Ever wondered why some who walked the aisle, walked the aisle again? Why some who responded to the altar call in the past, are in the altar again? Is it re-dedication, you might say? My suspicion is because they are hungry to hear the Gospel to comfort them. This is true specially those who misunderstand absolution and do not have it in their worship service. Others may not be back in the altar because they do not have altar calls but they still leave the worship service empty.
When what you hear each Sunday is "Seven Steps to Live Happily Ever After", "How to be a good Disciple..", "Five ways to becoming the kind of person God wants you to be..", "How to be a Woman of Destiny". When what you hear each Sunday is a misdiagnosis of your REAL problem, you will be empty. As Dr. Nigel said Who is doing the verbs in the sermon? Is it you or is it Christ. I am finding out that it is not even expository preaching, because you can hear an exposition and never get to see Jesus doing something for you.
Why are they back in the altar? Well firstly they have been focused on what they must do. That is what they constantly hear, and they know they have never done it and they always fail even after being 'saved'. Secondly, they think that the altar call fixes it all. They may get a good feel for a while and after that they are back again. The altar call gives false hope and false assurance. You'd think that something is happening but nothing except guilt without relief. It is in a way a form of works - it internally says - there I have done it, I walked, I came down, I prayed the prayer, I was sincere, will you now forgive me Lord, I really mean to obey this time. Works never give relief. Only grace relieves guilt. I tell you what, this just adds to someone's depression.
What they needed was absolution - they need to hear again from the lips of Jesus - Father forgive them they no not what they do. In absolution, the pastor declares again to the congregation what Jesus death accomplished at the Cross 2000 years ago, it is not a fresh forgiveness - it is the same forgiveness of God on behalf of Christ. Jesus did what we can not do, lived a life pleasing to God, because what we do is -- just mess things up.
Jesus says "Peace be still", "Go in peace - your sins are forgiven". How can he say that? Because he took that guilt at the Cross.