Several years ago an evangelist asked me: “Ron, how do I get 50,000 to 100,0000 people to attend our crusades?” His crusades were already quite successful, but he was interested in seeing the attendance increase in his international meetings in order to win a greater number of people to Jesus.
Whether it’s in Latin America, Africa, or Asia we’ve found that people experience similar challenges, needs, desires and goals. Religious beliefs or cultures may differ from place to place, but as a whole, people worldwide are on a life-long quest for answers regarding their eternity.
When the gospel is boldly proclaimed… nothing compares to watching an entire village in the Amazon jungle come to Jesus, or the joy of seeing those bound by religion in Asia set free as they hear about our loving savior. As the Word is preached in Africa we’ve witnessed God’s delivering power transform lives right before our eyes. More than ever I’m convinced that God is still in the business of touching and saving lives across the globe today.
Over the years we’ve helped ministries, both large and small set up citywide crusades. There may not be a single answer to the question posed by my evangelist friend, but I do believe—after a great deal of hands-on experience that there are guiding principles in the planning and preparation of a successful event that will reach the multitudes and impact lives. Here are a few brief thoughts…
1. The World is Waiting for You:
Ps 40:10 tells us: “I have not kept this good news hidden in my heart; I have talked about your faithfulness and saving power. I have told everyone in the great assembly of your unfailing love and faithfulness.” There is something about stepping out in faith that activates a boldness and grace to minister to the lost. I think many times God is waiting for us to get out of our comfort zones and go to those areas where we might be stretched and fully dependent on Him. We’ve come to expect God to do the miraculous in the preparation process, and over and over we’ve seen Him prepare the way ahead of us. I never get tired of hearing joyful pastors say: “Thank you for coming. We have been praying and asking God to send someone to us for years.”
2. Good Relationships Make all the Difference:
Once a city has been decided upon for the event, building sound relationships with local pastors and leaders (of all denominations) is the number one key in putting together a successful crusade. Remember, local pastors are the gateway to the people. Developing relationships requires an investment of time and patience and is always well worth the effort. At times the temptation might be to focus more attention on the arrangements and preparations—especially when challenges or obstacles arise. However it is important to balance both aspects. When good relationships are in place, people are then likely cooperate and contribute by offering direction, suggestions and assistance in all aspects of the planning and preparation. All of which is invaluable to the overall success of the event.
3. Nothing beats Good Preparation:
Nothing beats good strategic planning and preparation. It is extremely important to research thoroughly and go through every detail to make sure that each operational aspect of the event is properly thought through. Create a checklist and ask yourself a few questions, What is our Plan B for this? What happens if the electricity goes out? What happens if the truck transporting our sound equipment breaks down? Is there a backup? What if it rains? Planning well and anticipating potential problems will most often ensure an enjoyable time of ministry and alleviate much frustration. To simplify the priorities, the following items are non-negotiable.
1) Permission – Has the city issued a permit for the crusade?
2) Publicity – Have we done all we can to let people know about the crusade?
3) Platform – Do we have a platform to preach from?
4) Power – Do we have stable electricity? Do we have a backup?
5) Public Address System – Is the sound good? Can people hear clearly?
6) Preacher – Am I ready for God to use me to reach the multitudes?
4. Location, location, location. Choosing the Crusade Grounds:
There are a couple of thoughts when considering a venue for the crusade. After exploring all possible venue options, give preference to a visible, open field situated along a well-traveled street. An open and highly accessible venue makes people feel welcome and able to attend. There are times when a stadium may be used if no other options exist however, keep in mind that stadiums are usually built to keep people out unless a payment of some sort is made. This alone may deter the poor from attending. Additionally there are normally fees involved as well as a significant amount of red tape to deal with. We have always found that our attendance and impact is greater when we use an open space situated in a good part of the city. This might be a soccer field, a city park or plaza, fair grounds, or even a large parking lot.
5. Timing is everything. Choose the Right Time:
Unless an indoor venue is being used for the event, weather is always something to consider. The best time of year to plan an open-air crusade is during the dry season—after the crops have been harvested. This normally is a “feel good” time in the country and families are more likely to attend planned events.
6. Live Ready, Go Prepared:
You may be the only voice your audience will ever have to deliver them from eternal separation from God. Take the time to pray well in advance, seek God and prepare your messages. Expect God to work through you and to move mightily at the crusade. People’s lives will be eternally changed as a result of the event—if you are prepared. Board the airplane with a determination to be a blessing and to make a difference in the lives of many. TL Osborn stated: “if you are not fit to demonstrate the gospel, then you’re not fit to preach it.”
7. Maximum Impact:
Leading and presenting a well-organized event will have long lasting impact. It will promote unity within the Body of Christ as churches and denominations work together for a common purpose. Believers will be emboldened to share Jesus outside of the four walls of the church, and it will provide a platform for further ministry long after the event is over.
8. Leave an Enduring Legacy:
You may be organizing an event but ensure that it initiates or contributes to an ongoing, sustainable process and leaves a lasting legacy which local partners can energetically maintain.
9. Other Important Considerations:
There are many other practical aspects to planning a successful event, a few of which are: publicity and advertising, volunteers, working with committees, funding & risk, church involvement and follow-up. On your next overseas event consider bringing a team along to help you in ministry and expose them to the mission field. Plan other types of outreaches that will complement the crusade and reach an even greater number of people. A few ideas would be: prison outreach, street ministry, ministry to orphans, or even a building project.
I believe in mass crusade evangelism today more than ever. Some would suggest that the world has already been reached via television, radio and the Internet. I believe that there are still many unreached people waiting for someone to come and share Jesus with them in person. Mass crusade evangelism provides an effective way of doing just that—gathering multitudes of people together for the purpose of preaching and demonstrating the Gospel. As one evangelist declares: “people in this generation have a right to hear the Gospel.” May our prayer be: “Lord send us to the darkest places, to those who have not yet heard.”