Calling for Change

If you are a preacher you sometimes call people to change. You preach a sermon on what people ought to be then come to the end of it and close the sermon with some sort of call to change. I’ve noticed there are two main models for how to make that final call to change.

The Seek model assumes listeners don’t have the power to change—they can’t change without the Holy Spirit “doing something” in them. It posits changing power outside the listen in the Holy Spirit. A preacher with the seek model might end a sermon by calling listeners to seek changing power from God. This might mean an invitation to come forward to kneel at the altar and “wait on the Lord” until this “seeker” senses God had “done a new work” in his or her soul—cleaning, delivering, empowering or purging.

The Decide model posits changing power in the listener—either in their own will to decide, or because they already received the Holy Spirit when they were born again and already have all they need to live a holy life. A preacher with a decide model might end a sermon by calling listeners to “decide now” to change. It could mean an invitation to raise a hand indicating their “decision,” or it could mean coming forward as a statement of will. There is no elongated seeking or waiting in this model because what is holding up change is the person’s will and once a decision is made the change happens…or at least change begins.

These two models affect how a church approaches people getting saved too. Those with the seek model tend to expect a person to repent and seek salvation for a while at the altar until they know God has heard their prayers and has truly saved them—they wait for assurance, then stand to testify about it. For churches using the decide model conversion might be as low key as reading a short prayer in a little booklet and “taking it by faith,” or maybe raising one’s head and nodding to the preacher at the end of the service.

I’m thinking about calling for change this week and the models we use in doing that. For instance, what are the theological assumptions behind each of these models? How does changing culture affect which model we use more? Why do preachers—even denominations—shift from one model to another over time? Which denominations are more inclined toward which of these two models? What other models are emerging? How do we call for change and what does that say about our assumptions?

So, what do you think?

The discussion of this column is on Facebook:

Keith Drury January 18, 2011

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