By Katie Eubanks Ginn
(From left) Joel and Meredith Travelstead, Brandon Mayor Butch Lee, Joy Bradford, Ryan Wade, Go Tell leader Rick Gage, Percy Thornton, Carolyn Boteler, Art Jones
Rick Gage knows firsthand that not every child who walks an aisle at church is really saved.
He grew up the son of a nationally known evangelist, got baptized at 8 years old — and then proceeded to live however he wanted. When he was 26, his father urged him to go hear family friend James Robison, another well-known evangelist, preach in Lubbock, Texas.
By the end of that evening service in Lubbock, the Holy Spirit spoke to Rick plainly. His heart hadn’t really changed at 8 years old, or else his life would’ve reflected that change. Tonight, God said, was his last chance to repent and truly trust in Jesus. And he did.
Now Rick is an evangelist like his father before him, and he’s bringing his Go Tell crusade to Brandon Amphitheater October 15-18. The crusade is free to attend and open to all.
MCL recently sat down at the amphitheater with some of the Mississippians who are making the crusade happen. They talked about the heart behind the event, what to expect, whom to invite — and how YOU can get involved.
(From left) Percy Thornton, Art Jones, Dr. Meredith Travelstead, Ryan Wade, Carolyn Boteler and Joy Bradford
KG: Y’all are believing for 1,000 salvations at this crusade. Is it scary to put that out there?
Percy Thornton: I don’t think it’s going out on a limb at all, because we’re trusting God. … We have wrapped this crusade in prayer.
Carolyn Boteler: I think there were (more than) 1,000 people at the kickoff banquet. And there was a diversity of churches at the banquet, which is a good sign.
Art Jones: A God-sized vision can’t be done in men’s strength. (It comes down to) just preach the gospel.
Meredith Travelstead: I love the phrase, ‘Each one bring one.’ If each of those 1,000 people from the banquet brings somebody …
Joy Bradford: I think it’s time for a revival. I think people are hungry for the presence of God. I believe the Lord will meet us there.
Ryan Wade: We’re actually looking for 600 (spiritual) counselors. When someone comes down (you) lead them in that decision (and) ensure that person is at a church that following Sunday.
PT: We’ve committed to reach these people for Christ, but also to disciple them. We don’t want to see them saved and go back into the world by themselves. They’ve asked us as counselors to stay with that person for six weeks … praying for them, encouraging them, fellowshipping with them.
RW: Meredith and (her husband) Joel are working on a plan to get (student) leaders who go to different schools, (for) peer support. Our counseling (volunteer positions are) open to mature high-schoolers.
KG: What can people expect at the crusade?
Ryan Wade, Community Outreach Pastor at Crossgates Baptist Church in Brandon
RW: It’s four nights, Sunday through Wednesday, and the service is at 7 every night. It’s a typical worship service with a praise band, a testimony, a gospel message, and an invitation.
Sunday night is family night. We’ll have a community choir made up of 200 to 300 people. We’re using that as an opportunity (for choir members) to invite lost friends and family. (Attendance) grows each night. So we’re hoping to get a lot of people that first night.
On Monday night, we’ll honor veterans, military personnel and first responders. On Tuesday night, we’re asking that people invite their friends and neighbors.
On Wednesday night, we’re having a youth emphasis, but any age is invited. Students will come early at 6 p.m. for free pizza, student testimonies, a Christian rapper, and Noel Daniels is giving a car away. We’re calling that hour The Awakening. Then at 7 we’ll have the regular service.
KG: Is there a profile of who you’re trying to reach?
Percy Thornton, CEO of Southern States Utility and H&P Trailer Leasing
AJ: It could be people who’ve never heard the gospel, or people who’ve responded (previously) and gone back. There’s a diversity of what that looks like.
CB: A lot of people will never go to a church, but will go to a crusade.
RW: A big part of this is having it at a neutral location … So I would say part of the audience is people who aren’t ready to go to a church on Sunday morning. … Invite the people on your heart and mind that you’ve been praying (for).
We’re preparing for any type of person to come. We’ve got a Hispanic ministry that we’re looking to. We’re translating our materials and will have translating receivers here (at the amphitheater). We’ve got a guy (who’s) bringing people he knows from other countries to be counselors.
The key is believers inviting people that God puts on their heart when they pray and ask Him, ‘Who am I supposed to bring to this?’
CB: I heard a pastor say not too long ago that in Rankin County, on any given (Sunday), 80 percent of the population is not in church. So the field is wide open.
KG: How do you reach someone and invite them if they don’t know they’re lost? That is so common in the Bible Belt.
Joy Bradford, Youth and Associate Pastor at New Vision Fellowship Church in Brandon
RW: I grew up going to church every Sunday morning and Sunday night (and was not saved). Then the girl I was dating at the time, who thankfully is now my wife, she was invited to a church … Because she kept asking me, I came. And God used that moment to turn my life around.
If we would compel people — that’s what the scripture says (in Luke 14:23), compel people … not just invite them but bring them with us … there’s a difference between giving them (an invitation) card and sitting with them.
AJ: When I was on drugs and I ran out of money, I would ask anybody for money. How dare I be less aggressive in (sharing the gospel)? I don’t care if they say no.
RW: People who’ve been surveyed have said, if someone I know and trust invites me (to church), I’ll go.
JB: (I think we can also ask people) do you have a religion, or do you have a relationship (with Jesus)? How are you navigating the storms of life?
PT: I grew up in a non-Christian home. When I had a problem, I prayed, and I looked like I had it all together — but I didn’t have a relationship (with Jesus).
KG: What helps y’all share your faith boldly?
Dr. Meredith Travelstead, OB_GYN physician at The Woman’s Clinic
JB: I think the freedom in understanding that I don’t have to do it all. All I have to do is play my role.
CB: Someone told me one time, I might be the only Bible they ever read. I always want to live my life like I should, based on scripture.
RW: I still remember what it’s like to be lost. I was saved at 22. The other thing (that helps) is realizing God has a big plan … but each of us has our own story. Listening to people’s stories, and the sour notes, and connecting that to God’s story.
MT: God’s been working on me about obedience. 2 Corinthians 4 says, ‘I believed, therefore I spoke.’ … No one can argue with what God’s done in my life.
AJ: I had a lightbulb moment years ago. When you have been, in your own eyes, the scum of the earth — Paul says, ‘I was the worst,’ but I think I got you, Paul — and then God says, ‘You are My son’ … When I saw how loved I was … There’s no greater satisfaction (than leading someone to that love). It’s the most fulfilling, satisfying experience.
PT: Even before that … If we live a Christian life in front of somebody, they’re going to want what we’re talking about. (It’s) easier to tell somebody about the Lord when they respect you and how you live.
CB: I was at a school a couple of weeks ago doing some mock interviews, and one of the questions that I asked all the students was, ‘What is the biggest pressure that teenagers today have?’ (The most common answer was) ‘I don’t know how I fit in.’ That’s a wide opportunity. When you have (Jesus), you have that security, that sense of identity.
KG: How can people get involved, in addition to showing up with non-Christian friends and family?
Carolyn Boteler, CEO of TempStaff
MT: Hand out pizza!
RW: There are 12 teams. There’s a way everyone can use their spiritual gifts. There’s a youth team, a prayer team, a hospitality team, greeters, ushers …
PT: And don’t forget unloading those trucks and trailers.
KG: A lot of churches are working together on this crusade. What happens when it’s over?
Art Jones, owner of FITT Academy at Cypress Lake in Madison
RW: My heart, and I know Chip (Miskelly’s) and others’ as well is, we have a noontime prayer meeting. We’ll get together and celebrate … but encourage churches that are in the same areas (to work together, even after the crusade). Cameron Tate has at least four coalitions (of churches — scroll down to sidebar).
I went to a luncheon a few weeks ago in west Jackson … Even before we got there, I saw someone who appeared to be homeless … someone invited him to that meeting … and someone wound up leading him to the Lord.
PT: That same day at Restoration Church, the pastor said they’d been praying for their area, between certain streets … there hasn’t been one killing within those bounds in eight years. We would not have known that if we hadn’t gone.
RW: I want (people) to say, only God could’ve gotten (those people) together.
The heart behind the Go Tell crusade
As told to MCL by chairman Chip Miskelly
(Around) five years ago, we were at my cabin. We began to kind of pray for revival, because we saw that (America was) going in the wrong direction. … If we don’t get back to a belief in God, putting God and prayer back in schools and businesses, a generation from now, we’ll be so far from God, it’ll be a different country.
That kind of developed into the Unite Mississippi event where we had Tony Evans (speak) at the Memorial Stadium (in Jackson). I always felt like (that event) really wasn’t the success that my heart thought it was going to be. (But) it was kind of breaking a lot of ground for what I think is coming now.
(For the Go Tell crusade) we have about 100 ambassadors (and) 700 volunteers. We’ve had an amazing turnout (so far). We’re going to need about 1,500 volunteers to put this on.
(Brandon Amphitheater will) hold about 8,000 people. If we had 5 percent get saved, that’d be 1,500 people. We’re praying for 1,000 to 2,000 people to come to Christ (over those four nights).
It’s not cheap (to put on a free event). But God has been faithful to bring people out to raise money. He’s been faithful to bring volunteers. (The Old Testament prophet) Joel says in the last days that God would pour out His Spirit on all mankind and draw all men to Himself. We can’t come to Christ unless He draws us to Himself to be saved. We’ve seen such unbelievable things happen that we just believe God’s hand is on this.
My hope is not only racial reconciliation, not only churches coming together now and in the future, but also a spark that would be sent to other parts of our state and even our country and catch fire and move this revival around.
Bridging the Gap: Church coalitions encouraged to ‘Go Tell’
Cameron Tate, founder of Bridging the Gap Outreach Ministries.
For five years now, Cameron Tate has led a Jackson ministry called Bridging the Gap, which brings churches together in coalitions based on location. The coalitions meet monthly for prayer, encouragement, and community impact.
Cameron also serves on the Go Tell Metro MS prayer committee and has urged the Bridging the Gap coalitions to be part of the crusade. “We want them to make sure that they’re inviting their lost folks and getting their churches involved,” he says.
Currently, Bridging the Gap has four coalitions — in Fondren, west Jackson, south Jackson, and north Jackson. The action model for the groups is Gather, Grow, Get, and Go.
“We pull these leaders together and the first thing we say is, we want you to gather,” Cameron says. “Then we want you to grow together — we want (you) to find out what God’s already doing and how we can support each other. We’d be surprised about pastors who don’t know each other and don’t know what’s happening in the community already. If God’s already moving and we don’t have to reinvent the wheel…”
Step three for coalitions is to “get” a vision for what’s not happening, Cameron says. What are the needs in the neighborhood? Finally, the groups are encouraged to “go” implement that vision.
“We love it,” Cameron says. “It’s an amazing, amazing thing to see God moving like that.”
Can other churches in the metro use this model to form their own coalitions and make an impact?
“Absolutely,” he says.
As for churches that are working together for the first time because of the crusade, “(in order) to bear fruit long term, it would just make sense for us to partner in a deeper way,” Cameron says. “So I’m hoping Bridging the Gap can partner alongside and really help start that process.”