They Come And They Go
In the early 20th Century, City Wide Evangelistic Crusades became very popular. An "Evangelist" and his "Team" would come into town, set up a tent, and hold a Crusade. Each well known evangelist had his own special singer and a staff to support his endeavors. Churches in a town would unite to bring the well known evangelist to town, hold meetings for a designated period of time. After the Crusade, the evangelist and his team moved on as the local churches shared the "new converts", the fruit of the Crusade.
Personally, I had the privilege of being part of Crusade 77 in York, PA during the summer of 1977. This monumental event was the only time in the history of York County that 350 different local congregations worked together in unity for the purpose of evangelism. An executive committee of 36 lead all the planning for a solid year in preparation. Myron Augsburger, an Anabaptist, Mennonite Evangelist, was hired to lead the Crusade and preach. There were only two laity on the committee, me being one of them, leading Youth Activities. The seven day event, held at the Grandstand at the York Fair Grounds that seated thousands was packed every evening. Hundreds made decisions for Christ that week. They had me sit on stage Friday night, Youth Night, and watching hundreds come forward at the altar call will be something I will never forget. I have nothing but good memories about the planning and implementing of the event which left its spiritual impact on York County for years. It was also a testimony to the "unity of the Body of Christ" which I have never experienced since.
Evangelism is the only thrust the entire Body of Christ would stand behind; the only time each factionwas willing to day down their doctrinal differences. Theology and doctrine divide, but the simple truth of salvation, the accepting of Jesus Christ into one's heart as your Savior, became the unifying factor.
As we will see in a later blog, evangelism also means "birthing". Not only were individuals "birthed" into the Kingdom of God those evening (our current mind set of evangelism), but an evangelistic spirit was "birthed" in York Country as well as a spirit of "unity" unmatched in the history of our area. If God is to move in a city, a city wide crusade has proven to be a tool to help augment it.
Unfortunately, like his predecessor, the Circuit Preacher and the Tent Revivalist, the evangelist, being a parachurch ministry left town. The Body of Christ since then has not functioned as a body but as factions. Maybe a new "spirit" needs to again be "birthed", because that is what always happened using City Wide Crusades. There was always a need to have another one later. We need to have a different mind set of what an evangelist is, so that he won't abandon a project that he has "birthed" it, and he won't leave town!