Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 7, 1967
NUMBER 31, PAGE 2b-3,5b

A Brief History Of Campaigns For Christ

Joe Sisson

Some of the first cooperative efforts of the Restoration Movement go back before 1900 to the frontier where large crowds gathered to hear such preachers as Barton W. Stone, Jacob Creath, "Raccoon" John Smith, and others.

The Old Cane Ridge meeting in Kentucky, 1801, was where Barton W. Stone denounced Calvinism. In this sense, then the Restoration Movement in Tennessee and Kentucky was born out of a camp meeting which turned into a great revival, 3000 persons were converted.

With the passing of the frontier revivals, the "brush arbor" type meeting began to emerge. A framework constructed from saplings, covered with freshly cut leaves and branches, furnished a nice shelter. The entire family would sometimes stay for several days, making camp and hearing preaching daily. Since there were no sides to the "brush arbor" animals and people could come and go at will. This type meetings were held until recent times.

Cooperative Efforts After 1900

In 1922 church people in Nashville conducted a large city-wide meeting with N.B. Hardeman preaching. Such distinguished men as A.M. Burton and R.W. Comer helped finance the meeting. Large crowds attended so that other meetings called the Tabernacle Meetings followed in 1923 and 1928.

During this same time cooperative efforts directed by such men as B.D. Morehead and later George Gurganus took place in the Ibaraki prefecture of Japan which led to the establishment of a church and later a school.

Cooperative Efforts In The 1940'S

In the 1940's many cooperative meetings were held. Barney Morehead led meetings in Louisiana to establish churches. Another Tabernacle Meeting, with N.B. Hardeman preaching, was held in Nashville, Tennessee, 1942.

Otis Gatewood caught the spirit of such meetings and in 1943 transported about fifty students from seven Christian schools to come and do personal work in Salt Lake City.

In the later 1940's George Gurganus organized groups of students to do personal work in Rochester, Syracuse, and Schenectady, New York. Andy Ritchie did the preaching.

Cooperative Efforts In The 1950'S

In the 1950's a large number of city-wide meetings were conducted under such tides as "Music Hall Meetings." "Bible Forum," "Wichita Forum," and other similar titles.

These meetings were usually advertised with mass news media plus a door to door canvass of the city.

Perhaps the most well known preachers of this type evangelism were Jack and Dan Fogarty. They secured a large tent which would seat several thousand people. They set out to preach in every major city of America under the large tent. Fewer city-wide meetings were conducted by the early 1960's and by 1964 "mushroomed" to over 100 campaigns being conducted at home and abroad. In 1965 an estimated fifty campaigns were conducted. We have seen how some cooperative efforts were held before the 1900's. A few were held in the 1920's including the Tabernacle meetings. The 1940's saw several cooperative meetings with Gatewood and others but the greatest momentum was gained in the 1950's and 1960's.

The writer was in favor of campaigns when research was begun for a Master's thesis, however, several things were discovered which led to the conclusion that perhaps this method of evangelism should be restudied.

36 campaigns were studied both by interviews and by questionnaires sent out. Some of the larger campaigns were studied such as the Dallas meeting, the Memphis Mid-South Campaign, along with many smaller campaigns and several of the Foreign Campaigns.

In the Campaign for Christ questionnaires, it was found that 50% of the campaigns studied yielded less than six baptisms. This number is even less impressive when it can be seen that over half of these came from a Church of Christ background.

Some of the campaigns, while yielding large numbers of baptisms, did not mean that the outsider was reached to any great extent. In the major campaigns it was found that most of those baptized were children of Church of Christ members.

In the 50% which yielded over six baptisms, such campaigns as the Atlanta Campaign, the Dallas '64 Campaign, and the Memphis Mid-South Campaign which resulted in 222 baptisms came under study.

The Atlanta campaign resulted in 25 baptisms. Over 90% of these were from Church of Christ families, 24 churches sponsored the campaign which averaged 1.05 baptisms per church. This would be less than the average number baptized in a gospel meeting.

The Mid-South Evangelistic Campaign received contributions from 49 churches and a number of individuals. A study was made of each person being baptized, which showed 85% were children of Church of Christ members. About 7% were husbands and wives and 5% had either been attending the Church of Christ prior to the campaign. Less than 3% of those baptized came from a non-Church of Christ background.

The same held true of almost all the large campaigns. At least 95% or more of those being preached to were our own people and not the outsider to any great extent. Some of the college groups, especially the group from Iowa under Lloyd Deal and Jerry Loutzenhiser seemed to be the most effective in reaching the non-members.

Many campaign leaders argue that campaigns advertise the Church or put it before the people. However, the writer believes that one would find very few in a few weeks after it is over. Thus the value of advertising is not as great as many believe. There are so many startling news announcements and world-shaking events reported daily that the announcement of a campaign conducted by the Church of Christ will not leave a lasting impression.

Suppose that a minor religious sect conducts a large campaign in our city. One may read about it, but within a few days after the group has left town most will have forgotten it. For some, such an announcement would even cause a negative reaction.


In spite of the rapid growth within the Campaign movement certain observations were made in the study which should be set forth. The study revealed that in foreign campaigns the average cost of converting a soul was slightly over $1,500. This figure will vary with some averaging less than $1,000 per convert and some over $4,200. In one conducted abroad in 1966 over $100,000 was spent, for an average of $4,200 per convert. No one is qualified to say how much should be spent to convert one soul. Many maintained in the interviews that any cost is justified in saving one soul. However, the writer feels that the method should be used that will produce the most converts per dollar. Donald A. McGavran, one of the foremost authorities on missions today, believes churches should go to those areas that are ripe for greatest results.

In the case where $100,000 was spent, the writer believes two or more missionaries could be supported over a much longer period with the advantage of being able to further teach the new converts. The big cost in foreign campaigns is that of transporting large numbers of people over and back for only two or three weeks work.

Another phase that should receive attention is the practical aspect of foreign campaigns.

Many campaigns are being planned for nations where English is not spoken. The question may be raised as to just how effective English speaking Americans might be in a country where a different language is spoken. It is highly doubtful that a campaign of this nature would do as much good as a couple of missionaries trained in the customs and language of the native people.

The most effective campaigns are those conducted by the groups using a majority of college students. The students have the benefit of being young and enthusiastic. Those from Christian colleges are trained to some degree in Bible and can more easily adjust to new situations on the field. Some of the groups, such as the Nashville group directed by Felton Spraggins, have solved the transportation problem by all going together on a bus. Other advantages of using college students is the training they receive, the Christian association it allows them, while at the same time keeping them busy working for Christ.

— Firm Foundation, October 31, 1967