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Church stirs other congregations to citywide ‘Festival of Faith’

ALICE, Texas (BP)–Reaching an entire community with the Christian gospel may sound like a tall order, but seven churches in Alice, Texas, population 19,000, took on the challenge through a citywide “Festival of Faith” revival.
The festival, held under a tent in the heart of downtown for eight straight nights, resulted in 78 professions of faith and 62 other decisions, reported Charles Childers, pastor of First Baptist Church.

Seeds for the spiritual harvest were sown long before the festival began, Childers recounted. The idea began with First Baptist’s evangelism committee, which envisioned a revival that would embrace the entire south Texas city.
“A three- or four-day revival would not even begin to impact our community,” Childers said the church decided. So, they planned a series of services from one Sunday evening to the next.

They also believed the city must be saturated with the gospel, and the effort should not end when the last song of the last service was sung, he said.

Consequently, the church decided to team up with Billie Hanks Jr. of International Evangelism Association, Salado, Texas, to conduct a citywide crusade “with several differences,” the pastor reported:

— The church joined forces with six other congregations in the city — First Mexican Baptist, Cornerstone Baptist, Stonegate Baptist, West Main Baptist, First Assembly of God and Agape House Fellowship.

— The churches sent a packet that contained an audiotape presentation of the gospel by Hanks; a Billy Graham tract, “Making Peace with God;” and a letter inviting them to attend the Festival of Faith to every home in the community.

— They began preparation well in advance of the festival. Three months before, Hanks led a “Closer Walk with God” conference to guide church members in spiritual growth and maturity.

“It was after this conference that several of our people became burdened for friends and family members who committed their lives to Christ during the festival,” Childers said.

Hanks also led a counselor/discipler seminar one month before the festival to prepare church members to counsel people who would become Christians during the meetings and to follow up those decisions in the weeks afterward.

— They turned an obstacle into an advantage. When they began planning the festival, they realized they didn’t have an auditorium large enough to accommodate the crowds they anticipated. Eventually, they decided to use a 1,000-person tent owned by the Texas Baptist evangelism division, and they pitched it in the heart of downtown.

— They expanded beyond the evening services to reach all facets of the community.

“We invited every business and government employee, professional organization and civic club to come have lunch with us” Monday through Friday, Childers said. In addition to a meal, luncheon guests heard special music and “a powerful testimony from a person in the sports, business or entertainment professions,” he said. At one lunch alone, eight people made decisions to become Christians.

The churches also made concerted efforts to share the gospel with young people in the community, Childers said. High school coaches who are Christians encouraged their athletes to attend services. Evangelistic team members also were allowed to witness at the junior high and two middle schools, and they conducted nightly youth rallies before the evening services.

— Each day at noon, the local radio station broadcast a 20-minute interview with someone from the community who had been blessed by Christ. “The gospel was reaching out to an audience that was basically unchurched,” Childers marveled.
Hanks’ sermons were “clear, simple, powerful and Christ-centered,” Childers added. “The appeal (to faith in Christ) was direct and uncompromising.

“The churches involved report that they have already seen the results of the Festival of Faith in additions by baptism and increase in the numbers of visitors in their Sunday services,” he said. “Another result was the enthusiasm created in our churches by seeing people respond to the gospel. We greatly rejoice at what the Lord did in Alice.”

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  • Marv Knox