“Christ is standing and knocking at your door. Let Him in tonight,” said Luis Palau to a group of 5,000 gathered at the Old Kent Park on September 15, 1994. Old Kent Park is home to a local minor baseball team called, appropriately, the White Caps. For the people living in the Grand Rapids area, Palau’s visit has been known for some time. Everywhere you looked in the Grand Rapids area were signs and bumper stickers proclaiming the name of one man, Luis Palau.
Luis Palau, staged as the next Billy Graham, runs a busy circuit of preaching around the globe. Luis Palau was born in Argentina, although his parents were from Europe, and today lives in Portland, Oregon. No one will deny that Palau gets around, since over the past years he has had in his audience over 11 million people scattered across 6 nations.
The crusade on this particular night lasted approximately two hours. The 1,000 member choir first sang several numbers and a personal testimony by John Kreigel followed. John explained how he ruined his life and then was later converted in jail while serving time for drug dealing. After this testimony, Kevin Smith sang with his band, DC TALK, which made me cringe. If I was offended with this singer, I can only imagine how offended God was with this man using His name. After the “special number” and a collection, Palau was introduced. The theme or question of his speech was, “Does God have grandchildren?” Palau talked about many things Christians do in their lives which are good, but which do not necessarily make them Christians. Examples of this would be tithing and church attendance. Christians must do these things but you do not conclude you are a Christian because you do them. Palau went on to talk about how God has no grandchildren but only has children. You are not saved because you know people that are saved, but you are saved only if you believe. The next hour of his speech was story hour, not Bible hour. We heard stories about Willy, Harry, Bob a Scotchman, and even a Dutchman. Most of these stories were of people pretending that they were Christians although they really were unconverted. These characters then were somehow touched and converted. Not surprisingly, most of these people were converted at a crusade meeting. A good example of this would be Willie, a Catholic Bishop. Willie was a Bishop for forty years, had two theology degrees, and then at a crusade came forth to accept. Christ. Palau said, “Who would have thought? Who would have thought that Willie of all people wasn’t converted?” Palau was surprised, I wasn’t.
Some other stories Palau told were about people converted after they found out they had AIDS or after another tragedy happened in their life. He emphasized that it was much easier to come to God at a meeting like this than coming when you have a disease or are in prison.
Palau concluded his speech with an altar call inviting all those that would like to accept Christ to come forward. When the people came forward, the organizers had counselors ready to meet with the people and to pray with them. The crusade was organized and backed by 550 churches in the area. I’m sure they will be happy with the outcome of the crusade because the baseball field was full of people who came forward to accept Christ this Thursday night. The Grand Rapids Press reported, “Saturday alone an afternoon Kid’s Crusade at Old Kent Park drew a stadium record 11,400 people, with kids spilling onto the grass that overlooked the stadium. Saturday night that record was shattered, as 12,875 screaming teens packed the park and bounced, danced and swayed to Christian rockers Audio Adrenaline. ‘There will be headbanging in heaven,’ screamed lead singer Mark Stuart.”
Now this crusade was intended to bring in new converts but never in his speech did Palau explain who Christ is or what He did. Apparently Palau believes that more people will be converted after hearing his stories than hearing the Gospel as explained in the Bible. After hearing Luis Palau and rereading some of the Apostle Paul’s speeches to unbelievers, it is easy to see which one is from God and which one is not.
Is Luis Palau doing such a fabulous job presenting the gospel? Or are other big time crusaders presenting the gospel so well that we do not have to worry about bringing Christ’s Word to all nations? It is time for us to wake up and take the Great Commission seriously. We as a denomination must demand a strong seminary missionary program. We must realize that sending a minister to a foreign country does not make him a missionary nor does it mean that we are doing mission work. We must realize what kind of work is being done today in the name of missions by big crusades. We must remember that Palau and groups singing such as Audio Adrenaline was not organized by some far out group but by 50 denominations and 550 local churches. But this is not mission work! Christ demands that the Church preach the gospel to all nations. It certainly is not happening by this kind of crusade, and we all know too well the little amount we do personally and as a church. We must get busy as individuals and as a denomination.