I believe in gospel crusades. I really believe in them alot. However, many times they are a failure.
The reason this is happening is not as simple as many think. It is because of in many cases, pastors lack a vision for the harvest. They see the gospel crusade as a mere excuse to practice personal evangelism. I can not tell you how many planning meetings I have been part of the pastors did nothing but spoke of “local church.” There was very little focus on the harvest, evangelism, and mission. It was just “grow my church.”
This grows into a bigger problem. When the pastor does not have a vision for souls, it is very hard to get a church to believe in them. Most pastors only care about growing their church. This is the reason that heresies like G12 Vision get so much roots in the Bride of Christ.
I have been a believer in crusades since I helped with one in Brazil many years ago with Mike Francen and Eastman Curtis. I was a young man in my twenties working working in one of the fastest growing ministries in America. I had the opportunity to see a crusade from the point of view very close to one of America’s most successful crusade evangelist and “America’s youth pastor.” I also got to see the underbelly of gospel crusades and why so many of them are failures.
For the record, I have been doing my own gospel crusades in the Philippines for the last 10 years so this is not written as a hate piece.
Gospel Crusades are basically Charismatic Conferences
I know that might be harsh but it is exactly what it is: christian conferences. I have been in many of these meetings and I noticed some two things: it is mostly Christians that are at the meetings and the same people answer every altar calls.
Because pastors tend to promote these big meetings to the believers as an “opportunity to bring your friends to church,” it tends to be a stadium filled with Christians that want their spiritual fix more than lost people in need of a bloody Savior. I think this is partly due to our marketing of gospel crusades. Michael Jackson didn’t rally pastors to market and he got few Christian in his concerts as a result. He had mostly sinners. Many there is something to this for crusade evangelists.
Another pressing issue is that when I preach in a town and then preach there again, the same people get “saved.” Either they are really insecure in their faith, falling from the faith every year or they just like to answer altar calls alot. As a pastor, I found this same problem. The same people answer the altar call every service. Having a huge meetings full of believers that just love to go forward in the altar call is not evangelism unless they are really coming to Christ. I think this is partly because we sell the gospel crusade as a mere extension of the churches.
Marketing the crusade must change
If we want to reach the lost, we have to market for the lost. If you want to attract believers, market in churches. TL Osborn said once that if the lost wont come to church, the church has to go to them. Is our marketing geared towards the sinners or towards the churches? It is a hard question and one many evangelists do not want to answer.
Some of my most successful gospel crusades was when I just came to town, market completely to the lost, cover the town with flyers, gave away food and did a crusade. I didn’t even tell the pastors that I was doing it. What happened? Without failure, the pastors were the worst hecklers. In one town, they tried to get the mayor to pull the electricity because they didn’t approve the gospel meeting. The Filipino politician could not figure out why the Assembly of God pastor was trying to shut down the Pentecostal preaching that Jesus saves, heals, and delivers. Alot of pastors in the developing world think of themselves as power brokers.
If we want to see the lost coming into our meetings and not believers, we have to change our marketing of the meetings. If your gospel crusade is having commercials on the TBN and not CNN; chances are you are mainly going to draw believers. I do not know many sinners that want Christian television no matter what Paul Crotch and Rod Parsley tell you.
The real problem is vision
Most pastors think about growing churches, not bringing in the harvest. Most Evangelists believe they have to use the church to get the numbers in the meetings. Both of them are lies that we believe.
Pastors are wired to think small because of this, they want to think about their churches. More members means more offerings. They see gospel crusades as a means to this end. They do not really value them as souls coming into the Kingdom. I can not tell you how many times I have seen them fighting over decision cards. Completely fleshy and unscriptural.
Most Evangelists lack real vision as well. They think this type of leadership is necessary to get the gospel crusade off the ground. They view the local Christians as the foot soldiers to tell people about the meeting. I do not think this works. I am sure Ozzy Osborne doesn’t use pastors to get the numbers.
What I am saying is that Evangelist want to reach the lost, we better start going after the lost and not the believers. If we don’t change, we are just having bible confernces and calling them evangelistic events. I hate to say it but it is what it is.
There is the rubber meets the road. Revival is about getting the Church right with God. Gospel crusades are about getting the lost right with God. If we are not targeting the sinners, we are just having a revival.