It’s 2002 in Montgomery, Alabama and 5,000 young people have gathered for a conference on evangelism. The weekend-event involved games and live music, along with mosh-pits and crowd surfing. There were also scheduled talks from various Christian speakers.
Scheduled to speak one evening was an unknown missionary by the name of Paul Washer. As the event progressed, Mr Washer became disheartened by what he witnessed.
First another preacher took the stage and delivered, not a sermon, but a comedy routine. His message was filled with jokes, the young adults attending were in constant fits of laughter.
At the end of his “sermon” the speaker gave an alter-call, asking the youth to come forward, become Christians, and commit their lives to Jesus. Looking around, Mr Washer saw no sorrow or conviction of sin, no reality of Christ or the coming judgement, no seriousness about the decision they were supposedly making.
Many of the kids laughed and joked their way down the aisle. This was a comedy sketch, Mr Washer thought. What are these young people even responding to?
Next to take the stage was a young Christian man who was raised a Muslim. He shared his story with the crowd, detailing the great persecution he suffered after he became a Christian.
It was obvious the crowd wasn’t interested. Mr Washer was shocked that these young adults were so responsive to the earlier comedy sketch, but not this young man’s testimony. When the young man had finished speaking: crickets. Nothing, but crickets.
Soon after the worship band took the stage. Young people flocked from every direction and quickly formed a mosh-pit near the front of the auditorium. Energy had re-entered the room.
Eventually, it was time for Mr Washer to speak. And what happened next sent a shock wave around the world. What he said would go on to become one of the most watched sermons of all time. Judge for yourself why that is.