|Whatever Happened to Evangelism? | Outreach & Evangelism. This article is dated but it's an interview with Luis Palau talking about evangelistic festivals and evangelism in general. It just reminded me of those who are still saying that evangelistic festivals are ineffective at reaching the unchurched. In general those who are saying that have a very limited understanding of a festival and don't understand that the process of putting a festival together is equally as important to the event itself. Evangelistic festivals are not just about a weekend event.|
So here are the top 5 reasons to host an evangelistic festival in your community.
- Leadership Development. Festivals require leadership. We want the very best Christian leaders a community has when we do a festival. Often a community has a group of well respected leaders who are asked repeatedly to lead and donate ... be on the board of the local city mission, crisis pregnancy center, Christian school, Christian radio, etc. We run into leader/donor fatigue all the time. Inevitably, we also find there are other leaders who God has been preparing for such a time as this. In nearly every city I've worked in, by the time the festival was over, new leaders had emerged that the community had rallied around and now viewed with a great respect. They go on to new positions of leadership in their churches and the community and do great things for God.
- Christian Unity. Luis Palau says in the linked article above, "Interestingly enough, America is the toughest country in the world to get denominations to work together. ... The major work in a citywide crusade is not touching the nonconverted. It is bringing the churches together to touch the unconverted." I find that is really changing. There used to be the divisions in the evangelical church between the charismatic and Bible churches, and then another division between that whole group and the mainline churches, with yet other bridges to cross to partner with Roman Catholics, and still more to work with the Orthodox. I see it much less often. More often I see graciousness between churches with differing opinions on women in ministry as well as many other issues and the charismatic issue is almost non-existent. I remember at a debriefing meeting of a festival one woman said, "I feel like I have all these friends in these other churches now that I didn't have before." That was the overwhelming feeling in the room and is frequently the overwhelming feeling of the body of Christ after a festival. An evangelistic festival promotes and strengthens unity in the body of Christ.
I remember one woman pastor saying, "Evangelism isn't really my thing. But I've been so disappointed over the years that the evangelical churches haven't helped with the local mission. Maybe if I participate in this we'll have a better relationship and they will help us with caring for the poor." On the one hand that's a sad indictment of the evangelicals in her community. On the other hand it's that kind of humility and desire for unity that we often see.
- Heightened Emphasis on Evangelism. I read the want ads at ChurchStaffing.com every week and I think in general they reflect the priorities of the church. There are ads for worship pastor/leader, youth pastor, jr hi or sr hi pastor, children's pastor, pastor of small groups, discipleship pastor, gen x pastor, church planters, minister to families, campus pastor, executive pastor, etc. There is a HUGE demand for nearly all of those. Very, very, very little demand for a pastor of evangelism or outreach. Nearly every church I know needs work at keeping evangelism as a priority. Evangelistic festivals raise the awareness of evangelism in churches and help them to recover the importance of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
- Evangelism Training. In general churches are not regularly training and retraining their people to share their faith. Beyond that, the churches I've served have had some really fine Christian people who have never led anyone to Christ — ever — and they're scared to death of the thought of doing so. Evangelistic festivals bring training to a community and depending on the style of the festival actually give people the opportunity to lead someone to Christ at the event itself. My experience has been when a Christian leads someone to Jesus for the first time, it changes them and gives them a hunger and openness to be used by God more frequently. Evangelistic Festivals encourage and train believers to think and act like missionaries.
- Mission. At another debriefing meeting of a festival one person said, "Look at what we have accomplished together. I wonder, what God has for us next?" Nearly every time we do a festival, reports come within several months to a year later of the new project that has emerged with a multidenominational involvement ... marriage ministry, youth rallies, coffeehouses, Bible giveaways, men's and women's ministries, etc. Evangelistic festivals frequently leave the body of Christ in a community with a corporate sense of mission.
- Proclamation of the Gospel. Evangelistic Festivals raise the level of awareness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a community. Most festivals not only have evening events where the evangelist gives the gospel but numerous other events as well. Further it is covered by the media. Festivals raise the level of saturation with the Gospel level in a community.
- Evangelistic Festivals give pastors and lay people a needed holy boldness with their faith. A multitude of factors contribute to this: the emphasis on evangelism training, the evangelist preaching publicly, other believers, prayer ... all giving believers a greater sense of urgency and boldness to share their faith.
- Evangelistic Festivals promote individual and corporate prayer. On the wall at the Billy Graham Library I saw a quote for Mr. Graham, "There are 3 elements to crusade preparation. Pray. Pray. Pray." Every good festival brings the church together to pray: Prayer for the lost, for church unity, for the witness of every believer and church, for holiness, for the protection of pastors and churches, for repentance, etc. Festivals ask believers to pray specifically for people in their lives who they will invite and share their faith with. Festivals gather people for concerts of prayer, weekly prayer meetings, prayerwalks and more evangelistic prayer in their worship services.
Well, that's more than 5 reasons. The extra ones are free.
- Evangelistic Festivals give the church a way to serve the wider community with a "fun for the whole family" event. Festivals really are fun. The festivals I'm involved with often have special breakfasts/luncheons, prison ministry, skateboarding or BMX demo's, the Power Team busting stuff up, a world class ventriloquist for kids, sports competitions, Battle of the Bands, blow-up bouncing games and really great music with the likes of Randy Travis, Charlie Daniels, Diamond Rio, Thousand Foot Krutch, Dennis Agajanian, Toby Mac, Kutless, Julissa, Skillet, Grits, Nicole C. Mullen, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Kirk Franklin, my new favorite Pat Boone and others. I love it when Marvis Frazier comes to tell his story and works in the jails. The Power Team and ventriloquist spend a week doing assemblies in schools with a non-religious message about making good choices, respecting others, anti-drugs/violence. Other festivals have prize giveaways, face painting, craft fairs, food vendors, professional wrestlers, Xtreme sport demos, even more kid friendly activities, marching band competitions, promotional events with professional sports teams, etc. The events are always free admission. They are literally good wholesome fun for the whole community and presented as a gift from the churches of the community acting as one.
All it takes is one person in a community to be the catalyst for hosting an evangelistic festival. You. If you would like to investigate having an evangelistic event you can contact me or one of these fine organizations:
The Steve Wingfield Evangelistic Association.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
The Luis Palau Evangelistic Association.
The Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College.
R. York Moore — Tell The Story
Nick Hall — Pulse Outreach
Keith Cook — On The Go Ministries
Greg Laurie — Harvest Crusades
Check out the Proclamation Evangelism Network Directory or The Next Generation Alliance for lists of other evangelistic organizations.