Furlough and prayers for the unspoken
GLENARDEN, Md. — Every week, a good brother in Christ…
Sixty souls immersed into Christ.
And that was before the 2015 Crusade for Christ began.
Here in Alamo City — where people from across the U.S. and around the world once fought for a cause that became a battle cry — members of predominantly black, white and Hispanic Churches of Christ worked together to win souls. Their motto: “That we all may be one.”
The Crusade, a weeklong evangelistic campaign hosted every two years in a major U.S. city, dates back to the 1970s. Traditionally, most of the participants come from predominantly black churches. But hosting the 19th Crusade in a city that’s more than 61 percent Hispanic required a multiethnic, multicultural approach, organizers said.
Participants in the 2015 Crusade for Christ gather in a San Antonio neighborhood. (PHOTO BY HAMIL R. HARRIS)
“We stacked the Hispanic community with thousands of brochures,” said Joe Walsh, minister emeritus for the Church of Christ at Laurel Street in San Antonio. Members of eight Churches of Christ in the area, representing a variety of skin tones, began knocking on doors in December to prepare for the campaign.
“Ninety-five percent of the folks here have never heard of the Crusade,” Walsh said, “so we really had to dig deep and convince people that the Crusade for Christ was for the Church of Christ.”
In recent years, Facebook and Twitter have replaced handshakes and hugs, but old-fashioned door-knocking still plays a vital role in evangelism, said Daniel Harrison, founder and national director of the Crusade.
“The mandate is to go and preach the Gospel to all nations,” Harrison said. “The mandate is that, as long as human beings are alive, people’s souls must be saved.”
PASSING THE BATON
After months of Bible studies and baptisms, members of Churches of Christ across the U.S. joined their brethren in San Antonio for the Crusade. It began with a free food distribution in the parking lot of the Dellcrest Church of Christ in east San Antonio. Inside the church building, Crusaders conducted a free health fair for the community.
Hundreds of people lined up for the food and to have their blood pressure and cholesterol checked.
Joe Adams, an elder of the Dellcrest church, said the acts of service gave Christians “the opportunity to take care of the whole man … You can preach to someone, but don’t preach until you take care of their needs.”
As she placed bags of groceries in cars, campaigner Corella Spars added that, “for those who don’t know the Lord we are able to show people who he really is.”
After a day of service, the participants enjoyed a formal dinner on San Antonio’s picturesque River Walk. They gathered the next morning for Sunday worship in the Lila Cockrell Theater. That afternoon the campaigners marched to Alamo Plaza, where more singing and preaching announced the arrival of the Crusade to the community.
The event represented a passing of the baton from Jack Evans — who has served as lead speaker for the Crusades for the past three decades — to Orpheus Heyward, senior minister for the West End Church of Christ in Atlanta.
Orpheus Heyward and Jack Evans were featured speakers during the Crusade. (PHOTO BY HAMIL R. HARRIS)“I am preaching through the next speaker,” said Evans, longtime president of Southwestern Christian College in Terrell, Texas. Heyward attended Southwestern, as did many prominent evangelists currently serving Churches of Christ, Evans noted.
Heyward said his goal for the Crusade “is to create the passion for evangelism. I want people to understand that the message that saved us is still relevant in this present context. We want people to buy into the power of the Gospel.”
WILLING WORKERS FOR THE LORD
For the final three days of the Crusade, about 400 church members donned bright yellow T-shirts and gathered for an 8 a.m. devotional before piling into buses to visit neighborhoods near the city’s Churches of Christ.
There they continued the work their San Antonio brethren started — knocking doors, offering Bible studies and invitations to worship.
James Haley, who has driven tractor trailers for more than 30 years, took the wheel of a van to deliver stacks of fliers and cases of bottled water to the campaigners.
“I kind of like this,” said Haley, a 79-year-old member of Laurel Street church. “When I retire I want to be a foot solider.”
Anna Gravely from Kansas City, Mo., and Marcie Machen of the Carrollton Church of Christ in Dallas were partners as they walked the sidewalk in one San Antonio community. They never slowed down, despite angry dogs, hot temperatures and closed doors.
“I want to be out here because this is the work that the Lord specifies — that we should go tell the whole world about Jesus Christ,” said Gravely, a retired bank employee. “I am planning on making this my work, the Crusade for Christ, until I leave here.”
Machin, who has attended three other Crusades, kept it simple.
“I am a willing worker for the Lord,” she said.
Gutiérrez Appropriately enough, minister José Gutiérrez led the Christians in a chorus of “I Want to Be a Worker for the Lord” when they returned to the bus — singing in English and Spanish.
“This is great, two races, two languages, the same name, Jesus Christ, our Lord,” Gutiérrez said.
Sharon Gross traveled from Monterey, Calif., to knock doors during this year’s Crusade.
Despite the pervasiveness of social media, she said, “nothing is more important than human contact. People want you to talk to them personally.”
That personal contact led to 15 more baptisms during the Crusade, bringing the total to 75.
AUTONOMY IS NO EXCUSE
The months of door-knocking prior to the Crusade were a big help, said Joe Wiggins, minister for the Northeast Church of Christ in San Antonio. The small, predominantly white congregation was a partner in the campaign. Now, churches across the city plan to launch a website with a joint calendar to keep up with each other’s events.
“Regardless of what happens in the future, the Churches of Christ in the San Antonio area will never be the same in terms of race relations,” Wiggins said. “The cooperation was over the top.”
Shawn Price, ministering evangelist for the Laurel Street church, added that congregations here should “no longer let autonomy be an excuse for us not to work together for the cause of Christ.”
“A lot of people identify us as being very dogmatic and exclusive,” Price said, but in John 17 Jesus prays for his followers “that we all be one — and that we show it.”
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