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I have seen testimonies of converts from America describing they raised their hands when the preacher asked "who wants to accept Jesus as their Lord?" or something like that. Which churches have this practice on a regular Sunday service? If so, do these churches always have new visitors, or some of the regular members themselves raise hands in these altar calls?

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Altar Calls The evangelist Charles Finney is said to have started the practice of having public "altar calls". A practice utilized by Billy Graham, and other modern evangelists, later on. But it should be noted that denominations used to hold revivals in the 1700s and 1800s with sermons climaxed by "tarrying at the altar" with crying and tears, until there was unmistakable assurance of salvation. Sometimes this took all night in earnest prayer. (See autobiography of Peter Cartwright, Backwoods Preacher, and Religious Affection by Jonathan Edwards)

Local Churches As far as doing such in the small local church on Sunday, this has been adopted by mainly Evangelical-type churches, Charismatic and Pentecostal churches, and independent churches. Note that most altar-calls are for "salvation," but occasionally the minister would apply them to the topic addressed in the sermon, and have the people come forward for prayer: addictions, character problems, healing, etc. This for the congregates who are already members.

Usually there are just a small handful of the congregation who are there as "seekers" or "unsaved." But altar calls are made each week anyway.

Mega-churches Mega-churches, because of logistics, often have the people raise their hand and say a prayer, staying in their seats. (e.g. Joel Osteen's church) But they are encouraged to join a small Bible Study group for discipleship and mature growth in the Christian walk.

Some churches have people come forward to meet with the minister after the sermon, who are already Christian, but wish to join that particular church as members, having moved into the area recently. (Church of God, e.g.)

Formal or High Churches On the other hand most Mainline Churches, such as Lutheran, Anglican, United Methodists, etc. rely on a process of discipleship involving Catechism classes. After a seeker attends several Bible studies, and decides to convert (become a Christian), he/she is Confirmed and baptized, and made a member of the Church. The decision for becoming a Christian is made after thoughtful contemplation, and attending several church meetings.

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  • Are there new visiters every week, and does it even happens that nobody raises their hand bec nobody is a new visitor? Or members themselves raise their hands for the sake of it. The new comers must be very occasional
    – Michael16
    Mar 19 at 3:59
  • @Michael 16 -(1) In large cities, and in large churches, there are indeed usually "new visitors" in the congregation on Sunday. (2) Members would not raise their hands if they were required to come down to the front altar; that would be "too revealing"! (3) In much smaller local churches in small villages, the occasional visitor would be more scarce. But not out of the question, because even there people come and go into the locality. Thanks for these clarifying questions.
    – ray grant
    Mar 19 at 19:53
  • Is there a name for the legalistic formal churches which imitates Jews by their priest robe and rituals etc, and those who reject these ritualism
    – Michael16
    Mar 29 at 3:30
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The Churches of Christ offer what we call the "invitation" at every service where some kind of homily is spoken. Those present who wish to be saved, those who wish to make a public confession, and those who for whatever reason would like the prayers of the congregation, are invited to come forward. There is usually song sung at this time.

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While not a verbatim expression of the above altar call, there is a practice in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints having a similar appearance to some degree, wherein members of the church are regularly invited to express their willingness to sustain their church leaders in their callings in public church meetings. This occurs whenever new callings are made and again in every conference of the church and at each level and unit of organization; there are several such conferences throughout the year. If there are any contrary votes, they are also asked to be made manifest. The vote to sustain is generally understood to be applicable to members of the church.

As for its relevance to the intent of the altar call ceremony in question, the Lord said to His Apostles:

He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. (Matthew 10:40)

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