Sparking an Urban Revival

Thanks to a strategic partnership, a Christian festival reached thousands of New Yorkers with God’s Word.

On a typical day in Manhattan, cab drivers weave in and out of traffic. Shoppers dart from one store to the next. Horse-drawn carriages plod through Central Park. But one July afternoon, thousands of singing voices transformed this familiar hustle and bustle into a site of worship. In Central Park, 60,000 people lifted their hands toward the sky, singing the lyrics of a popular Christian praise song. These men, women and children—as diverse as the neighborhoods they came from—had gathered for CityFest, an evangelistic revival that brought together more than 1,000 churches from New York City’s five boroughs.

CityFest was one of 115 summer festivals hosted by CityServe, a New York-based ministry of the Luis Palau Association. With support from its generous financial partners, American Bible Society provided Scripture resources for these events, equipping CityServe to reach thousands of people with God’s Word. And the impact of this strategic partnership is helping shape the future of Bible ministry in American cities well beyond New York.

“CityFest was built on the vision that we’re here to revive the city,” explains Enid M. Almanzar, who directs New York City ministries for American Bible Society and serves on CityServe’s leadership team. According to Almanzar, this spiritual revival set out to reach those New Yorkers who seldom read the Bible and rarely attend church. “Through CityFest, we communicated an important message: The church is here to provide restoration and hope,” Almanzar says.

For attendees, CityFest could hardly have been mistaken for a run-of-the-mill church service. After musicians Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman led worship, several speakers—including former New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio—shed light on the city’s greatest needs, encouraging listeners to serve New York’s homeless and mentor at-risk youth.

Although these presenters energized the crowd, the heart of the event occurred when world evangelist Luis Palau shared the Gospel with thousands of listeners. His words united people from countless denominations and faith backgrounds. “There is hope for your life through Christ,” Palau proclaimed, pointing to his small black Bible.

When Palau finished his address, hands shot into the air, acknowledging a desire to learn more about God’s love. Trained volunteers filtered through the crowd, distributing Bible-based devotionals made possible by American Bible Society’s financial partners.

“There is hope for your life through Christ.” —Luis Palau

These devotionals, developed specifically for CityFest, reached speakers of four languages: English, Spanish, Mandarin and Korean. Through daily, one-minute readings—complete with questions and thought starters— attendees continued to encounter God’s Word after they left CityFest. And on the final page of the devotional, readers were encouraged to dive deeper into Scripture through a 40-day online Bible study.

CityFest also helped root these respondents into their new Christian family. After receiving their free devotional, attendees filled out an information card, providing CityServe with their name, phone number and home church. Shortly after the event, those without a church received an email with a comprehensive list of churches in their area. Many of these churches attended CityFest, providing an easy connection point for first-time churchgoers.

Through CityFest, and two additional gatherings—one in Radio City Music Hall, another in Times Square—more than 10,000 New Yorkers responded to God’s Word and made a decision to follow Christ.

Hoping to build on this year’s event series, CityServe plans to host more gatherings like CityFest. But for Jason Malec, who directs U.S. ministries for American Bible Society, a partnership with CityServe has forged the way to something greater: a vision for urban Bible ministry built around partnerships with like-minded organizations. “By equipping organizations like CityServe to distribute lifechanging resources, we hope to see more revivals like CityFest,” Malec explains. “It’s all about getting God’s Word into our cities.”

According to Malec, American Bible Society’s work in New York City has already inspired ministry alliances in Phoenix and Philadelphia. His team plans to partner with additional organizations in the coming years, empowering more people in more cities to engage with God’s Word.

“Through our work, we envision a day when people from New York City to Phoenix, Arizona reflect God’s love,” Malec says. “That’s my prayer for our country.”

Thanks to the support of our faithful financial partners, American Bible Society has been engaging people with the life-changing message of God’s Word for more than 200 years.

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