This Week in AG History —January 14, 1973
By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG-News, 12 January 2023
Fifty years ago, the Assemblies of God participated in Key 73, an interdenominational effort to reach everyone in North America with the gospel.
Evangelism has always been an integral part of the Assemblies of God. In the early years of the Fellowship, traveling evangelists moved from town to town to hold revival meetings in churches, storefront buildings, schoolhouses, brush arbors, tents, and on street corners. Others evangelized door-to-door and through Bible studies, children’s meetings, Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and radio programs. Over time, national outreach programs were developed, including Children’s Ministries, Girls Ministries, Royal Rangers, National Youth Ministries, and Chi Alpha Campus Ministries.
From time to time the AG promoted various evangelistic emphases, such as the Council on Evangelism (1968), Council on Spiritual Life (1972), “Nothing’s Too Hard For God” (2007), and localized literature witness campaigns.
Key 73 was one such evangelistic program in which the Assemblies of God participated during the early 1970s. Over 130 denominational groups pledged their support to the common goals of this outreach.
The first planning meeting for this project took place in 1967 when representatives from various denominations gathered near the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Arlington, Virginia, in what was called the “Key Bridge Consultation.” The organizers felt they needed six years of preparation to carry on this wide-scale evangelistic thrust. Thus “Key 73” became the name of the project.
The goal was to actively carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) by reaching every home in North America in 1973 with a witness to Christ. It was hoped that issues like disunity, cynicism, and selfishness would fade away and be replaced with God’s love. Key 73 coincided with other interdenominational spiritual movements, such as the charismatic renewal and the Jesus People movement.
After three years of planning, Theodore A. Raedecke, secretary of evangelism for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, was appointed executive director for the interdenominational project. He said, “We feel that coordinated, concerted focus on evangelism is long overdue.” Key 73 sought to promote Christian witness at individual, congregational, and national levels. The program coincided with the fifth year of the Assemblies of God’s Plan of Advance, another evangelism emphasis which included a five-year plan of intentional soul-winning through the enablement of the Holy Spirit.
Members of the executive committee for Key 73 included Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ, Victor Nelson of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, John D. Waldron of the Salvation Army, Thomas F. Zimmerman of the Assemblies of God, and many others.
The Assemblies of God encouraged its churches and members to participate in Key 73 in several specific ways: a week of prayer (Jan. 7-14); Bible readings from God’s Word For Today and the Pentecostal Evangel; a spring community contact campaign called “Try Jesus”; spot TV and radio announcements from the AG Radio-TV Department; Spiritual Life (June 3) and Outreach (Sept. 2) Evangels; Revivaltime promotions; various evangelism and literature witness campaigns across the country; and evangelism outreaches promoted by local churches. Outreach also included ministering to various ethnic groups, people living in inner-cities and in correctional institutions, and people who cannot see or have hearing impairments.
What were the results of this concerted evangelism initiative? Key 73 resulted in the distribution of 35 million Bibles and in the formation of 50,000 home Bible study groups. Key 73 provided reinforcement for the ongoing Christian renewal movements in the early 1970s by organizing churches to help meet people’s spiritual needs.
T.E. Gannon, the national director of the Division of Home Missions (now U.S. Missions), wrote an article about Key 73 and its impact. Read, “New Church Evangelism Plays a Vital Role,” by T.E. Gannon on page 15 of the Jan. 14, 1973, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
• “How to Develop a Devotional Life,” by Ralph W. Harris
• “Why the Bible is Reliable,” by Stanley M. Horton
• “Satan’s Army of 200,000,000,” by C.M. Ward
And many more!
Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.
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