June 17, 2003
CALIFORNIA – When Vance Pitman steps behind the pulpit at the Moniteau County Fairgrounds July 24, it will fulfill a dream Frank Whitney has had the last five years.
Whitney has envisioned an area-wide evangelistic crusade since moving from Oklahoma to take the pastorate at Lebanon Baptist Church, McGirk in 1997. And it will finally unfold July 24-26 in this small farm community located about 25 miles west of Jefferson City on U.S. 50.
“I’m in my sixth year at McGirk, and I spent the first five years trying to get something put together,” said Whitney, who has seen Sunday morning worship attendance at Lebanon Baptist grow from an average of 65 to 175 over that period. “I finally went to a church business meeting and told them it was my burden to bring a crusade to the community. The response has been unbelievable.
“It will be a Billy Graham-style crusade, but we’ve tried to steer away from such terms as Baptist and crusade,” Whitney explained. “We’re doing this so hopefully other churches will be willing to participate. We want to put the emphasis on Christ. The idea is to share Jesus with our friends.”
Pitman, who spoke at the Missouri Baptist Convention Evangelism Conference earlier this year, pastors Hope Baptist Church, located on the outskirts of Las Vegas. The church, less than three years old, is already averaging 700 in its Sunday worship services.
Joining Pitman will be Randall Cunningham, former all-pro quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings. Cunningham will give his testimony during the Saturday night service and will speak to youth at another event at the fairgrounds following the Saturday crusade service.
“We’ve asked Vance to share the Gospel … what it means to be lost and saved,” Whitney said.
The fairgrounds pavilion will seat about 1,500, “but I hope there will be 2,500 to 3,000 to at each service,” he added.
A 200-voice choir will be directed by Beth Schoeneberg, worship leader at Main Street Baptist Church, California.
Whitney is overwhelmed by the support area businesses have given to the crusade effort. He said 45 firms in Moniteau County have purchased ads or made donations totaling $13,000, or about one-half of the crusade budget. The Missouri Baptist Convention evangelism department is also assisting the crusade effort by providing Gospel tracts.
“We expect to have 100 trained counselors to work at the crusade,” Whitney said, adding that there also will be a large screen that will interpret the message “for our Spanish-speaking friends.”