Billboards and full-page newspaper ads in Dallas last month announced, “Something historic is going to happen here.” And happen it did. Riding the wave of the Jesus revolution, Campus Crusade for Christ’s International Student Congress on Evangelism—billed as Explo ’72—turned out to be the largest youth training conference in church history. It ended with the biggest Jesus music festival ever (between 120,000 and 180,000 attended, according to police and newspaper estimates). And the venerable Adolphus Hotel packed in 2,500 guests (many five to a room), 1,000 more than its previous record.

But for many, the five-day event was historic in another way, as summed up by Florida governor Reubin Askew, a Southern Presbyterian elder: “Explo has been the greatest experience of my life.” (Askew and his wife originally signed up only as delegates “to find out how to share our faith better,” but he was later drafted to speak to the hundreds of business executives attending Explo. Asked whether he had hit the streets Crusade-style to witness, he replied with a smile, “No, but I’ve been doing my share of witnessing out in the hotel halls.”)

Explo attracted 75,000 registered delegates (including 35,000 high schoolers and 30,000 collegians) and approximately 10,000 visitors. This was short of Crusade’s goal of 100,000, but it was enough to fill the Cotton Bowl four nights and sixty-five conference sites scattered throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area every morning—and to create Excedrin-sized headaches for staffers responsible for daily transportation. In fact, despite the use of 750 buses, the people-moving problem defied solution. Many participants simply hoofed around on their own.

Generally, the conferees spent their mornings in training sessions where they were addressed by Crusade staffers and name evangelical leaders. There were separate conferences for students, ministers, musicians, laymen, internationals, and other categories.

Afternoons were devoted to street witnessing (5,000 professions of faith were recorded in door-to-door visits in addition to hundreds of decisions in street encounters—including a policeman seen kneeling downtown with three youths praying over him) and special seminars. The latter ranged from advice on dating, sex, and marriage to confabs for military personnel, mass-media people, and blacks. (Although Crusade mounted a special drive, backed by more than $50,000 in scholarships, to recruit blacks for Explo, fewer than 3,000 attended. Blacks are not as affluent and thus as free to leave jobs as whites, Crusade head Bill Bright explained. Black staffer Chuck Singleton, 21, added that the percentage of blacks at Explo was “very large compared to other evangelical meetings.” Evangelists Tom Skinner and Bill Pannell were among black leaders on Explo’s program.)

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Evenings were spent in giant peprally style meetings in the Cotton Bowl. “Oh, wow, I can just feel the love and joy here!” one youth exclaimed. His comment was typical. The rallies featured musical headliners (gospel groups such as “Love Song” and “Andrae Crouch and the Disciples,” Godspell star Katie Henley singing her hit song “Day by Day,” and many other personalities), testimonies by professional athletes, accounts of witnessing, and speeches by Bright, honorary Explo chairman Billy Graham, and Los Angeles black Baptist minister Edward Hill. Emotion ran high as the thousands of young people clapped hands, flashed the “One Way” sign, sent up great shouts of “Praise the Lord!,” whisper-chanted “Jesus is coming,” and gave Hill and Graham thunderous ovations.

Even a half inch of rain that washed out part of Thursday night’s program didn’t dampen spirits. Kids sloshed through the downpour to the parking lot singing “Rejoice in the Lord always.”

The conferees poured into Dallas from 100 nations, with delegations arriving aboard nearly 700 chartered buses and more than 100 planes. Crusade’s staff handled the crunch of registration lines and accommodation demands with amazingly few snafus in time for everyone to be bedded down the first night. (About 14,000 empty apartment units were made available at the last minute and many high schoolers were shifted there from private homes, irking a few citizens who complained they were not informed in time. These were the only complaints aired by area residents all week.)

Accommodations ranged from plush hotels for top-echelon business executives and their families to “Tent City” outside Dallas, where 2,000 Jesus people, money-short mountain folk, and other campers blended joyfully into a sort of “Godstock” tribe. (The Thursday-night rainstorm blew down many tents and soaked belongings; hundreds of nearby residents opened their homes for the night to washed-out campers.)

Logistics was a monumental problem, but everything worked out remarkably well. Three weeks before Explo, most of the major caterers bowed out, saying the job was too big for them. Leaders finally persuaded a Fort Worth caterer to tackle the task of feeding the 35,000 high schoolers at supper time in a large hall adjacent to the Cotton Bowl.

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The budget was something else. Based on the expected registration of 100,000 at $25 each, Crusade had budgeted $2.4 million for Explo. Income was considerably less than that and actual costs closer to $3 million. The amount includes about $200,000 for television production costs (three hours of Explo were to be aired nationwide on 265 stations during the third week of July). Unlike some conventions, Explo received no funds from Dallas, whose economy was fattened by about $9 million because of the event. Explo director Paul Eshleman, 29, and Bright expect the deficit to be erased soon. Two offerings ($150,000 plus pledges at the Cotton Bowl and $4,000 at the downtown music festival) will be used to buy TV time. Bright is counting on televiewers to pick up the bulk of the TV tab.

Bright first got the idea for Explo at the 1966 U. S. Congress on Evangelism in Minneapolis, and his staff worked steadily the past two years to make it a reality. Among its announced purposes: to train people how to witness; to recruit students and workers for Christian schools and organizations; to help the church in evangelism; to impart an international vision for outreach; to teach Christians that their faith must be applied to social problems; and to create a nationwide momentum—“to show that Christian young people are on the march,” as Graham put it. Delegates were urged to share their Explo training with at least five others back home.

No one seemed to flinch at Bright’s statement that the entire world can be evangelized by 1980 if everybody works together. As living proof that evangelicals can work together both Operation Mobilization and the Navigators meshed training for hundreds of their workers with the Explo program. Free exhibit space was given to more than 200 schools and organizations; many were swamped by thousands of youths wanting giveaways and information. An estimated 10,000 paid $3 each to Interchristo, a Seattle firm that matches applicants by computer to vocational needs of organizations. Crusade’s bookstores also did land office business. The bestseller: The Living New Testament.

Members of the Christian World Liberation Front, a 1969 Berkeley spin-off from Crusade, were given platform time at Tent City to train delegates in street witnessing. Pentecostals, including Assembly of God head Thomas Zimmerman, took leadership roles with the understanding that they would not promote speaking in tongues, but some groups at Tent City held charismatic meetings, and Army General Ralph Haines spoke warmly of the “baptism of the Spirit” in testimonies at the Cotton Bowl and in a military seminar. No one seemed to mind, but Bright and other speakers pointedly stressed that faith must prevail over reason.

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Not everybody was plugged into Explo’s togetherness. The Children of God sect (see November 5, 1971, issue, page 38) set up a coffeehouse across the street from Fair Park (location of the Cotton Bowl and other main Explo facilities), and succeeded in siphoning off about a dozen delegates. The Pentecostal Student Fellowship International, a unitarian “Jesus only” sect, sent 500 youths to Dallas with literature that looked like Explo’s to push the tongues experience, but met with little success.

The People’s Christian Coalition, an anti-war group composed mainly of Trinity college and seminary students from Deerfield, Illinois, kept Crusade officials hopping to head off leafleting and pint-sized demonstrations. Two dozen Coalition members and Mennonites one night in the Cotton Bowl held up a large banner reading “Cross or flag, God or Country?” and chanted “Stop the war” but were promptly shushed by the crowd. Coalition spokesmen, including an aide to Senator Mark Hatfield, complained that Explo evidenced a lack of social consciousness in failing to grapple with such issues as war and racism. Asked about their reactions, a number of delegates said they too were against the Indochina war but had come to hear about evangelism instead.

Overall, Explo was apparently a big plus for virtually everyone there. A Korean athlete who gave up a berth in the Olympics to attend said it was worth the cost. Outsiders remarked about the abundance of love, joy, peace, and patience evident among participants. “They look at you like you’re a human being and not a cop,” commented Deputy Police Chief J. M. Souter. “That means a lot to me.” Similarly, the love vibrations got through to three reporters from major dailies and a number of bus drivers who prayed to receive Christ.

Dallas felt the impact too, thanks to both a top-drawer evangelistic campaign in the mass media and personal contacts with delegates. Big D’s citizens sorely miss all those smiles around town, a disc jockey and a newspaper editor lamented separately after the Explo crowd left.

Whether Explo ’72 sparks a global chain reaction remains to be seen, but some Crusade staffers are already at work on another Explo, set for Korea in 1974 with an attendance goal of 300,000.

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Cloudy Forecast For The Ncc

Is the ecumenical boat on such stormy waters that it will not survive another General Assembly of the National Council of Churches?

About half the members of the NCC General Board faced that question last month at the last meeting they will hold before their triennial assembly at Dallas in December. They were reminded that the 1969 triennial assembly in Detroit was disrupted by protesting minorities, and its docket was discarded.

Much of their meeting time during the past two and one-half years has been devoted to planning the reorganization that board members hope will strengthen the ship by empowering minorities. Finishing touches were put on the proposal for a new ecumenical organization at the June board meeting, held in New York’s Riverside Church.

It was also at Riverside Church, in the shadow of the NCC’s headquarters building, that the board recommended a new constitution to the 1963 General Assembly. That reorganization was supposed to streamline the council and make it more responsive to the will of member denominations.

Last month, in the same assembly hall where it met in June, 1963, the board put its stamp of approval on another constitution that in some respects is similar to the pre-1963 version. If the Dallas meeting ratifies the document, the governing board of the new council could have as many as 44 of 341 members who are not members of denominational delegations. The additional persons, chosen because of special competence or as representatives of special-interest groups, could be Roman Catholics or communicants of other denominations outside the council.

A proposal made at Detroit in 1969 was to include representatives of secular bodies, opening up the possibility that among those governing the council would be some with no religious affiliation at all. The final compromise reached at last month’s meeting provided that the “additional” members would have to be affiliated with a church eligible for membership in the NCC (because of its agreement with the broad doctrinal statement in the preamble to the constitution). The Roman Catholic Church is one of the many on the NCC’s eligible list.

Each person coming from outside the member denominations would also have to be approved by one of the member denominations after it consulted with the church to which the person belonged.

The preamble itself will be up for revision at Dallas. A committee appointed at the February board meeting recommended a new statement that was adopted with slight amendment. There had been appeals for a more trinitarian and more scriptural basis, akin to that of the World Council of Churches.

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The text that will be recommended to the Dallas assembly is:

The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U. S. A. is a cooperative agency of Christian communions seeking to fulfill the unity and mission to which God calls them. The member communions, responding to the gospel revealed in the Scriptures, confess Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, as Saviour and Lord. Relying on the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, the council works to bring churches into a life-giving fellowship and into common witness, study and action to the glory of God and in service to all creation.

The doctrinal section in the current preample refers to “communions which confess Jesus Christ as divine Lord and Saviour.”

The World Council describes itself as “a fellowship of churches which confesses the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the Scriptures and therefore seeks to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” One board member criticized the new statement as not being trinitarian since there was no explicit reference to the Father, but a last minute attempt to add “Father” failed.

While organizational and doctrinal discussions took up the board’s time, the main cloud on the horizon seemed to be financial. A provision of the new plan calls for member communions to lose their voting power in the governing board if they fail to pay a fair share of administrative costs.

Several denominations, including the largest member, the United Methodist Church, indicated they would have difficulty assuming the new financial load. The committee proposing the restructure had recommended a three-year period in which denominations could raise their level of giving without reduction of voting strength. The board adopted a five-year period on recommendation of its finance committee.

Instead of increasing, NCC income is continuing to decrease. This year’s approved budget is $14 million, while the comparable figure for 1969 was nearly $19 million. There were 168 executives on the staff in the year of that assembly. Now, a triennium later, the number is 116.


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