Vol.XII No.III Pg.2
May 1975

Walking Down The Aisle

Robert F. Turner

I wonder who led the invitation song in that memorable service at Jerusalem, the first Pentecost after Christs resurrection? It must have been truly inspiring to see 3,000 people walk down the aisle. I wonder who took their confession, and what he said. Imagine the time required to fill out the membership cards — and the baptismal certificates. Pity the one who had to cut stencils for the next Sundays bulletin — every name must be just right you know.

In recent years we have spawned a litter of tradition iconoclasts who delight in ridiculing and destroying such. This is not my purpose. With some reservations concerning baptismal certificates, I do not object to the above; but I would like to remind you that many church practices are dictated by tradition and custom rather than by scriptural authority. The iconoclast would tear down all that stands, on tradition alone (only to begin new traditions), while the traditional Church of Christer would hold on to the way we do it as if church practice was authoritative. I believe neither scripture nor common sense dictate these extremes.

Invitation songs and walking down the aisle are not essentials in the obedience of the gospel. It is good to acknowledge this and to check tendencies to be bound by such traditions. I first observed a shift from the old walk the aisle practice in announcements concerning brethren who had moved into a new community, and who desire to work and worship with us. Of course baptisms performed during the week, following home Bible studies, were so announced; and now and then the preacher announces that someone has confessed public sins and desires the prayers of the church — no walking down the aisle. Well, there could be justification for this. We should rejoice, as the angels rejoice, over a sinner that repents. We also rejoice that walking down the aisle is not considered a divine mandate for repentance, and baptism, etc.

But — a little bell is ringing, or maybe it is a little light flashing. In the case of sin that should be confessed before all (because of its nature), or in the spirit of confessing our faults one to another (Jas. 5:l6), walking down the aisle may be the most direct method of getting before the brethren. The timid person who would go forward to claim a material award would surely not hesitate to so claim his Saviour. And it seems to me that confessing Christ before men is intended to encourage others to confess Him. We may be short-circuiting the power of example. What think you?