I have always believed that people should be able to pray for each other at church. This sounds obvious, but many churches have adopted the view that altar ministry is too intrusive for seekers so they have done away with the practice. I also agree that manipulative or overly aggressive appeals for people to come to the front of the church are a real turn off. That is why I invite our altar ministry team to the front after each service and ask anyone who needs prayer to come forward. It is an open invitation with no pressure at all to respond.
This past weekend, I realized how critical this is to seekers. People come to church for a lot of different reasons, but I am convinced that many seekers come to church because they are hungry for authentic spirituality. A couple came to the front this past weekend and I happened to be there. I asked how I could pray for them and the man confessed that he had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer. I prayed for him and then offered some encouragement. Turns out, they were first time guests. Without my invitation to come forward for prayer, he could have attended our service but walked away without anyone praying for his very serious condition. Plus, I was able to make a connection with them as a pastor. This is the very reason I believe so strongly in altar ministry. It allows people to immediately respond to the message and allows them to receive prayer at church!
What do you think about altar ministry at New Life or at the church you attend? What is the value and the purpose for altar ministry?