by Ben Kinchlow
The city, state, and evangelist shall remain nameless. The problem does not lie with the city, the state, or the evangelist. The problem, as tragic as it may seem, was with the "church, which is His body".
Five thousand churches in the area were contacted, each received a full report and an invitation to participate in reaching their city with the simple Gospel message. There was no attempt to build the evangelist's ministry, nor would he reap any financial harvest from this series of meetings. He committed, at his own expense, to six weeks, bringing in music guests, administrative support, and rented the arena.
The crusade had all the elements of a military operation. Satellite photos of each neighborhood were obtained. Each was blocked off, and every home received a door hanger, a phone call, and a personal visit from a street evangelist. They were invited to the crusade, given free tickets and free parking, and were asked the question, "If you died tonight, where would you spend eternity?" Upon their reply, they were either congratulated and asked why they knew this to be true, or they were treated to an explanation of how they could settle that question.
Does not the command read... "Go, ye, into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature..."? Are we not to join together to ensure that none misses the opportunity to be saved? Don't we all agree with the great protestant confession, "solo fide... faith alone"? This, then, should have been a great triumph for the church and the Gospel, with 5,000 churches cooperating, radio, television, newspaper coverage, billboards, and committed people, young and old, swarming throughout the city. With a population of just over 250,000, the entire city could have been reached for Christ, and no one in that area could say, "I didn't know."
That may have been the beginning perhaps of another "Great Awakening", or another "Welch Revival". Could this have been a moment where the fire of revival spread throughout America, transforming our country and renewing our commitment to God, making us once again... "One nation under God..."?
Instead, less than one hundred churches agreed to participate, fewer than a dozen actually participated, and the street evangelists were 98% from outside the city. The crusade cost the evangelist hundreds of thousands of dollars, little of which was offset by contributions from the local church. Local pastors got on radio to condemn the crusade, and held competing meetings at their churches. Most tragic, in my opinion, was the fact that the names given to the churches for follow-up were unacceptable. Pastors actually came back and complained that the "type of people" represented here would "upset their congregations." Several came back and asked to "exchange these black names for white names". (True story.) I honestly think some of those pastors would have rather seen the people who were saved go to hell, as opposed to becoming members of their churches.
Obviously, this was not your city (was it?).
Nevertheless... "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches...I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot; I would thou wert cold or hot. So then, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, 'I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked... Be zealous, therefore, and repent." (Rev. 3:13-19)