Stealth Evangelism And The Public Schools by Rob Boston
These groups share common tactics: They approach school officials with an offer of an engaging assembly on a topic that looks secular, such as suicide prevention, drug awareness or anti-bullying strategies.
Speakers may have scant credentials to address these topics. That’s not surprising, because they are really just fundamentalist evangelists looking for a way to preach to a captive public school audience.
Boston reports that “Several fundamentalist Christian ministries seek to bring proselytizing messages into public schools. Here is information about some of those organizations. All mission statements are taken directly from the groups’ Web sites.”
• The Power Team
Headquarters: Dallas, Texas
Description: This fundamentalist-oriented ministry relies on a bevy of buff athletes who perform feats of strength such as bending metal bars and ripping up phone books. Led by Todd Keene, the group offers programs on suicide prevention, drug awareness, nutrition and other topics – but there’s no evidence that the presenters are experts in any of these fields.
Mission: “The Power Team, Inc. endeavors to preach and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. People are motivated and encouraged to live virtuously and righteously by following the teachings of Jesus Christ.”
• Sports World
Headquarters: Indianapolis, Ind.
Description: Sports World recruits former pro athletes and converts them into proselytizers in the public schools. The ex-athletes give lectures on topics such as suicide, drug abuse and abusive relationships.
Mission: “The vision of Sports World Ministries, Inc. is to have a presence on every available school campus, encouraging and challenging students through the Message of Hope…. Sports World is a seed-planting ministry and always seeks to pass the baton to local groups for discipleship and Christian mentoring.”
• Strength Team
Headquarters: Missoula, Mont.
Description: The Strength Team is a sort of poor man’s version of the Power Team. It uses a crew of muscle men who perform feats of strength while offering talks on character and anti-bullying strategies.
Mission: “We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory. We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.”
• You Can Run But You Cannot Hide
Headquarters: Annandale, Minn.
Description: This fundamentalist ministry uses a rock band to lure youngsters into fundamentalist Christianity. The band, called Junkyard Prophet, claims to be able to address any number of issues. According to its Web site, the band offers an “overall message of responsibility” touching on issues such as “drugs, alcoholism, suicide, sex, media, our country, our Veterans, our freedom, the Constitution, the choices we make, the friends that we have, and more in a language that speaks directly to the heart of this generation.”
Mission: “[To] bring permanent change to the people in your community and to the whole nation.”
• Commandos! USA
Headquarters: Katy, Texas
Description: The “commandos” are a team of performers who dress in quasi-military garb while demonstrating feats of strength and engaging in mock battles in loud, high-energy presentations. The events are interspersed with lectures on motivation and character, but the group’s evangelical bias is clear.
Mission: “[Commandos founder Billy Lowery] has a very strong belief that Biblical values are not suggestions, rather solid mandates that assure some degree of civility and success in our culture.”
• Team Impact
Headquarters: Coppell, Texas
Description: Similar to the Power Team and the Strength Team, Team Impact uses muscle-bound performers to get the attention of young people. According to the group’s Web site, “[Y]our church has the ability to impact your schools with this powerful message. Very rarely do we not couple these effective school outreaches with our local church events.” The ministry claims to address 700,000 students every year.
Mission: “To spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The organization promotes and sponsors programs directed to the youth of America to encourage them to live and grow in life styles which are based on Biblical principles.”
• Go Tell Crusades
Headquarters: Duluth, Ga.
Description: Evangelist Rick Gage offers anti-drug and anti-alcohol lectures in public schools, trading on his past experiences as a football coach.
Mission: “To promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
• Todd Becker Foundation
Headquarters: Kearney, Neb.
Budget: No information available
Description: This group was founded by the older brother of a Nebraska high school student who died in a drunk-driving accident in 2005. It purports to offer lectures on the dangers of drunk driving to schools, but critics say its real purpose is to evangelize public school students.
Mission: “The Foundation’s purpose is to motivate young individuals to discover their potentials and ultimately discover themselves through first discovering God’s plan for their life by placing their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.”
Sneaky, sneaky bastards!