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Sun, Nov. 17

Former football coach focuses gospel message on small venues<BR>

Evangelist Rick Gage has a big message, but he likes to focus it on the smaller venues.

"God has just burdened my heart to take the Gospel message to the small towns of America," he said. "I'm preaching the same message in those towns that Billy Graham has been preaching in large cities."

One of those smaller venues is the Prescott tri-city area. The former football coach turned evangelist is coming to Prescott and Prescott Valley Sept. 27 through Oct. 1.

Gage is a Southern Baptist, and he preaches the same Gospel as Graham, who regularly sees lines of would-be believers walk to the stage to accept Jesus as Lord.

Gage, however, concentrates on gatherings that are in the hundreds or maybe thousands, instead of the hundreds of thousands that Graham is used to attracting.

An example, according to The Associated Press, was Pikeville, Ky., where Gage preached to a crowded stadium of 2,500. The town's population is about 6,500 and more than 1,000 of the people at the event - mostly teen-agers - accepted Gage's invitation to come forward and dedicate their lives to Christ.

Gage, who is in his 40s, has done more than 500 small-town crusades across the nation and has seen more than 250,000 people claim Jesus as their Savior.

The son of a Baptist evangelist, Gage lives in Atlanta. He never expected to follow in his father's footsteps, and instead opted for a career as a football coach.

"I was climbing that coaching ladder, but my life was empty," he said. "Really, I was on the road to self-destruction. I had turned my back on God and turned my back on church and lived a life doing things I wanted to do. My God was football."

That changed one night when he attended a crusade where evangelist James Robison was preaching.

"I knelt down and asked God to save me and change me. I was like a thief being caught robbing a bank. I gave up," he said. "I surrendered my life to Christ totally and completely. For the first time in my life, the Bible became real to me."

Gage later committed to evangelism and made his first efforts on the streets of Dallas, talking with people individually about Jesus.

And, that's how he likes it.

"The small towns are wide open to evangelism," he said, adding that he believes this is his calling.

***

Gage and his team, which includes Rick Stanley, an evangelist and stepbrother of Elvis Presley, will visit a variety of locations Sept. 27-Oct. 1, including the Elks Opera House in Prescott and the Yavapai County Fairgrounds in Prescott Valley.

The Elks theater event will be a youth rally for all teen-agers on Sept. 27, featuring Christian rock artist Aaron Spiro.

Gage will bring a message of the Good News of Jesus Christ for teens and families across the area with his four-night Go Tell Celebration at the fairgrounds, Sept. 28-Oct. 1. He especially talks about the pitfalls facing society and the next generation, and the greatest answers for living in today's world.

For more information, visit KGCB Radio's (90.9 FM) Web site at www.kgcb.org, or call (928) 899-1791.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)

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