Read any positive stories about evangelists lately? Or evangelistic crusades?
There's several reasons such narratives are missing in your typical daily news sheet, one of them being their increasing rarity and questions about their effectiveness. Another is that the spectacle of people walking the aisle to signify their conversion to Christianity is barely news these days.
This is why I was surprised to see the Orange County Register covering a Greg Laurie crusade. And not just Laurie's first crusade in Southern California, in this format, but his 26th. But here we have a reporter covering it like it's fresh and relevant:
Nichole Sanders vividly remembers the night she made the decision to have a relationship with Christ.
It was three years ago on a night of the Harvest Crusade. She rushed to the field at Angel Stadium with hundreds of others to pledge their new commitment to Christ. She looked up and was saluted by a digital banner, “Welcome to the family of God.”
Seconds later, a young woman approached her, handed her a Bible, and collected her address and phone number. That woman, is who the Harvest Crusade organization calls a “decision follow-up worker,” the person who is responsible to document and follow-up on the attendee’s decision to follow Christ.
On this weekend’s Harvest Crusade, Aug. 28-30, about 1,000 decision follow-up workers are expected to be on hand at Angel Stadium to help keep track of the thousands who display their “profession of faith” as they descend down Angel Stadium field. The culmination of each event is when Rev. Greg Laurie, founder and pastor of Riverside’s Harvest Christian Fellowship, asks nonbelievers in the audience to profess their faith in Jesus.
I kept on looking for the snark. You know, those words wreathed in quote marks with sentences such as "Sally Smith said she "believed" in what she called the "truth" of the Bible." This kind of framing language gives readers the idea quickly that the reporter doesn't believe in such stupid things and neither should you.
But I found none. Instead you hear that nearly a half million people have converted to Christianity in the past 25 years through these crusades. It's not the success of Billy Graham but that's still a lot of people.
The reporter wrote that certain people committed their lives to Christ, that a woman had a relationship with Christ; both phrases that had no scare quotes attached. She concentrated on the hundreds of volunteers that make such crusades work; people whom no one ever hears of but who are crucial to the effort. These are the foot soldiers in a slice of America that so rarely gets fair, dispassionate coverage.
Lately, it seems as though some reporters cannot wait to spill their personal venom against those of the conservative Christian variety. It seems a shame to have to call attention to a story that's unusual for its kind treatment of people of faith but that's the age we live in. Perhaps it is significant that the story avoided references to any hot-button social or moral issues.
Sadly, I didn't see any comments attached to this piece on the Register website. That said, I hope other religion specialists can learn from this example of graceful writing.