The Cross and the Switchblade

The USS Barry Revival did not always produce instant converts. Some of the conversions took place after much prayer, witnessing, and lost sailors observing our lifestyles over a period of time. Ted was a close friend of mine and I had shared Christ with him on several occasions. He was slowly moving toward Christ, but after a while the process seemed to stall out. Then I heard that David Wilkerson (author of The Cross and the Switchblade) would be visiting the Jacksonville Civic Center. I invited Ted to go with me to hear him, and he agreed to go.

USS Barry conducting gun exercises off the coast of Norfolk, VA Ted is on the far right. April 1981

USS Barry conducting gun exercises
off the coast of Norfolk, VA
Ted is on the far right.
April 1981

If you know anything about David Wilkerson, you know he didn’t dally around with the “seeker sensitive” approach to evangelism. He just preached the Gospel and let the Holy Spirit do His convicting work. The night at the Jacksonville Civic Center, David preached on “Hell” (of all things)! And it was just the topic that was needed. There was such an anointing of conviction that fell upon that place that we all sensed the reality of eternal damnation and the potential for unending separation from God. The convicting work of the Holy Spirit was so powerful that even I felt that I needed to get saved all over again!

When the altar call was given at the end of the sermon, Ted went forward and confessed Christ as his savior, and the conversion and subsequent repentant lifestyle that followed was another miraculous work of God’s grace.

We Should be Seeker Sensitive

Preaching a sermon on hell, like what David Wilkerson did in Jacksonville, or on any other topic that brings the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin, is about as sensitive to the seeker’s need as there ever could be.

Prioritized Focus of Ministry

Our work during the USS Barry Revival was focused on the conversion of sinners—those far from Christ. I firmly believe that any church that establishes a similar prioritized focus could see similar results. Tragically, many people find the effort and work involved with evangelism to be unpleasant, difficult, and a frightening task, and because of that, they easily get sidetracked toward inner-church areas of ministry they find more comfortable, such as:

  • Ushering
  • Greeting
  • Cleaning the building
  • Music practice
  • Teaching classes
  • Scouts
  • Counseling believers
  • Committee meetings
  • Board meetings
  • Arranging the food pantry
  • Setting up and tearing down tables and chairs
  • Short term mission trips to highly Christianized countries
  • Planning picnics, banquets and potluck meals
  • Managing databases, websites, and promotional materials, etc.

I am not belittling any of the items on the above list—I’m merely indicating that most people choose the more comfortable path. On our ship we weren’t tied down to interior church activities and programs that distracted us from our prioritized evangelistic efforts. It was because of that we were able to see enhanced results.

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