"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Grace under Siege 49: Harvest Crusade vs. Community Carnival

(Note: this post has been rewritten and re-posted under a new name. The (first) comment at the end was in response to the original version.)

     Last fall, the Harvest Crusade filled Angel Stadium three nights in a row and a month later packed out Dodger Stadium-- 50,000 people--for a single night. Jerry and I were two of them. 
     Thousands of Christians brought thousands of non-Christians--averaging 20 years old--to this event.The bleachers reverberated with joyful noise, clapping, and cheering to the music of popular Christian performers like Chris Tomlin, Jeremy Camp, Laura Story, Dave Crowder Band, Lincoln Brewster, Kirk Franklin, Francesca Battistelli, Kutlass, Phil Wickham, Crystal Lewis, Jars of Clay, Casting Crowns.
     Greg Laurie gave a message so Biblical it was worthy of Billy Graham. He even gave an altar call at the end--remember the altar call?--and 20,000 of these young people swept down onto the field, so many the fire marshall had to tell them to stop! There were 5,934 decisions for Jesus Christ that night.                                       
     Grace never publicized the Harvest Crusade in any way, never mentioned any of them. The following month the church hosted our annual Community Carnival in the church parking lot. It too had the potential of reaching thousands of people--3,500 of our neighbors--with the healing, saving, empowering resources of Jesus Christ. Surely hundreds of them must be struggling with addictions, relationships, anxiety, depression, even thoughts of suicide. Many must have questions about God. And we have answers.

   Jerry and I had prayer-walked the entire parking lot--twice--before the Community Carnival but the sense of darkness and oppression on the property was so great I could barely make myself stay. I thought it must be coming in with the visitors. But we had come to offer to pray with anyone who wanted prayer, so "once around the lot," Jerry urged me, "and then we can go home."  
     Jerry and I have already discussed with Hope, as I'll call the elder heading up the carnival, things that offended us about it: certain lyrics blasting out over the lot, certain subjects for face-painting that seemed inappropriate, a booth with live spiders and snakes you could wrap around your arm. He explained his purpose for having the snakes and promised to keep the music and face-painting from "crossing the line" in future carnivals so I have deleted those details from this post. But I have to say we're not sure where they draw the line. We didn't see any line. The event was advertised as our church's "Halloween alternative." There didn't seem to be anything "alternative" about it. The spiritual heaviness was palpable to me.
    Anyway, we wore our "Need prayer?" badges and circulated through the parking lot, offering to pray with anyone interested, and got a number of takers. Some gave us requests to pray for at home; others wanted us to pray with them right there. One woman we prayed for even turned around and prayed for us.   
   The following Sunday there was a slide show of the Carnival and Hope summed up what we could praise God for, for all the hours of volunteer work: We gave out a literal ton of candy. He talked to--we think he said--80 young men about the gospel, or at least about spiritual things. Gospels of John were handed out and his own children were pleased to each get their own copy. Pastors of other churches brought some of their youth and they really enjoyed the carnival. And two brothers adopted into different families got to spend time with each other.    
     Maybe comparing an openly evangelistic crusade with a Halloween carnival in the parking lot of a local church is comparing apples to oranges. Still, we can't help feeling our church missed a fantastic opportunity.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, We had a wonderful opportunity and wasted it to share the Gospel. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." (Romans 1:16) Next time if I dress up, it will be as an apostle to share the Gospel. We're not to proselytize! Phooey on this. Christ commanded it in Mark 16:15. Praise the Lord for the obedient few who shared the Truth.