Pack a Pew Sunday spurs church growth
(March 31, 2002)
Chicago Ted Wallace is the product of an innovative outreach
known as "Pack a Pew," which has taken place annually for the past 20
years at Southside Tabernacle Assembly of God in inner-city Chicago.
As a high school sophomore in 1980, Wallace says he experimented with
drugs and alcohol in search of inner peace. "I knew of the gospel because
of my mother, but I didnt have a relationship with Christ," he
A family friend invited Wallace to a Pack a Pew rally in 1986. The
idea of the worship service outreach is to challenge church members
to fill an assigned pew with friends, neighbors and relatives who dont
regularly attend church.
On Pack a Pew Sunday, the praise, worship and sermon are geared toward
reaching non-Christians with the gospel. At the rally, Wallace accepted
Christ as his Savior. "My life seemed like it was going nowhere," he
recalls. "I was tired of searching, and I knew it was the right thing
Today, Wallace, 39, teaches the new converts class and is a board member
and deacon at the 550-member church.
Senior Pastor Spencer Jones, who implemented the Pack a Pew strategy,
has seen the outreach define the churchs evangelism efforts, with
attendance at the special services topping 1,000. "Pack a Pew Sunday
is the highlight of the year for us," Jones says. "It fuels our congregation."
Last October, 100 people went to the altar to accept Christ as their
Savior or to rededicate their lives during Pack a Pew Sunday.
Pastor Ray Berryhill chose the final Sunday morning of 2001 to hold
a Pack a Pew rally at Evangel Assembly of God in Chicago. Along with
the 800 regular congregants of Evangel A/G, 400 visitors came for the
December 30 service, held in a high school auditorium. Of those, 111
came to the altar at the end of the sermon to accept Jesus as Savior
or to rededicate their lives.
Berryhill preached about the life-changing power of the presence of
God, using sections of Mark 5, Matthew 9 and Luke 8 as his texts.
"I wanted to talk about Gods ability to change lives," says Berryhill,
pastor at the church for nine years. "It doesnt happen through
works or self-improvement, but in His presence."
The final sermon illustration involved the woman who had been hemorrhaging
for 12 years. After working her way through the crowd, the sick woman
touched Jesus and was instantly healed. Berryhill made a modern-day
"I said, You probably have a lot of reasons to keep going the
way youre going; but if you press in today, I believe God will
make you whole. "
Visitors 47 adults, 40 children and 24 youth flooded
the altar. Some have started attending one-year discipleship classes
at Evangel Assembly, which has been meeting in a high school since September
because it outgrew its own facilities.
Isaac Olivarez and John W. Kennedy