1. Large evangelistic events create unity in the community.
Right before Jesus was crucified, he prayed, “that [his disciples] all may be one…that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21). Often, a large evangelistic event draws churches and denominations together. Churches that rarely speak to one another find themselves working side-by-side to bring people to Jesus. This can create a remarkable synergy in the body of Christ. The relationships that are formed during a crusade often last long after the crusade is finished and greatly benefit the kingdom of God.
2. Large evangelistic events take advantage of the miracle of marketing.
The evangelist is God’s marketing department. To understand the importance of marketing, let’s take a look at a secular brand. Coca-Cola has done a magnificent job of advertising their brand. In every Central American country, the walls are plastered with signs urging the thirsty to drink Coca-Cola. The Coca-Cola company spends tens of thousands of dollars on advertising every day. They spend over two million dollars for a thirty second advertisement during the Super Bowl. In a dirt floor store in the middle of Africa, hours from a paved road, I saw a tin sign with their logo.
The Coca-Cola company does not expect the consumer to buy a coke every time he sees a coke sign. They aim for a general awareness so that when someone gets thirsty, the first thought that pops into the mind is coke.
Advertising executives teach that it takes seven positive contacts with a product before someone uses it. For example, recently a new drink product hit the market. It was advertised on television, radio, in the mail, and at the store. Because of all the advertising, many people tried the product for the first time and found that they liked it. All of the advertising convinced people to give the drink a try. This is why advertisers are willing to put millions of dollars into advertisements before they make a single sale. According to Rick Warren, “Evangelism is usually a process of repeated exposure to the Good News.” Often, it takes more than one encounter with a Christian before someone is willing to dedicate his or her life to Christ.
One of the benefits of a crusade is the massive marketing campaign for Jesus. Even if a person does not get saved during the crusade, the marketing creates the awareness of Christ being the answer to life’s problems. When someone gets in trouble they will think of Jesus.
Jesus deserves to be advertised as heavily as Coca-Cola at least once in the lifetime of a city. During our crusades, we plaster the walls with posters proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. For three weeks, Jesus is more prominent in the city than Coca-Cola. For at least a short time, Jesus is lifted up higher than all the secular advertising.
Critics of crusade evangelism might point out that Billy Graham (who probably has the best follow up machine in history) only has an 8-10% retention rate of new believers. Critics might say, “The evangelist spends so much money and then loses 90% of the fruit.” But in advertising, an 8-10% return would be phenomenal. The typical advertising campaign is considered to be a success with a 2-3% retention rate. If a direct mail campaign sends out 1,000 letters and gets thirty responses, it is considered a success.
The church has been looking at the role of an evangelist wrong. The job of the evangelist is to build the Christian brand, to make Jesus look good, to make it acceptable to be a Christian. This creates an atmosphere in a city that will make it easier for local churches to grow. Evangelists are God’s brand ambassadors.
By the way, it would be wrong to criticize the use of marketing to grow the church. God believes in marketing so much that He sent ten thousand angels to announce the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:13). Jesus believed in marketing so much that he sent out 70 disciples as crusade directors to prepare villages for his arrival (Luke 10:1). When they preached, “The kingdom is at hand,” they were talking about Jesus.
3. Large evangelistic events bring credibility to the church.
Often the church is ignored by media and marginalized by society. However, during a large evangelistic event, the church is hard to ignore. Politicians see the large crowds and want to participate because of the potential for gaining new voters. Business owners see the value of catering to the needs of the Christian community. The media is willing to cover the story because it is impacting the entire community. Large evangelistic events make the church a force to be reckoned with.
4. Large evangelistic events change lives for eternity.
The number of salvations has been grossly overestimated by some evangelists and grossly underestimated by opponents. The reality is that many people do get saved at large evangelistic events. If ten percent of a crowd of fifty thousand people give their lives to Jesus this represents five thousand new believers. Many churches do not pray with five thousand people for salvation in twenty years. You can not reach everyone through crusades, but you can reach some.
5. Large evangelistic events allow God to show off.
In Acts 8, when Philip the evangelist preached in Samaria, there were multitudes and there were miracles. At a large evangelistic event, there is often an atmosphere for miracles. These miracles draw people to Jesus. The public testimony of people who have received miracles creates an atmosphere of faith in an entire city.
6. Large evangelistic events revitalize the church.
The preparation phase for a large evangelistic event requires lots of volunteers. The process of mobilizing, training, and empowering these volunteers creates energy and excitement in local churches. After the event is over, the volunteers return to their churches with new skills and fresh excitement about what God is doing. In our events, we train each councilor to personally lead a person to Jesus. The councilor will continue to use this training in one-on-one encounters long after the crusade is over.
7. Large evangelistic events give individuals the tools to witness.
Doing a large evangelistic event often involves the printing of large numbers of flyers, invitations, tracts, and discipleship material. As these tools are placed in the hands of local believers, it gives them the ability and motivation to witness. The exciting nature of the event also provides a good excuse for believers to invite their unsaved friends to attend. Ideally a large evangelistic event involves personal evangelism on a mass scale.
8. Large evangelistic events can reach people that the church has difficulty reaching.
The challenge with relying on church members to get people saved is that many churches are ingrown. Few believers know many non-Christians. The church family throws potluck suppers for one another, worships together, and often goes shopping at the stores of other believers. Ask the typical Christian how many unbelieving friends they have and the answer is typically “not many.”
Crusades are accompanied by such a massive publicity campaign that thousands of unbelievers will come who have never met a Christian in their lives. These people are impossible to reach through “friendship evangelism” because no Christian is likely to become their friend. Every person deserves to hear the Gospel at least once in their lifetime. If the local church members cannot reach them, perhaps a crusade will. Ignoring the potential of mass evangelism is like saying to thousands of people “You all can go to hell.”
9. Large evangelistic events are good for plowing new ground.
Some crusades serve the purpose of “pre-evangelism.” Even if there are few salvations, a crusade plows the ground for future evangelistic efforts. It introduces people to Christianity and raises awareness of who Jesus is. Later, the efforts of the local churches bring in the harvest. This is especially true in nations where there is a majority of people from other religions.
10. Large evangelistic events expand the vision of local churches.
I grew up as a missionary in Juarez, Mexico. My family worked with small churches in the poorest barrios of “the murder capital of the world.” Many of these churches only had a dozen people attending. We visited these small churches and did evangelistic services for the children in the neighborhood. Often five hundred or a thousand kids would show up along with their parents. The churches had never seen so many people before. The buildings were so small that we had to do the services in the street in front of the church. Many of these churches quickly grew from a dozen people to over three hundred people. The reason they grew was because the pastor caught a vision for what was possible in his neighborhood.