Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Memories of 1992 Portland

In September of 1992, Billy Graham held one of his Crusades in Portland. For a solid week, he preached the Gospel to the immense crowds at PGE Park (then Civic Stadium), as well as an overflow crowd on the Lincoln High School football field. Every night, there was an altar call where thousands upon thousands came forward and decided to either follow Jesus for the first time, or rededicate their lives to Him. When those people came forward, there was a small army of counselors there to pray with each new believer, to offer words of encouragement (and welcome!), and to hand out some "starter" materials - the Gospel of John, and a few pamphlets about how to build on that initial decision. The people were also asked to fill out a basic information card - name, address and phone number - not for any kind of solicitation, but in order to follow up and help each new Christian find a nearby church, in case they did not already attend one.

I volunteered that week on the research team that took those addresses and matched them with churches in the area. It was a great experience, working until three or four in the morning, and bonding with a new friends over a common goal.

Of course, our team couldn't just choose any church for each person on the cards. The "eligible" churches were those who preached only from the Bible, not the Book of Mormon; and no Catholic churches, no Jehovah's Witnesses' Kingdom Halls, no 24-Hour Church of Elvis. Within that scope, however, there were still a wide array of denominations that were represented. And even though everyone on the research team came from different denominations, none of us ever had the thought of channeling those new Christian souls only into churches of our own denomination. I came from a Conservative Baptist church, yet I was hooking people up with Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Baptists, Lutherans, Pentecostals, whoever. It was really more about physical proximity than the finer points of our respective doctrinal statements.

But it's funny to think that if it hadn't have been for our small team of about 10 people, there might have been a lot of people in other denominations than they ended up with!