Small Texas Community, Big Evangelistic Heart

By   •   February 14, 2012

Not everything is bigger in Texas.

Take Terrell, a modest bedroom community about 30 miles in the southeast shadow of Dallas, and home to fewer than 20,000 people.

If Dallas is Big D, Terrell is, well, Little T.

“There’s only a couple grocery stores in town,” said Terry Wilken, director of the Trinity Valley Will Graham Celebration next month. “It’s the kind of town that when you go to a restaurant, you’ll probably see three or four people you know.

“It has that feel where everybody knows everybody.”

But when it comes to spreading the Gospel, that small-town feel hasn’t produced small-time thinking.

Rather, the March 23-25 Trinity Valley Will Graham Celebration is thinking big and if the first week of training classes is any indication, there may be a need for an overflow room at the 1,500-seat Terrell ISD Performing Arts Center.

Over 500 came out on a Monday night (Feb. 6) in two different locations to hear and learn about how to effectively share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The FM419 class, a high-octane youth training session based on Matthew 4:19 (“Follow Me …”), drew 185 students on its first night of training at First Baptist Church Terrell.

And less than a mile down the road, Terrell First Assembly Church of God packed in 325 adults for the first Christian Life and Witness Course.

Even if these events drew from surrounding communities outside of Terrell, the turnout in such a small town is very encouraging.

“It just about filled up the church,” said Wilken, who was back and forth between the two training events. “That was a pretty strong class for a Monday night.”

The three-week training session has a three-prong focus, all geared toward building confidence in sharing Christ with unbelievers.

Week 1: Deals with living an effective Christian life, stressing the importance of reading your Bible, having devotions, prayer life and accountability.

Week 2: Takes on the fears of sharing your faith and how to step out boldly and with confidence.

Week 3: Delves into follow-up and care of new believers and what to do six months or a year after leading someone to Christ.

“All of this is meant to build up the local church and equip people to do the work of ministry,” Wilken said.

And Wilken knows a thing or two about this type of training. After spending 26 years working with Billy Graham Crusades — moving 17 times — and seven years with Franklin Graham Festivals, he’s now directing his second Will Graham Celebration.

The Jersey Shore Will Graham Celebration was his first experience leading an evangelistic event for the son of Franklin Graham and grandson of Billy Graham.

“He’s got a lot of maturity for a 37-year-old guy,” Wilken said. “What’s amazing is he appeals to both adults and kids.”

The three-night celebration will focus on all ages both Friday night and Sunday afternoon with Brenton Brown and Rend Collective Experiment as musical guests.

Saturday night is geared more toward the Trinity Valley youth with Fireflight and Tedashii following Brenton Brown.

“Whoever’s there, they’re going to get something out of it,” Wilken said. “God has really gifted (Will) to cross generational lines and have an impact on any age group.”

Tommy Toombs will be spreading the Gospel during a KidzFest presentation on Saturday morning.