Beliefnet
April Lundholm, 16, showed up for the bands. The skateboarderswere great. And the best part?

"It didn't," she says, "feel like church."

The suburban Minneapolis teenager is describing a Luis Palau Festival,an evangelistic outreach that is attempting to recast the revival experiencefor a world in which music and sports are the currency of communication.

The 86-year-old Billy Graham has defined large-event Christianevangelism with a fabled career that presents the gospel in stadiumcrusades. Palau -- a youthful 70 -- has reached more than 4.4 million peoplewith a party approach to evangelism featuring a slogan of "Great Music. GoodNews." It has been so successful in attracting young people that some see itdefining evangelism in the early part of this century as Graham shaped it inthe latter part of the last century.

Gone is the term "crusade" and the series of testimonials leading to asingle climax -- an altar call from the featured evangelist. In fact, eventhough Palau, a native of Argentina, draws tens of thousands to revivals inLatin America, Eastern Europe and Asia, he's not at all troubled whenteenagers like Lundholm don't picture him when they think of his festivals.

"I caught the end of him, I think," said Lundholm, who attended anAugust 2004 festival in the Twin Cities. "But I really came to hear (theChristian band) Third Day."

Future festivals are scheduled for June 24-25 in Madrid, Spain; July 23in Bend, Ore.; and Oct. 8-9 in Washington, on the National Mall.

The Luis Palau Evangelistic Association, based in Portland, Ore., doesn'trely on celebrity to carry the Christian message to people across the UnitedStates, says Kevin Palau, executive vice president of the organization andPalau's son.

"You know, a Billy Graham Crusade is an event. A happening. No matterwhat the generation," Kevin Palau said. "We are not Billy Graham. But we doshare the passion to reach the unchurched, so we had to change."

A Palau Festival looks more like a fair or street party than atraditional revival. In a few blocks around the statehouse in St. Paul,Minn., organizers erected food booths, small venues for professionalathletes and their sports franchises and a space for the family-orientedVeggie Tales characters. There was a main stage for bands.

Festival bands have included Toby Mac, Third Day and Point of Grace. Since 1999, when Kevin Palau first advocated for this festival approach,there has always been a professional-sized skate park, a place wherenational champions of the once grunge sport of skateboarding perform. Thesame concept will be in place in Madrid, when Palau's ministry takes on oneof the most secular cities in Europe.

Four times each day -- at the skate park, on the music stage, in theVeggie Tales area -- Palau's people pitch the Christian message. It's notsimply up to Palau to spread the word, though his preaching remains ahighlight of the events.

Listen to clips from Luis Palau's DC Festival
"The festival is outside. People come for a few hours, check out whatinterests them. They bring their kids and, hopefully, some friends orneighbors who are unchurched," said Kevin Palau, 42. "It looks and smellslike a totally normal weekend event for a city."

This is not your parent's crusade.

The contrast will be evident June 24-26 in New York, where Graham isscheduled to lead a crusade. A series of professional athletes, civicleaders and musicians will offer their own Christian testimonials beforeGraham takes the stage each night at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Hismessage comes down to a simple request -- accept Jesus as your personalsavior.

Essentially, it has been this way for nearly 50 years, ever since Grahammade national headlines with an eight-week revival in 1957 in New York'sMadison Square Garden. The arenas are bigger now. The musicians and othercelebrities have changed with the currents of popular culture. And Graham,now frail, can no longer lead week-long revivals.

But the formula still works, said A. Larry Ross, a spokesman for Graham.

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