A couple of weeks ago I told you that I was going to be experimenting with several things in the service. Here's what I wrote about one of them:
I'll be asking people to respond in a different way. I've never done it the way I'm planning. I'll let you come and see or watch the podcast, and you can evaluate for yourself and let me know what you think.
If you were there or saw the podcast you noticed that I asked people to raise their hands on a couple of issues, when we had our heads bowed and eyes closed. One of the things I asked regarded making a first-time decision to receive Christ and follow him. It was very exciting to have five people indicate first-time decisions.
Normally we have people respond on the Communication Cards, so this was a big departure for me. I told one of our members what I planned to do and she cringed. I won't tell you her name, but here's a clue: I sleep with her.
I asked her why she was cringing. She said because she's been in too many services over the years where this was abused or went on and on forever, etc. I told her I promise not to do any of those things. She added, "And don't say, 'I see that hand.'" Picky, picky.
Warning: The experiment continues. And I'm pumped about it. For one thing, I think it's one more way of helping people take a step closer to the line or cross it or get assurance of crossing it. "But I thought you're asking them to become Christians?" you might say. Yes, I am. But I'm very clear about a couple of things. First, raising a hand and praying a prayer doesn't make you right with God. Repentance and faith in Christ is what God calls for and that happens before you ever pray the words. The words are more for you than for God. God looks at the heart. Second, some people don't know what they're doing when they do it, but by doing it, they are following a leading of God in their lives. They're taking a step and because of that step we send them information that can help them continue in their journey toward God. Third, I'm very clear about speaking about it as "indicating a first-time decision."
I know, some of you have been thinking we should have been doing it this way all along (and we should throw in some altar calls as well.) Others of you are nervous for some of the same reasons Lois was nervous (oops, I gave away who had cringed). It's an experiment, so let me know what you think.
One last thing: That same weekend the speaker at the women's retreat did a similar thing with great results. Coincidence?