 1978:204-205.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 18. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Drescher, John M. "Altar Call." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1990. Web. 21 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/A45405.html.
APA style: Drescher, John M. (1990). Altar Call. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/A45405.html.