Cooperation bolsters Taylor Co. response
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. (BP)--The largest spiritual response in Taylor County, Ky.'s history has lessons for Southern Baptist congregations across the nation, evangelist Rick Gage says.
Churches from such denominations as Southern Baptist, Methodist, Church of God and Presbyterian were among the 25 sponsors of Gage's Sept. 14-17 crusade, according to crusade chairman James Jones.
And the harvest was much greater than any one congregation could have seen by itself, Gage said.
"There's not one local church that could have pulled off what 25 investing in the crusade did," Gage said. "The need to come together in unity for the purpose of reaching lost souls is enormous.
"There's power in numbers," Gage added. "Coming together in unison like we had in Campbellsville is a wise kingdom investment."
Initially, Jones was concerned that not many churches would sign on as sponsors. Participation required churches to make commitments such as changing worship service times for the first night of the crusade, contributing financial support and providing counselors.
However, as the first night of the crusade approached, more churches and individuals showed interest, Jones said.
"We had some good co-chair people and they did exceptionally well," said Jones, pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church. "I couldn't have asked for a more enthusiastic response.
"It definitely was better than one or two churches doing it on their own. I would advise other Southern Baptist churches to get involved in inter-denominational crusades. I loved to see the number of people saved; it thrilled my heart. But a key was having so many churches involved."
The crusade originated more than a year prior to the event, when Gage sponsored one of his teen camps on Campbellsville University's campus during the summer of 2007. Evangelist Rick Stanley introduced Campbellsville businessman Larry Noe, a longtime friend, to Gage.
Noe had lunch with Gage and went to hear him speak the next night when more than 100 teens answered an altar call to follow Jesus.
"I had never personally witnessed something that exciting, other than at a Billy Graham crusade," said Noe, a deacon at Campbellsville Baptist Church. "Then I knew he was the real deal and starting talking with him about coming to Campbellsville.
"Rick is obviously God's man and He's using him in a powerful way. The town of Campbellsville has 393 more Christians now than it did before. That's bigger than some churches here. It's got to have a major, long-term impact on the community."
The cooperation between the churches, community participants and the university also pleased Skip Alexander, a trustee of the school and pastor of Campbellsville Baptist Church.
"What I'm excited about is the partnership between [those three]," Alexander said. "It was the typical Billy Graham [event] philosophy, not to emphasize our differences but to emphasize our unity in Christ."
Dave Walters, vice president for admissions and student services at Campbellsville University, said he became involved early in the discussions about how Gage's campus talks could dovetail with other appearances.
In addition to the crusades' four evening services, Gage addressed two university assemblies, met with players from the football team and visited area middle and high schools.
Considerable advance planning and meetings are necessary parts of any inter-denominational crusade, said Walters, also pastor of Lowell Avenue Baptist Church.
However, he said the time and effort is worth it because such events offer Southern Baptists opportunities to work with Christians from other traditions.
The crusade also brought a renewed spirit to members of Lowell Avenue Baptist and refreshed their memory about the tremendous opportunities they have in their own community, Walters said.
"The folks who participated from our congregation enjoyed the spirit of being together with Christians from the community who came to the crusade," Walters said.
"All of our members have friends in the community from other churches, but it's not often they have the chance to worship with them. And then, to be able to witness so many decisions like that, it gets you going."
Not only do Southern Baptists need to cooperate with other denominations, others need to cooperate with what Baptists are doing, Jones said.
"I would wholeheartedly recommend it," Jones said. "We need to work together."
Ken Walker is a freelance writer based in Huntington, W.Va.