Repent & Baptize
"Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." Acts 2:38
Unless You Repent, You Shall Also Perish
This is a regrettable error, resulting in countless millions of Americans having said a formula "salvation prayer" that comforts them with the false assumption that their name is written in "The Lamb's Book of Life." The saying of a formula salvation prayer was popularized in the 20th century. Up until that time, no evangelist presumed to lead anyone in a prayer that might be confused with a kind of oath or marriage vow.
The formula "salvation prayer" evolved from the "commitment card" used at large evangelistic services at the beginning of the 20th century. This tool was developed out of necessity to show specific results and enable follow-up by churches after events. It was a personal commitment by the penitent to pursue the new life offered by God. Mostly, the commitment card was a vehicle by which names and addresses could be tabulated for later distribution to participating churches.
Billy Sunday was trained by Wibur Chapman. Wilbur Chapman was trained by D.L.Moody. D.L. Moody understood the difference between human emotion and the moving of the Holy Spirit. He taught Chapman to, "make disciples, not decisions."
It wasn't until the 1950's that Billy Graham led a group of people in a formula "salvation prayer." Up until that time, individual counselors would allow penitents to pray or not pray as the Holy Spirit led. Somewhere in that 50 year period a deadly assumption evolved. That only a converted person would be willing to say a salvation prayer.
Billy Graham never believed everyone who said a "salvation prayer" was saved. The problem is, he never shared this information with the people who came forward. How many hundreds of thousands went away from a crusade thinking they were saved? And many of the evangelists standing on Graham's shoulders don't know any better, or at least they act like they don't.
Every person used in evangelism needs to hear what Billy Graham said:
" I don't believe any man can come to Christ unless the Holy Spirit has prepared his heart. Second, I don't believe any man can come to Christ unless God draws him. My job is to proclaim the message. It's the Holy Spirit's job to do the work. And so I approach it with a great deal of relaxation now. There's the moment of conception, there's nine months of gestation, there is birth. Now I believe that these people who come forward in our meetings to make a commitment, for some it is a moment of conception, for others it's another stage in gestation, for others it is birth into the Kingdom of God. And for many it's completely spurious and there's nothing to it..." 3
I must be careful how I phrase this. Based on Billy Graham's words, (which I agree with) most evangelists and pastors have acted more as spiritual abortionists than spiritual midwives. Please let the horror of what Billy Graham said sink in... If we give an altar call encouraging souls in gestation to be born, we are more likely to cause an abortion than deliver a baby.
Why didn't Jesus ask Nicodemus, the woman at the well, the Centurian, Martha and Mary, and countless others to say a "salvation prayer"? Why is there not one record of any Apostle or Disciple asking someone to say a "salvation prayer?" The answer was obvious to evangelists before Billy Sunday. After 100 years of modern evangelism, we need to learn the answer.
How many millions of spiritual abortions are performed every year in America? The numbers are staggering. According to Christian pollster George Barna, less than 10% of Americans (he calls them Evangelicals) live their lives like Biblical Christians.
Billy Graham's words are undoubtedly true. If only these words were engraved on the heart of every evangelist. If only penitents were prepared with these words before every altar call. The problem is, modern evangelism is based on a false premis...that if you give an altar call, and people come forward and are willing to repeat a formula "salvation prayer," then they are "saved."
Add to that the typical modern evangelist's teaching of "once saved, always saved," (without mentioning the possibility of spurious conversion,) and you have a recipe for disaster. At least with the Armenian belief, there's the possibility for someone to think they'd "fallen away," so they might, fearing damnation, seek salvation again.
The truth is there are far more "rededication's" than "first time salvation's" at most crusades. The truth is, the vast majority of people who go forward for "rededications" feel lost, because they were never found. They want to rededicate their lives to experience the indwelling Christ for the first time.
An answer seemed obvious to Graham. Salvations must be obtained in the follow-up.
"The 5 per cent effort to win men to a personal committal to Christ is over: the 95 per cent effort to bring them to maturity in the fellowship of the churches is about to begin." 6
The alternative should have been to return to a pre-20th century approach to evangelism. To never give an invitation that might be misunderstood. To never lead someone in a formula "salvation prayer." To never give someone the idea that they are saved by something they've done. To never presume to put words in a seekers mouth - if the Holy Spirit is convicting, the seeker should spontaneously pray as he is led by God. If the seeker is not illuminated by the Holy Spirit sufficiently to repent and give his life to God, only a spiritual abortionist would try to give birth.
But Billy Graham "solved"
the problem by implimenting a follow-up program that would enable the
illuminated and spurious conversions to get saved at a future date.
Trotman strengthened the Billy Graham's Crusade counselor and follow-up program. The improved "follow up" program was supposed to keep in close contact with seekers who might already be saved, or if only illuminated, (the gestation period mentioned by Billy Graham,) they could hopefully get "born again" somewhere down the road.