Keith Green had a passion and authenticity in the Lord’s work matched by very few. The vision is still clearly etched in my mind of the moment that evening in Austin, as he was singing his classic song Grace By Which I Stand, when he came to the line "And like Peter, I can’t even watch and pray for just one hour, and I bet, I could deny you too," and he literally broke down and cried, and was unable to finish the rest of the song.
Keith Green was also known as a fiery prophet, speaking his convictions without mincing words. As we continue to think about evangelism, I want to draw your attention to something Keith Green wrote in a pamphlet entitled What’s Wrong with the Gospel?, in which, in addition to some other subjects, he discussed the concept of what he called "spiritual abortion."
As with the altar call, the practice of having someone repeat a prayer with the minister probably originated from the best of intentions. And no doubt, there are those who have "followed through," continuing to pray and walk with God, entering into the path of righteousness through God's infinite grace. But also, like the altar call, the so-called "sinner's prayer" is one of those tools that make it alarmingly easy for someone to consider himself a Christian, when he has absolutely no understanding of what "counting the cost" (Luke 14:28) really means.
The greatest reason I believe that God can be grieved with the current use of such tools as the "altar call" and "sinner's prayer" is because they can take away the conviction of the Holy Spirit prematurely, before the Spirit has time to work repentance leading to salvation. With an emotional splash that usually doesn't last more than a few weeks, we believe we're leading people into the Kingdom, when really we're leading many to hell - by interfering with what the Spirit of God is trying to do in a person's life. Do you hear? Do you understand that this constitutes "spiritual abortion"? Can't you see the eternal consequences of jumping the gun, trying to bring to birth a baby that isn't ready?
We are so afraid that we'll see a "big one that got away," that we'd rather rush someone into a shallow decision, and get the personal gratification of seeing him "go down the aisle," than take the time to fully explain things to him, even if it takes long hours and nights of travailing prayer for his soul. We just don't "have the time" to do things God's way anymore.
But God would rather see one true convert than an ocean full of "decisions." Oh, can't you see what a mess we're in? What we've done to the Gospel? And when those "converts" no longer want to fellowship with us, when they want to go back to their old friends and their old way of life, we have the nerve to call it "backsliding," when we stood in the very way of them ever "front-sliding" toward the cross! Oh, it breaks my heart to think of that awesome day when God will judge those who have "stumbled one of these little ones." (Mark 9:42)
I am painfully aware of the danger of being so concerned of the dangers of "spiritual abortion" that we never get to the point of bringing new Christians to a healthy birth. I am personally convicted that I don’t do near enough to cultivate redemptive relationships with lost people with the hope of one day leading them to surrender their lives completely to Christ. But, as we as Southern Baptists make a greater push, both around the world, and in the States, to lead more people to Christ, and baptize more converts, I think we would do well to heed the warnings of Keith Green, lest in working harder, we begin to see diminishing returns for our work, and are unable to figure out the reason why.