Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Gimmick Or Staple?

According to Donald Scott's essay "Evangelicalism, Revivalism, and the Second Great Awakening", Charles Finney [1792 – 1875] was a Presbyterian minister known for his "new measures" [called by his supporters] and "gimmicks" [by his critics] to "provoke" conversions and to "shock, scare, badger and persuade the hearers into a change of will." His techniques included placing ads in the newspaper for "protracted" revival meetings that were held each night for two or three weeks, singing hymns [something John Bunyan rejected as secular poetry that split his church just 100 years before Finney was born], having women pray in public meetings of mixed gender [gasp!!!], the development of the "anxious seat" [now known as the "altar call" — a place where those considering becoming Christians could come forward to receive prayer], and public censure of individuals by name in sermons and prayers [maybe I should try that just joking!!!]. Most of which are staples of traditional evangelists today.

But just a couple years ago, a group of Toledo First folks participated with YWAM's [Youth With A Mission] Impact World Tour [IWT]. Their martial arts experts, body builders, skate board, BMX bikers, and various dance teams captivated audiences while volunteers [like me] prayed with the people at the end of their presentations and wrote down their contact info to be passed along to the closest participating local church [21st century altar call!!!] Recently, I got an update on the IWT from my friend James and here are the staggering numbers of its impact in Ohio so far:

Total Attendance - 96,474
Total Decisions - 14,819
Total First Decisions - 5,822
15% Total Response
82% Under 18 years old

In one Ohio town 6 months later, over 75% of these young people remain active in the churches to which they were referred. PTL!!! All of which reminds me that today's "gimmicks" could be tomorrow's staples. Is there anything evangelistic any church is doing today yielding a 15% response rate and 75% retention? Maybe brick breaking body builders and extreme home makeovers and car show winners will be among them. Click either pic for more info on Impact World Tour.

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