EXPLO 85 Praised as 'Phenomenal'

Times Religion Writer

EXPLO 85, an unprecedented worldwide video conference to train Christian evangelists, "was even more phenomenal than we had prayed and hoped for," said Bill Bright, founder-president of the sponsoring Campus Crusade for Christ International.

The four days of simultaneous, two-hour training sessions, which ended Tuesday, reached hundreds of thousands of evangelism workers at more than 90 sites in more than 50 countries and territories via closed-circuit transmissions from 17 communications satellites.

Bright said his organization will conduct a similar conference in 1990, but he added in an interview that he did not want to give the impression that traditional international gatherings concerned with evangelism were now inefficient or outdated. "That's kind of delicate," he said, although he indicated that the video conference was highly cost-efficient.

EXPLO 85 was expected to cost nearly $10 million. Bright said it has been estimated that it cost only $16 per person for the "continuing education" and inspiration of Campus Crusade workers and other evangelical Christian leaders around the world.

Seen in 5 Locations

Bright himself appeared during the four days in London, where the Limehouse Studios served as the communications hub; in Seoul, where he spoke before an audience of 35,000, then in Manila, West Berlin and Mexico City. "We had many close calls with mechanical and power failures, but we came home absolutely intoxicated with gratitude for what we felt God accomplished," he said.

Louis A. Falcigno, worldwide technical coordinator of EXPLO 85, said the conference would have a significant effect on the field of telecommunications. "Right now, people are realizing for the first time that you could have mass telecommunications in Africa, in India, in Sri Lanka . . . places that people have never attempted. We've taken it out of the United States and Europe and really brought it to the world."

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Assn. is holding an second international conference for traveling evangelists in Amsterdam, July 12-21. The association said this year's conference was scheduled because "thousands of evangelists" had to be turned away from a similar conference in 1983. Advertisements for the meeting sought contributions to help defray $2,500-per-person expenses of evangelists who cannot otherwise afford to attend.

Asked if EXPLO 85 had proved that this type of conference was unnecessary, Bright, back at his Arrowhead Springs headquarters in the San Bernardino Mountains, said he believes the greatest need of many independent evangelists is "to be exposed to Billy. After all, he's the greatest evangelist of his time. Their meeting him is important."

Thirty percent of Americans surveyed in a recent Times Poll said they "almost never" go to church or synagogue services, more than double the response (14%) to an identical question about worship attendance five years ago.

It is the most significant change in the otherwise stable picture of church and synagogue attendance in the United States.

The latest Times Poll, taken last month found that 41% said they attended "about once a week" or more often, while 44% said they attended that frequently in 1980.

Recently released Gallup Poll figures on church and synagogue attendance showed a slight rise in weekly attendance to 42% in 1985 compared to responses of either 40% or 41% from 1980 through 1984. (The Gallup Poll asks if people happened to have attended church or synagogue during the previous seven days, and do not ask about frequency.)

Neither the Gallup Poll nor The Times Poll consider a 2% to 3% variation in results to be significant shifts in opinion because of margins for error.

In the two Times Poll questions on religious attendance, those who said they go to services about once a month remained constant--14% five years ago and 13% last month.

The only apparent shift is among the infrequent worshipers. Those who said they go "several times a year" amounted to 27% in 1980, as compared to only 16% in the 1985 survey. The two categories of infrequent worshipers--people who said they "almost never" go or attend only "several times a year"--together increased from 41% in 1980 to 46% in 1985.

Of the 1,232 Protestants polled in the recent Times survey, 27% said they attend weekly and 15% said they attend more than once a week. Of 512 Catholics queried, 34% said they went to Mass weekly and 8% said they went more frequently.

The telephone survey of 2,308 people was conducted Dec. 5-12.

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