Luis Palau begins an eight-week Chicago campaign April 4, the largest U.S. effort ever undertaken by the 61-year-old Argentine-born evangelist. The $2.2 million crusade is the first major evangelistic outreach in the Windy City since Billy Graham's last event a quarter-century ago.

More than 1,500 churches are participating, one-third of which have predominantly minority membership. Nearly 15,000 people have attended evangelism training courses to counsel non-Christians who make a profession of faith. The Luis Palau Evangelistic Association (LPEA) is hoping for a total attendance of 500,000.

"The main chore in large cities is persuading church leaders that crusade evangelism is worth the effort," Palau told CT. "Now comes the harvest time."

Rather than an emphasis on nightly rallies at one location, the LPEA has established nine regional sites for events at various times. Six of the venues are in the Chicago suburbs. Women, men, youth, and various ethnic groups will hear Palau in breakfast and lunch gatherings. Other evangelists will be conducting affinity meetings, including Tony Evans, Ron Hutchcraft, Rabi Maharaj, and E. V. Hill.

Reconciliation will be a theme of the assemblies. "My dream is that there will be a complete breakdown of the walls," Palau told CT. "We have many people of different cultures on the committee who are equal decision-makers, not just tokens."

Palau will preach at 26 night meetings in locales from Waukegan in the far northern suburbs to Aurora in the southwest. Seventeen of his night meetings, including five in Spanish, will be at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The crusade will conclude on Memorial Day with a service in Grant Park on Chicago's lakefront.

In addition, the crusade meetings will be simulcast on two Chicago television stations. Palau plans to keep conducting his live call-in weekly television program Night Talk, seen on both the Faith & Values Network and Inspiration Network, while in Chicago.

Though the LPEA is pleased at minority participation, the effort to bridge the evangelical and heavily Catholic Chicago churches has been more difficult. The LPEA has been unable to secure an official diocesan endorsement, although individual Catholic priests are involved in leadership roles.

Palau, whose headquarters are in Portland, Oregon, has been preaching for three decades. He waited until the 1990s to concentrate on the United States, largely in deference to Graham.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.