(RNS) — Nick Hall, having just turned 40, says he’s no longer a young evangelist, but he is continuing to reach out to the next generation, encouraging them to be outspoken about sharing their Christian faith.
The Minneapolis-based founder of the Pulse ministry is leading Together ’22 in Dallas this weekend (June 24–25), hoping to draw tens of thousands in person and “millions upon millions” across the globe virtually for two days of evangelism training.
“I’m going to get bolder as I get older,” is his new mantra, he said.
“We’re trying to confront complacent and silent Christianity,” he added. “I just think there is a trend right now that most believers that are older are much lamer than they were when they were young. And I think that is a very nonbiblical trajectory. And so I think young people are looking for those whose lives are on fire. And if they can’t find it in the church, they’re going to find it somewhere else.”
Six years after his organization held Together 2016 on the National Mall, Hall is on to his next large event, working with some 2,000 Protestant and Catholic churches and organizations and expecting participation from all 50 states in the free two-day gathering. He anticipates it will cost $6 million, paid for by individual donors giving $10 to $10,000 to support it.
The North Dakota native talked with Religion News Service by phone from Dallas earlier in the week before Together ’22 about its historical setting, his goals as he commissions new evangelists and his dedication to big-event evangelism.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Together ’22 is occurring 50 years after Explo ’72, when evangelists Billy Graham and Bill Bright met with 70,000 young people in the same Cotton Bowl where you’re going to meet June 24–25. What do you recall your dad telling you about that event?
My dad’s life was changed by young people who were there. The purpose of that event was to train a generation to take their faith back home. It was the Jesus People movement, and there was all kinds of wildness in culture — just like now. And they trained those kids to share Jesus and sent them home to be people who would love their neighbors and change their communities. And they did it. Young men and women came back from the Cotton Bowl, and they ended up planning an event in North Dakota, and that event is where my dad’s life was changed. Two men beyond my father that have impacted my life more than anybody else are both pastors. Both of their lives were changed at the Cotton Bowl as well. One came from Iowa, and one came from North Dakota. And so my whole life has been impacted by the fruit of Explo ’72.
How do you think evangelism has changed since that time — some 50 years — in its success and in its methods?
I think people today aren’t doing evangelism. There was a time when sharing your faith and talking about Jesus was very normal. It’s become normal for Christians to be loud about everything but Jesus. So one of the reasons we think this event is so important is to call the church back to the good news. Because people have been bold about their views on everything else. While people have the right to free speech, I would just say if people know your views on the pandemic or masks or politics and they don’t know that you love Jesus and that you love them, then you are not following Jesus.
There are great divisions in America and in Christianity, including evangelical Christianity. Do you expect this gathering to attract people of different political parties, and how do you address the political divide or issues like abortion and gay rights as you meet?
We really believe Jesus is the only one who welcomes everyone. And our goal in this is to point people to Jesus and the word of God. We’re not here to protest and picket.
We’re expecting people to come from very different backgrounds, very different political affiliations. We can find common ground at the foot of the cross, and we can find common ground under the banner of Jesus. I think people on different sides of different issues would say “Those people need Jesus. You know what their problem is? They need Jesus.” So we say let’s meet at Jesus.
The event you have planned includes “hands-on” sharing of the gospel in the Dallas area. Is this a change from past revivals where people mostly sat in the stadium and listened to speakers and singers?
Yes, this is very different. This is as much an activation as it is a gathering. I’ll encourage people that the greatest tool for sharing your faith is listening and just going and caring for those around us, because I believe we’re living in a famine of people being heard. The two goals of the event are, one, that people would be equipped, that they could feel confident having conversations and realizing that their faith is part of their life that isn’t supposed to be hidden. And then the second goal is that they would be sent home with a plan to bring it home. That could be service projects back home that could be an outreach in their community with their sports team, at their school, at their university campus. We are actively planning and praying for 500 outreach expressions to come from this event and that they would go into all 50 states.
There is also a plan to commission young men and women at this event. How many have you trained and what have they specifically been trained to do?
The Pulse 100 is specifically looking for evangelists. God hasn’t stopped calling evangelists. But the church has stopped talking about it as a calling. And so because the church has stopped talking about it as a calling, we have an entire generation now that doesn’t know what an evangelist is. We have 83 in our first cohort, and they’ve been trained all year by mentors and coaches to encourage them in their dreams, and some of them are pastors, some of them are still in school. Some of them are trying to start their own evangelistic ministry.
You were hoping for 100. Did you not get quite that many who either applied or fit the Pulse’s qualifications?
We had a couple of hundred people apply for the first year. We felt like 83 were the right people for the first cohort. Some of them are getting double master’s (degrees) at East Coast schools. Some of them have TikTok followings of a million, 1.2 million people. I mean, they’re on fire, gifted.
The two goals that we have for the Pulse 100 is No. 1, that they would love Jesus in a way that makes it clear what they’re doing. And No. 2, that they would last. We are sick and tired of the stories of scandals and celebrity preachers doing stupid things. We’re just praying for men and women who love their families, who love their communities, who are faithful to the call until the end.
What is the most lasting message or instruction you received from Billy Graham?
When I told him the vision of the National Mall, and what launched Together, he really grabbed me by the arm and said, “You have to do this.” There’s a DNA of evangelists that, we just have a belief that the gospel belongs everywhere. But there’s something that happens when you put it on the big stages, in the big arenas or the big stadiums. It really gets boldness to everybody.
It sounds like, despite the fact that the big events might be considered kind of old-time evangelism, you’re not giving up on that aspect of evangelism.
We need a revival of all of it. But I think the big-event evangelism matters. It matters because people hear the gospel that don’t know Jesus. It matters because it activates believers to share Jesus. It matters because the big campaign rallies churches to work together that maybe never do. And it really creates an atmosphere where believers are doing the things they should have always been doing. But sometimes it takes a campaign to get them doing it.