... we saw about a 20% increase in the number of salvations.
Well, we still invite sinners to say the "sinners prayer" at the end of the service, but we do it all together where we are seated -- no one is asked/persuaded to come forward.
Then, we tell those who have said the prayer for the first time and invited Jesus to be their Saviour to please proceed to the welcome lounge to tell the leaders about it and get a free new believer's kit to get them started as well as have coffee or tea.
Why did we change the format? Well 2 simple reasons:
1. There is no scriptural basis for altar calls (actually for the "sinner's prayer" also.)
2. But the main reason is that many people are afraid to go up or shy (at least in our Chinese/Singaporean culture), so they don't. But with this method, they don't feel so intimidated.
I've nothing against altar calls and saying the sinner's prayer. If it works well for your church, carry on by all means!
The first Sunday we did that, we had a couple who finally said the sinner's prayer for the first time and got saved, although they had been attending our church for a few years! Previously, they just felt too afraid or shy to step forward and go to the front. They were so glad we changed the format.
Having said all that, I want to just add that you can be saved right where you are the moment your heart believes (and I suppose your mouth/confession will follow), as in Cornelius' case -- no altar calls, no sinners' prayer, etc.
I think this is wonderful - I still have unpleasant memories of when I was young - in the church I grew up in, if you even told a lie you had to go back to the alter and start all over - I remember many times my father pushing me up the isle to the alter. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo way to do it.
I think that is so cool.
That's pretty much how we do it. Our Pastor recites a prayer from the heart - not a canned prayer (different each time), and asks that anyone who's not saved or unsure of their salvation to say it quietly to themselves. Then he asks that they get with him after church to talk about it. It's very low key and easy for people who are worried about being stared at.