NEW YORK — Renowned international evangelist Luis Palau served up jokes ribbing gospel singer Kirk Franklin for his high energy performances and the contemporary fashion choices of young preachers in a lighthearted moment during the closing ceremony of the Movement Day Global Cities Christian conference in New York City on Thursday.
Palau, whose appearance followed a spirited celebration by a team of singers and musicians at the event held at the Jacob Javits Center, noted how worship styles have evolved over the years and said he came to embrace the evolution several years ago and had to defend the move.
"About 16 years ago instead of doing crusades we began to call it festivals and we began to bring some of this noisy music, you know. I was used to the ones St. Paul would sing like 'Amazing Grace' and things like that. And here comes these guys with drums and lights and smoke," Palau said to laughter.
"And somebody said to me, 'How dare you do that? What would John Calvin think?' And I said, 'Who cares? He's been dead for 500 years," the 81-year-old evangelist quipped.
He then took aim at Franklin.
"I must admit, I'm from the generation way gone. We have a singer that sometimes sings in our crusades called Kirk Franklin. Have you heard of him?" he asked to cheers.
"He's good. He's a short little guy and he's full of life. He's 50 and he forgets it. And he bounces into the crowd and he's got a song that has three lines to it. 'I love you. I love you.' And for about 5 minutes he goes on 'I love you.' And he's got a group behind him, I don't know why he needs them but about 15 people to back him up. And when you say 'OK, you love him,' he switches to, 'I need you, I need you.' And for 5 minutes, you know," he continued to even more laughter.
"And then finally after 10 or 12 minutes he goes on, 'I want you, I want you.' And you say, 'Lord, take him, he wants you.' But the Lord keeps him with us, so it must be the Lord kinda likes it. So some of us old timers, we just tolerate it," he quipped.
"Things are outwardly changed. Have you seen modern young preachers? They come with jeans they got from the Salvation Army with holes in them. Their beard is … and you say Lord, would Paul be this way? And the answer is, of course he would. He was in jail most of the time," he added.
Quickly turning to Scripture, Palau delivered a message to the conference from John 14, where he focused on verses 12–18 and encouraged conference attendees to dream great dreams, pray great prayers, obey God's commands and love each other as they seek to transform cities with the Gospel around the world.
"The Lord spoke to me from this passage, saying first of all, dream great dreams, biblically-based of course. Dream great dreams — that's the first thing he's saying. And as we've heard the challenge these days from each other, fellowshipping in the seminars in all the challenges that have come. The Lord is saying to us ... when He called us together it was a grand calling to reach global cities with the message of the Lord Jesus Christ," he said.
Palau, whose family was converted through the witness of missionaries in his native Argentina, said many others found faith because the missionaries had great dreams.
"My dad and mom, when they were converted, the missionaries had what then appeared to be a big vision. They wanted to plant one new local church in another village outside of Buenos Aires, the capital, every summer," he said.
Every summer, said Palau, his family worked with the missionaries as they established churches, appointed elders, baptized others and showed them how to do Holy Communion.
For nine years, Palau said, his father, who was converted at 24, went to a different town and established a church with a missionary until his death at age 34, just before he was able to start the tenth church.
"That was a big vision in those days in Argentina, there was persecution. To me as a little boy and my sisters as little girls, we watched our dad and this missionary, and we would go with him. We would pass out literature while they sang songs, and then my dad would give his testimony and Mr. Rogers (the missionary) would proclaim the Gospel, call people to salvation, and churches were planted that are still alive all these years, which is like 70-something years ago," said Palau. "It was a big vision and all of us are called to great visions."
The evangelist also urged conference attendees to pray great prayers as they went back to their respective cities.
"You know we mustn't be bashful. If you want to touch a big city like Bombay or you want a big city like London or Mexico City, it seems impossible. But Jesus says, ask me anything that will bring glory to the Father and I will do it. So we can pray great prayers with courage and enthusiasm," he said.
"The Lord has people that we must pray for. And you know there is a desire that in the year 2020, for instance, all over the world, all those with the gift of evangelism, whether music, arts, sports and verbal proclamation, that there be a worldwide year of blessings in the nations. Pray that that will happen and encourage evangelists in your country to not only pray for sanctification but pray also for the expansion of the Good News. We don't know how long we have. The world is in a tremendous battle right now."