For years Luis Palau was known solely as an evangelist, famous for preaching the gospel to packed stadiums around the world. But in recent years he's also been working with his sons, Kevin and Andrew, to help churches meet the needs of their cities. The Luis Palau Association is based in Portland, Oregon, where they pioneered the new model. The association coordinates a "Season of Service" with local churches which culminates in a large evangelistic festival. Leadership Journal talked with the Palaus about their unique partnership with the city and how they combine social action and evangelism.
How did you come to work with local government to serve the city?
Luis: When we first got involved in social action our mayor was Tom Potter. He approached us and said, "We have 1,200 single homeless moms. You have 1,200 evangelical churches. Can you connect one homeless mother with one mentoring church?" We said, "Sure." Later Mayor Potter told us, "I figured you guys were like everybody else. They come. They make promises. A year later nothing's happened and nothing will happen." That comment challenged us even more. We decided to prove that we could sustain our commitment.
We invited 50 pastors from the area to lunch and explained the idea. We said, "What do you think?" They all jumped at the chance to help. Every pastor said, "Yes, let's do it. This is what we've been waiting for." These churches were more than willing. They were chomping at the bit.
Kevin: But we didn't have to reinvent the wheel. This kind of service has been the DNA of Portland churches like Imago Dei from the very beginning. Imago Dei pastor, Rick McKinley, is such a good friend now, but at the beginning it was kind of embarrassing. Even though we were leading this new initiative, we were the latecomers to the table. Imago Dei and many other churches were already doing what we wanted to do, but on a smaller scale. Our contribution was the collaboration.
So we decided to learn from them. The mayor and city ...