The Centrality of the Pentecostal Altar

Pentecostal Sacraments Revised
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Pentecostalism is a Spirit-movement; therefore, Pentecostals favor worship in which the Spirit moves. For Pentecostals, worship means experiencing the Holy Spirit in the fellowship of the church. While anointed singing and preaching are highly valued, they are not the goals of worship; they are a means to the desired end—an encounter with God at the altar. It is at the altar that souls are “gloriously saved,” converts are sanctified, the sick are healed, and seekers are baptized in the Holy Spirit. Whether these altar calls are noisy and dynamic, or somber and tearful, those who witness and participate in this spiritual worship walk away from the altar deeply moved and inwardly transformed. Pentecostal worship is not simply enthusiasm, neither is it entertainment—it is an evangelistic encounter with God’s holy presence.

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Sacraments: An Ongoing Altar Call

The celebration of the sacraments is an ongoing altar call. For most Pentecostal churches, the altar call is the central event of the worship service. Sinners are encouraged to come forward to the altar to “pray through” to salvation. Believers are encouraged to come to the altar to pray for sanctification, or to “pray through” to the baptism in the Holy Spirit. During the altar service, those who are sick, or otherwise in need, are encouraged to come to the altar. There the church elders will anoint with oil, lay their hands upon the sick, and pray for healing. The celebration of the sacraments in Pentecostal worship should be understood as an opportunity to invite the saints of God once again to the altar to encounter the Holy Spirit in the celebration of water baptism, the Lord’s Supper, foot-washing, and the laying on of hands. Each sacrament directly corresponds to the redemptive work of the Holy Trinity. In this regard, the sacraments are an ongoing altar call in which the believer encounters God through the Holy Spirit.

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