50 Years Ago: The Assemblies of God Participated in Key 73, the Interdenominational Evangelism Emphasis

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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!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
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Email: archives@ag.org
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  • Reply August 13, 2023


    I was there. The only issues folk could agree on were: (1) no smoking on airlines; and (2) Catholics are not Christians. The response to the second issue by Baptist from TN, “If we include Catholics then there is no one to evangelize. And besides, we do not consider them Christian.” This received hundreds of “Amens” and considerably brightened the mood of the room. A passionate sermon by John Ockenga arguing that actions on behalf of the poor and marginalized need to be part of our witness and evangelism was met by stony angry silence. We two Asbury Sem representatives and David McKenna were the only ones who stood to applaud. Having ignored Ockenga and taken firm positions on the other two, they voted, not unanimously, to adopt the Key 73. That day I knew for certain that I was not an Evangelical.

    • Reply August 14, 2023


      David Bundy yes indeed – we were with Terry Wiles

    • Reply August 14, 2023


      David Bundy Troy Day
      Interesting. After pastoring in the NorthEast for 40 plus years I can tell you that a majority of Roman Catholics do not consider themselves Christians. Their common response is “We’re not Christian, we’re Catholic.”

    • Reply August 16, 2023


      Terry Wiles this was still SOME progress 🙂 David Bundy

    • Reply August 16, 2023


      Maybe. I have also encountered this phenomenon in several majority Protestant places. Because of persistent Protestant telling Catholics they are not Christians, Catholics like Christians in Antioch or Methodists in England, have chosen to accept that dismissive distinction as a badge of honor.

    • Reply August 17, 2023


      David Bundy Protestant telling Catholics they are not Christians
      Like the pope tried to tell Luther? Philip Williams

    • Reply August 17, 2023


      Troy Day Note that I never said that the differentiation went only one direction.

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