cutting altar time short

19 09 2008

In the August 2008 newsletter from Michael Livengood Ministries, he told about a Sunday morning service where about a dozen people responded to the salvation or repentance altar call, and then the prayer time lasted for at least 90 minutes.  It’s awesome to hear of people getting saved and getting their life right with God.  But I want to focus on the latter part.

I’m not planning to start preaching or meddlin’ on this (although it has been known to happen).  I just want to share what I’m thinking, as I’m convicted.  The people in that meeting prayed for at least 90 minutes after the altar call.  That’s hunger for God!  It’s so easy to get in a hurry for the church service to be over, so we can talk with friends or go eat or go home and take a nap.  I know, we’d probably never say that or even think it directly, but don’t our actions portray that sometimes?  (Note that I’m including myself in this.)

Isn’t the altar time the most important time in a church service?  I realize they aren’t popular these days, but think about it.  The typical service has time of praise and worship, where we get focused on God, and in the spirit we are entering His court, going before His throne.  Then there’s typically a sermon, when we are hearing the preaching of God’s Word and listening for the Holy Spirit to instruct and convict us.  (And we should be looking for conviction, because even if we aren’t intentionally sinning, we can all do better according to Jesus’ standard.)  When we finally get past all the “stuff” of life and get in the presence of God, that’s what we’re been aiming for, and that’s what we need.  And after hearing the Word and being convicted, we should deal with any known issues right then and there.

So why are we often in such a hurry to end the service?  I know, the altar call might be the last event on the “agenda”, and there may be a closing prayer.  But that doesn’t mean the service has to be over.  Why should we limit God to being through by a certain time?  And the tougher question is — (watch your toes here) — why are we eager to move on to anything else besides the presence of God?  Is there anything better in this life?

I admit I’m guilty of this mindset sometimes, where I’m ready to eat or I’m tired after service, but that’s only because I wasn’t fully submersed in God’s presence.  In His presence, our spirit is fed (and we typically forget about physical hunger), and He gives us rest.  There’s nothing like it.

I have been in services where the best part was after most people had left.  Since I’m on the praise team, I sometimes stay to play music and pray for people (from the stage) who are still at the altar.  And sometimes the presence of God has filled the place, and it was so wonderful, yet most of the people had already left.  I think we often give up on the service too soon, because God wasn’t through with what He wanted to accomplish during that time.

I know, some say that God can do whatever He wants to do within an hour and a half, and that’s technically true.  But I’m sure that God doesn’t like being confined in a “box” like that or being told what to do and when to do it.  He does things when He wants to and how He wants to.  And we have no place to tell Him how He should do things.  Plus we should be so hungry for more of Him that spending “extra” time at church isn’t a big deal.

I’m going to close with a quote by John Bevere.

If our hunger increased, we could handle sermons that lasted all night.  We can handle a 3 hour movie, a 3 hour Super Bowl game, 3 hours at the mall, but if a sermon goes beyond an hour people get tired of it.  Our appetite is focused wrong. ~ John Bevere, Passion for His Presence




One response

21 09 2008

This is an excellent post! There have been many times where I have felt that the service should not end when it does, and that people have cut God’s time short. It’s frustrating to feel this!

Of course there are times where I am ready to go, but those are usually times where I don’t feel the Presence of God.

I also notice during some praise and worship parts where people cut it short. You can almost feel the Holy Spirit moving in, and then they stop, and the Holy Spirit goes right back out.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that you have felt God’s Presence more when the majority of the people leave. I had a friend say once that, “one person can stop the Holy Spirit from coming in”.

I’m reminded of Acts when they were all together praying with one purpose. Then and only then did the place shake!

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