On September 20, Vision 2020 (Facebook) will livestream a gospel presentation by Pastor James Runcorn, in an effort to bring the message of salvation in Christ to people in our city that otherwise would not hear it. While believers in Idaho Falls share the gospel with friends and neighbors in many ways, there have been numerous attempts in the history of the city to bring the good news to a larger portion of the city. Here is a sampling:
In January 1896, the churches in Idaho Falls joined together for a series of evangelistic meetings under the leadership of Rev. James Thompson.
The January 8, 1903 issue of The Idaho Falls Times reported that the Methodist and Presbyterian churches held a week of prayer followed by a week of evangelistic and revival meetings.
In March 1909, the churches of Idaho Falls held a week of meetings at the Baptist church and at a Community Hall on Broadway. One day during the week was set aside for an all-day prayer meeting. The Idaho Falls Times reported, “These meetings have more than half passed now and the results thus far fully justify the hopes of those who had called these evangelists to hold the meetings.”
In September 1911, a series of evangelistic meetings were held in a “tabernacle” on Park Avenue and C Street [now Constitution Way]. The Idaho Falls Times reported large audiences. Perhaps the “tabernacle” was a temporary structure, as in 1929 there were evangelistic and revival meetings sponsored by the Nazarene Church in a tent at the same location.
In late December 1915, simultaneous daily prayer meetings began in ten or twelve parts of Idaho Falls in support of a month of evangelistic meetings led by Dr. G. W. Taylor of Los Angeles. Organized by a committee from several Idaho Falls churches, the meetings were held in a temporary building erected on Elm Street between the Methodist church and the old City Library (now the Museum of Idaho). That building, which could seat 1,100, was erected by about 75 volunteer carpenters and other helpers. It was built in a single day, December 29, 1915, a day in which the Idaho Register reported: “as severe a winter storm as this area ever experienced was raging with the snow piling in deep drifts and the thermometer ranging well below zero.” The weather did not discourage the workers, as the newspaper also reported that they were making jokes about the winds and snow as they would cycle in shifts between working in the cold and warming up in the Methodist Church. Nightly meetings were held from January 2 through January 30, with additional meetings on Sunday mornings and afternoons. The response was so great that the meetings were extended two additional days. The newspaper reported “attendance, by actual count” was 1,100 on each of the Sundays and also on weekdays toward the end of the campaign. The Idaho Falls Times of January 27 reported that nearly 200 conversions had been recorded by that date, and offerings had been sufficient to meet all expenses.
The Methodist and Presbyterian Churches, along with others, sponsored a series of evangelistic meetings from March 3rd to 10th, 1925 led by Rev. and Mrs. Elmer P. Loose. The Times-Register article announcing these meetings commented, “our city needs a season of prayer and spiritual uplift and seeking after the things that pertain to God and righteousness.” The Times-Register of March 6th reported good crowds with the church auditorium nearly filled.
In 1928 young people of Idaho Falls held a mass sunrise prayer meeting on Easter morning, participating in the nation-wide Crusade with Christ movement. It was estimated that at least 4 million youth across the nation participated in these prayer meetings, which were then followed by local three-day conventions. This youth movement, developed from Christian Endeavor societies, was devoted to evangelism, Christian citizenship, and world peace.
Meetings were held in the Moose Hall at Capital and C Street on Sunday afternoons and Thursday evenings over several weeks in December 1941, led by New Zealand evangelist Percy Hartland and Central European missionary and evangelist Edwin Schaer.
In December 1950, several weeks of revival meetings were held at the Baptist, Nazarene, Mission Covenant, and Gladstone Gospel Churches. Preceding and coinciding with these meetings, pastors from five churches met at 10 am daily for a seven-week period to pray for city-wide revival.
In 1977, many churches in Idaho Falls sponsored evangelist and guitarist Dwayne Friend for seven nights of meetings at the Civic Auditorium. Held in mid-January, the main floor of the auditorium was two-thirds or more full. According to one person who attended, lots of people who attended were saved in these meetings.
In the early 1990’s several well-known Christian speakers, such as author Frank Peretti, were brought to Idaho Falls by Family Bible Church, and crowds came to the Civic Auditorium to hear them. Popular Christian bands were also brought to the same venue, including Mylon and Broken Heart, Rick Cua, Morgan Cryar, DeGarmo and Key, the Imperials, and others. In these events, the gospel was preached, and many hands went up at invitations to receive Christ.
In 1995, Pastor Rick Brown of Calvary Chapel hoped to bring a major Christian recording artist to Idaho Falls for an evangelistic crusade. His effort snowballed, and he soon had commitments from Lenny LeBlanc, Crystal Lewis, and Dave Messenger. Realizing that the project had become too big for his church, which had begun just two years previous, he enlisted the help of ten other Idaho Falls churches. Somewhat patterned after Billy Graham crusades, the meetings were held at the Idaho Falls Civic Auditorium, with Pastor Rick giving evangelistic messages each of three nights.