Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Festival Victoria

I have been unable to post some of my thoughts on the Franklin Graham Crusade, um I mean Festival, up until now, but here I go.

First of all the advertising wasn't that clear, I wonder how somebody would feel if they'd gone along expecting some sort of fun concert, and were pumped with this?

I think this method of mass evangelism has very little relevance or place in todays ministry setting. It worked in the 1950's, and that was fantastic, but I just don't know how much it works these days. I hate using the modern vs postmodern thing as a way of bagging out stuff, but it really is such a modern method of evangelism. People just don't respond to that kind of thing anymore.

If we're gonna do evangelism today, in my opinion-its gotta be relational, its as simple as that. People still respond to altar calls, and thats all cool, but most won't get there without being invited by a friend. This method totally reinforces the bounded set model which I blogged about earlier. Its very one way, and allows for little of the dialogue postmoderns love.

I know of very few people who wouldn't currently call themselves followers of Jesus that went, from my understanding most in attendance were card-carrying church members. I've heard similar from a few other sources.

I was really impressed with the massive emphasis placed on follow up this year, a big criticism of mine in the past. If all of those people who made a commitment are followed up and discipled, then maybe it will have all been worth it.

But I do wonder, as have others, what would have happened if churches spent this much time and energy on relational evagelism, on being Jesus to their friends. What if the money was spent on taking the good news of a bed to sleep in to the homeless?

I have no doubt, and it was my prayer, that God totally worked through that event. I have no doubt much of the way I do ministry is just as flawed, but I pray that God works through, in and sometimes despite of me anyway.

My other issue is with the theology of 'come down the front now and you're saved' I realise that is how some come to faith, but definitely not all. Its so much more of a journey, and I just don't like how black and white these events try and make faith, as I just don't think it is so.

Darren and Phil have both posted much more articulate thoughts on this, go check out what they've got to say, and read the comments too, very interesting stuff.


mase said...

mmm have been thinking lately bout this too and think that one of the benefits of this stuff is sometimes people need to decide yes or no, am i going to pursue this Jesus thing as worth while or not? i think maybe a lot of those 'altar calls' make up for us as Christains who chicken out with asking people where they're at with God and challenging them to respond. I guess 1 on 1 is more threatening than group, and all those group effects on people you learn about in yr 11 psych. come into play :P. not that it's bad, it's how we work. i dunno, whatdya reckon?

Digger said...

Yeah thats a good call Mase, they are a good chance for people to assess where they're at, and its good for people to have a significant moment where they say 'this was the day I decided to turn and follow Jesus'. I guess my problem would be with when people say that that one decision is it, whether people would say that or not, I think iot can be implicit.

Yeah the group psychology is an interesting one, I think its something we need to be aware of, and make sure we don't exploit.

John Dekker said...

I basically agree with you concerning evangelism being relational. I'm sure most of the non-Christians there were brought by Christian friends. That certainly seemed to have been the purpose of the whole thing.

But I really don't think you can say this:

it really is such a modern method of evangelism. People just don't respond to that kind of thing anymore.

The thing is, they did respond. By any way of reckoning, it was very successful festival. Sure, they didn't get as many people as Billy got in '59, but they still had six or seven thousand first-time decisions over the weekend. So it may seem out-dated, it may seem modern, but it does actually 'work'.

I'm not particularly pragmatic, though, and do not belive that just because something 'works', we should do it. There is a grave danger that people may think that just because they went forward, they are now true disciples of Jesus. Like you said, in many ways, the decision they made at the Telstra Dome should be viewed as the first step on a journey.

Anyway, you might be interested in my own Reflections on the whole thing...

John Dekker said...

Actually, I've just been scouting around, and found out the number of first-time decisions was more like 4000.

Digger said...

Hey John, thanks for the comments. Perhaps I was a little rash in saying that nobody responds to these kinds of meetings, perhaps not many though.

I wonder if we can judge the success on the number of decisions? Perhaps the success might be better tested in ten years time to see how many are still disciples? I honestly hope and pray that there will still be 4000, I really do.

With the amount of time effort and prayer invested by so many faithful Christians, there was never any doubt in my mind that God would work through such an event. But as to whether or not that was the best use of our time efforts and prayers, I'm still not sure.