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VOLUME 1 • ISSUE 7   |   Release date: December 15, 2003

In This Issue
Saddam Hussein Converts
Re-Commits Outnumber Conversions
Church Expels Non-Purpose Driven
Obese Bishop
Worship Leaders Annoyed
Survey Results
Church Sign of the Month Christmas Special

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Re-Commits at Stadium Crusades Outnumber Conversions

MIAMI, FL – A Pew Research study recently indicated that during large scale evangelistic rallies, Christians recommitting their lives to the Lord now outnumber conversions by a ratio of 1,400 to 1.

Pew spokesperson Ellen Fife expressed astonishment over the findings of the study, which was conducted during the 2003 crusade season. "With all the money and manpower being poured into these events, there seems to be very little return on the investment. Frankly, I don't see why these folks who are recommitting their lives to God can't do so at home," she said via teleconference.

The New Life Crusade held at Pro Player Stadium on July 4th was cited as a glaring example of the phenomenon. During the altar call given by evangelist Doug Heidel, thousands of people poured onto the baseball diamond vacated by a Florida Marlins team in the midst of a 13 game road trip.

Heidel, an ex-hippie turned evangelist, and best-selling author of 11 books, implored contemporary Christian singer Crystal Lewis to continue singing "Come Just as You Are" for nearly an hour, while attendees touched by his message crammed the playing field. The popular preacher even told those in the parking lot who could not get a seat in the stadium due to overcrowding that "he and God would wait for them." A special 4th of July fireworks display during the invitation actually ended several minutes before the last person squeezed onto foul territory on the third base side.

"I've never seen anything like it in all my years of ministry," said Paul Johnstone, New Life Crusade's prayer coordinator. Johnstone, whose intercessory prayer team meets in the clubhouse during the crusade, admitted reticently that a few of his prayer warriors actually fell asleep due to the elongated altar call. "They gave it all they had, and then zoned out. I mean, Lord bless them, the harvest just kept coming."

According to Fife however, a post crusade examination of response cards filled out by those who prayed the sinner's prayer reveals a different story. "We sampled 1,500 response cards immediately after the crusade. Only 3 cards had checks by the line reading 'I am following Jesus for the first time today.' 1,496 cards were recommits, and 1 card was marked 'unsure'".

Fife continued, "Season statistics were trending this direction but that night was off the chart. We took an unprecedented second and third sampling of the response cards, and found the next 3,000 cards to all be recommits. Knowing it was going to be a long night, we decided to count all the cards. Out of 9,347cards, 6 were conversions. Curiously, 4 of those people also marked the box indicating they were 65 years of age or older. These very well could have been death bed conversions, or as we call them 'fire insurance policies.'"

Crusade usher Todd Hooper confessed that Pew's research backed up a gut feeling he had that night. The youth pastor at Miami Fellowship, a non-denominational church of 300, has volunteered for the annual event every year since 1997. Speaking from his office at MF, Hooper said, "It just didn't seem right. At the end of Pastor Doug's invitation, I got excited. A sea of people was coming forward. But then I noticed that all of them had Bibles. At first I figured they were the follow-up counselors. But, I don't know, just about every dang person that came down already had a Bible that night. Then I saw a father and son playing wiffle ball out in center field. They even had on Marlins jerseys. I know God's in control and all, but that was just weird." Hooper went on to tell THO that he spotted lots of people scooping up dirt from the field and putting it in plastic bags. "Souvenirs, I guess."

Fife concluded her conference call saying, "The Miami New Life Crusade was an extreme case in a year of evangelistic events that produced only a handful of conversions. Still it was no aberration. The churches and preachers who put these things on may want to consider redirecting their resources toward more fruitful endeavors."

Heidel, who also pastors the 137,000-member New Life Church in Terra Bella, California, disagrees. "Sure, it may look odd to some, seeing hundreds of follow-up counselors surrounding one person who's converting to Jesus. And yeah, we have spent millions over the last ten years on crusades. But, if that one conversion sticks, it's all worth it."

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