In 1972, Campus Crusade for Christ had a huge evangelistic conference in Dallas, TX called Explo ‘72. Attendees were equipped and sent home with the vision of sharing the Gospel with every person in the United States of America by 1976. Though it did not happen, the campaign did “reach” millions with the Gospel.
Phase One of the project was to wear buttons and have billboards and newspaper advertisements that read: “I Found It!” (’it’ meaning eternal life). Phase Two involved trained volunteers making millions of evangelistic telephone calls. Those who prayed with the volunteers, were “visited by the volunteers, given follow-up literature, and encouraged to join a Bible study group in their neighborhood.”
By the end of 1976, 6.5 million people had been contacted, and 536,824 people had indicated they trusted Christ for salvation (60,000 of those joining the neighborhood Bible study group). It was estimated that 50 million people saw the television special that went along with the campaign! Amazing stats…seemed quite effective at “reaching” the United States with the Gospel.
“Though the campaign’s statistics seemed, good, the campaign drew criticism from experts on church growth. Win Arn noted that few of the converts actually joined local churches. For example, in Edmonton, Canada, 1,700 workers from 63 participating churches recorded 1,009 decisions for Christ. Only 250 of those people actually attended one Bible study, and not a single person became a church member as a result of the campaign. In Indianapolis 823 volunteer made 28,976 telephone calls. These calls produced 1,665 decisions for Christ. However, only 242 attended a Bible study, and only 55 became church members. Of these, 23 were transfers from another church. Therefore, the net gain in membership in area churches was 32” (John Mark Terry, Evangelism: A Concise History, 189-190).