I have been thinking lately about the many alter calls that will no doubt be made on Easter which is fast approaching. The old old story will be retold with its rightful emphasis on Jesus Christ, the unblemished lamb that was offered up as the qualified sacrifice, atoning for the sins of man. He suffered a brutal murder and was buried but the grave would not hold Him. Praise the Lord! (and I mean it!) A week from tomorrow, with musical backdrops, the evangelists will use their most influential and moving phrases to bring men to that place of decision.  

As one who is conscious of some unhealthy statistics about those of us claiming to be Christian, I ask myself is there anything right here at the start of the Christian life, at the alter, that is flawed in some way that contributes ultimately to the nominalism that G.E Ladd claims is the curse of western Christianity.  Could there be anything false (or half-true) in the message that contributes systemically to our alleged condition? So I am asking, on Easter, what exactly will be the nature of the decisions attenders will be asked to make? Will the gospel heard on Easter be the same one preached in the New Testament? 

Jesus alter-manner is unorthodox to put it mildly. To his audience, he says, “Even though you have seen me in action, you don’t really believe me.”  I notice that he doesn’t ever invite them to believe. His comments seem limited to whether they do already believe or whether they do not.  Jesus’ understanding is that every person the Father gives him eventually comes running to him. Without musical backdrop to His invitation (if you could even call it that), Jesus seems to try and drive them away instead of calling them forward. 

You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free.”


How many people have said ‘yes’ to those alter calls that attempt to draw people with that “free lunch” carrot? I have heard it and I suspect you have too….. 

“I know many of you out there are suffering. You have financial problems, marital problems, serious health issues. Some of you have wayward children that are lost.  Some of you are in deep depression and have even thought of taking your own lives. Come to Jesus and he will give you life!”

Was this the gospel Jesus and his followers preached?  This does not seem even remotely familiar to anything I have ever read in the bible. 

How many people have come to Christ through those alter call that attempt to prod people from behind with the fear of hell?…..

“I know many of you out there are entangled in sin. Sin is your master and you are Satan’s slave. You know there is a fiery judgement awaiting you. You do not know when your time will come. Do not put this off!  Come to Jesus. He is the only escape from the hell you deserve!!”

Was this the gospel Jesus and His followers preached? It sounds very familiar to my ear, but again, not because I ever read anything like it in the scriptures. 

So, what was the good news of the original gospel? It seems from our passage, Jesus would simply have answered, “I am the Bread that came down from heaven.” Then it appeared that he would let them believe or grumble or to question as they would.  Jesus too may have looked forward to their decisions at some point but it didn’t seem he was compelled to draw one out of people or prod them into making one. What would Jesus’ alter call have sounded like anyway. If we handed the mic to Jesus he might say….

“I am the Bread—living Bread!—who came down out of heaven. Anyone who eats this Bread will live—and forever! And I myself in this flesh and blood body am that very Bread so that you can eat and live.”

Another feature novel to most messages I read of in the New testament is that they seemed to allow for questions. They were not monologues as much as they were conversations. No doubt one would be interjected at this point, “But Teacher, we are not cannibals. How are we to eat your flesh and drink your blood?  We are forbidden to consume blood! Just tell us what kind of decision we need to make.”

Jesus might say at this point, “Be at peace. This will not all make sense now, I must go to my Father first.” They of course protest and beg him, Why don’t you give us a clue about who you are, just a hint of what’s going on? When we see what’s up, we’ll commit ourselves – then we will make a decision.

“Ok”, Jesus says, “Here it is. The Kingdom of God is among you. When I tell you to repent, My Kingdom is at hand, I am saying, ‘Throw your lot in with Me, the One that God has sent.’ This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees Me and trusts who I am and what I do and then aligns with Me will enter real life, eternal life. This kind of a commitment gets you in on God’s plan. But still, this will all make more sense in the near future.”

If we were to ask George Eldon Ladd to handle our alter call (Remember, he is the one concerned about our nominalism), he too would say;

“Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand. By repent I mean to turn around, to reverse the course of life, to change the whole direction of action. By repent I mean you must embrace in decision the Kingdom of God. God faces us with only one demand: decision! Yes. You heard me correctly, the Kingdom makes one fundamental demand; the demand for a decision! The basic demand of the kingdom is a response of man’s will.

Mr. Ladd is not done yet….

When the claim comes to you, you cannot trifle with itYou may think, First I must live my life. First, there is a career to be pursued. I must live my life. FIrst there is a career to be pursued. I have important plans for my future which must first be carried out. I have obligations which I must discharge. No! Jesus said there must be an immediate decision which is resolute and unqualified!

Mr. Ladd is just getting started…

I don’t think you understand yet….the Kingdom demands a response so radical that it may be described in terms of violence and force! You may be asking, ‘What does violence have to do with receiving the Kingdom of God?’ I am telling you everything! The decision for the Kingdom demands radical decision! Some decisions are easily made and require little effort; but the decision for the Kingdom is often difficult and requires great energy of will.

Give me your full and undivided attention now. I ask you to stand if right now you are prepared to turn around! Leave your old life and receive the Kingdom and Follow Christ on his terms. 

Note; The italicized words were borrowed verbatim from Chapter VII The Demand of the Kingdom from his book published in 1959, The Gospel of The Kingdom

GIven the nature of Mr. Ladd’s alter call, it is quite natural for him to transition into the topic of discipleship – the process of taking up our crosses and daily following him. He would explain that in this process an outward expression of our new inner life will be animated. He would say this is how you will be the light of the world.

I believe in western christianity we have somehow made it very difficult if not impossible to transition to discipleship after, at the alter, Jesus has been asked into one’s heart on any terms other than believe and surrender. Without this type of decision at the origin and core of the gospel, do we not create, by default, an opt-out of discipleship-track for converts to try and run on?

And what happens when Christ comes and crosses the new convert’s will as he endeavors, as Lord, to be their daily Bread? The convert, having never heard this part of the deal, must find some alternate way to explain the would-be test of faith. From this point many travel in great packs to find gospels which will tickle their ears with a less demanding Christ. Others may remain in the flock and live in defeat and inner turmoil because the process of walking with Christ as a disciple is alien to their weekly or bi-weekly ration of teaching.

Back to Mr. Ladd and his response to eating the body and drinking blood; I think he would say, “Yes, take communion by all means, but know that it is only a reminder that we are partaking of the Bread of Heaven moment by moment as our very own inner and eternal life. To Mr. Ladd and to Jesus, the Kingdom of God is simply the now Rule of God. Living as his disciples is simply the process of having ceded over title of our lives to Him upon accepting the Kingdom and responding to his rule in the process of doing life as he endeavors to win us more deeply into His love, to reign more completely in our hearts and to transform us progressively into the image of His Son.

It is very difficult to remain nominal when, in your abandonment to his rule, Christ has become your all in all, the very essence of your existence, one whom dwells in you and in whom you live and move and have your being. On the other hand if the decision was once made to say ‘yes’ to some other gospel that was focused more on being rescued from the discomfort of pressing trials or from the fires of hell, wouldn’t nominalism ultimatley be the natural consequence and curse of such a misrepresentative gospel?

This probably won’t happen in too many places but it is a shame that the old old story cannot be reloaded with the spirit dynamics of the original gospel. Perhaps those pastors who know that their alter calls will not be calls to the Gospel of the Kingdom can have copies of George Eldon Ladd’s book available as an addendum to the Easter message and alter call.

Father thank you, as our daily Bread, our very Life,  that you sustain us moment by moment. Thank you that every one of us the Father has given you eventually comes running to you and that once that person is with you, you hold on and don’t let go.  Thank you that you are putting us on our feet alive and whole now and at the completion of time. Thank you that we can be personally taught by you. Rescue us from the debilitating half-gospels we have bought into that have resulted in our lukewarm hearts. Come and alter our alter calls. Amen.
























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