The History of Marching
Marching and public proclamation are not new expressions for the Church. Joshua led the Israelites as they marched around Jericho. As they shouted, the walls of the city crumbled and God's people won a great victory. During the Triumphant Procession on Palm Sunday, a large multitude gathered to sing, shout and offer their praise to Jesus as He rode past on a donkey.
In more recent history, marching and proclamation were a part of the beginnings of the Salvation Army and the Methodists. In 1885, the Salvation Army marched to the Houses of Parliament with a petition of 343,000 signatures, demanding that the trade in child prostitution be stopped and the age of consent be raised from 13 to 16 years old. They succeeded, and lives were changed.
Marches in England
The Marches in England began in the l980's when some local churches decided to take what they were experiencing in the churches out into the streets. Songwriter Graham Kendrick participated in some of these early attempts and wrote a series of songs that were appropriate for the outdoor expression of the church.
In May of 1987, lchthus Fellowship in London joined Youth With A Mission and Pioneer Team to organize a prayer and praise march through the streets of London. To their surprise, more than 15,000 people turned out, in spite of pouring rain. Awed by God's blessing, they planned another march for May of 1988. This March drew a crowd of 55,000 participants. As they marched, their prayers were focused on the government. Later that day, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher publicly spoke of her faith in Christ.
In 1989, March for Jesus, as it came to be called, continued with Marches in 45 different cities across the British Isles. In Belfast, Northern Ireland, more than 6,000 Catholics and Protestants marched together. On September 15, 1990, more than 200,000 marched for Jesus in 600 cities all over Britain.
Marches in the United States
In 1989, Tom and Theresa Pelton of Austin, Texas, attended a worship leaders conference in California where Graham Kendrick presented the March vision. Tom came home and shared the vision with a group of pastors. After leading some praise marches around Austin high schools, he organized the first citywide march, which took place in May of 1990 after eight weeks of preparation. About 1,500 believers marched.
Austin's second praise march occurred nine months after the first one. This time, 15,000 Christians marched in Austin and 7,000 marched in Houston on the same day. Many began to sense from God that Marches should take place in cities across the country. The goal of March for Jesus became organizing Marches in as many cities as possible so that believers could march in the cities where they lived and be connected across the nation. Christians in Austin donated time and office equipment to help start the March for Jesus USA office, which began as one desk in a church office with one computer! They started spreading the March vision across the nation and train March Organizers.
May 23, 1992: The First Nationwide March for Jesus
The idea of the whole nation marching together for Jesus quickly grew. Many U.S. cities began preparing for the first national March for Jesus on May 23, 1992. On that day, Christians openly exalted Jesus in 142 U.S. cities and in 25 European countries. 300,000 marched for Jesus in the U.S., joining another 300,000 overseas. Whether 20,000 believers worshipping Jesus openly in Pittsburgh or 500 believers marching through Moscow's Gorky Park, the 1992 March for Jesus was an unprecedented display of the love and unity believers have in Christ.
June 12, 1993: Joining Hands Across the Nation
After the phenomenal success of the first national March for Jesus, plans were soon under way for the first international March, in which believers would "join hands across the nations." The 1993 March for Jesus on June 12 brought 1.7 million Christians to the streets in 850 cities across the globe. In the U.S., about 800,000 believers marched for Jesus through the streets of 350 U.S. cities.
Marches took place on all continents except Antarctica, with 314 marches in the United Kingdom. The world's largest March for Jesus took place in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where 300,000 proclaimed Christ's Lordship on the streets of their city. In countries where Jesus is not allowed to be publicly proclaimed, Christians walked through the streets praying.
June 25, 1994: A Day to Change the World
On June 25, 1994, Jesus received extravagant praise from 1.5 million believers across America in the nation's third March for Jesus. In 550 cities, from every state in the nation, followers of Jesus came together to worship Him and to pray for the healing of our nation. All around the world that day, a total of 10 million people marched down the streets of more than a thousand cities in 178 nations to the glory and praise of God. More than 4 million people marched for Jesus in Latin America alone! From every time zone of the world, millions of believers proclaimed, "From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised" (Psalm 113:3).
May 27, 1995: Together for the Gospel
At the 1995 March for Jesus, celebrated in 2,190 towns across the globe, millions of Christians marched to take the joy of knowing Jesus beyond their church walls.
In the United States, an estimated one million Christians of all denominations marched in unity to show their love for God on the streets of 600 cities. Most of the Marches took place on May 27, but a few were held on other weekends due to Memorial Day weekend.
In Selma, Alabama, where the infamous "Bloody Sunday" event took place in 1965, black and white participants marched together over the same bridge where blacks had been beaten by law officials as they marched for voters' rights thirty years earlier. "Person after person commented that they could not believe that this (March for Jesus) could happen in Selma," said Dr. Eugene Howell, the March Organizer. "It was fantastic to see the March result in a new beginning and victory over our past."
Across the globe, 80 nations marched for Jesus in 1995. On May 13, at the March for Jesus in Sao Paulo, Brazil, an estimated 1.5 million marched for Jesus. The Guatemala March for Jesus had 80,000 participating, double the number that marched in that country's March the previous year.
May 25, 1996: A World to Win Together
The 1996 Global March for Jesus held on May 25 drew together between 10-12 million Christians around the world to celebrate Jesus on the streets of more than two thousand cities in 170 nations. In the United States, 1 million marched in 625 cities.
Some of the larger Marches across the nation were: 40,000 in Nashville, Tennessee; 21,000 in Toledo, Ohio; 20,000 in Miami, Florida; 18,000 in Jacksonville, Florida; 18,000 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; 15,000 in Columbus, Ohio; 14,000 in Honolulu, Hawaii.
- The governors of California, Georgia, Louisiana, Nevada, New York, and West Virginia all proclaimed May 25 as "March for Jesus Day." Dozens of mayors did the same in their cities.
- At the March in the San Fernando Valley of California, participants stopped at the intersection where the Rodney King incident happened and prayed for racial peace and for police officers. Gang members driving by stopped their cars and joined the March in progress.
- At Panama City, Florida's first March for Jesus, 11,000 people marched in 100-degree weather. "In a city known for its division, Christians and their pastors have decided to start praying together and working together for revival," said March Organizer Dennis Keller.
- The March in Columbus, Mississippi began at an old slave trading block. The 600 participants offered prayers of repentance and reconciliation for past injustices.
Marches Around the World in 1996
As the sun rose on the International Date Line, the country of Tonga in the Pacific was the first nation that marched. Again, this year, the king and queen of Tonga led the March in their capital. After the March, the king held a banquet for the participants. There was a total of six Marches, with an estimated turnout of 40,000 people.
- A total of 150,000 marched in Australia. "Christians of all ages, racial backgrounds, and denominational beliefs came together as one solid core, cheerfully witnessing for their Lord and attracting the attention of the by-standers, many of whom asked why they were so contented and happy," said National Coordinator Ramon Williams.
- In Japan, 4,000 people marched in 29 cities. "Japan is marching to show people a taste of real Christianity," said the National Coordinator.
- In Moscow, Russia, 5,000 believers marched on a route, which took them right outside the Kremlin. "A good response was received from onlookers, and in particular from a former KGB officer who became a Christian after seeing the happiness of the marchers," said the coordinator.
- In Croatia, 1,000 marched in Zagreb. The crowd swelled to 3,500 at the Prayer Rally in the city's largest park. "This is Croatia's third March for Jesus, and it is a central catalyzer that is bringing churches together after the effects of war," said the nation's March Organizer.
- Participants in the Paris, France March held a Prayer Rally right in front of Notre Dame. Between 2,000 - 3,000 marched, giving away 12,000 gospel tracts to bystanders along the route.
- 17,000 turned out on the streets of London, England. The March started at historic Hyde Park and ended under Nelson's Column. In London, Belfast, Cardiff and Glasgow, children led prayers which were broadcast throughout Europe via satellite.
- Several nations in Africa held Marches. Zaire had 700,000 participants and Cameroon had 2,000. In South Africa, more than 100 cities marched. The March in Cape Town had six Salvation Army bands, a radio broadcast, and "a real carnival atmosphere," said the nation's organizer.
- 20 nations in Latin America marched. The largest March in the world was held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where an estimated 1.5 million people marched.
- In the Caribbean, 19 nations/territories marched. 7,000 marched in Bridgetown, Barbados. Marchers made a complete loop around the city, and police officers, which were there for crowd control, wanted pamphlets about Jesus and about the March to pass out to onlookers.
- In Canada, 152,000 people marched in 120 cities, four of them taking place inside the Arctic Circle. A reporter watching the March of 11,000 in Toronto was so overwhelmed that he said, "I've never seen anything quite like this before. I've never seen such love and unity. It's all really too much." Four young people, including one homeless teen, invited Christ into their lives.
- As the earth finished up its rotation on May 25, 1996, the sun rose on Alaska, where the last three Marches of the day took place. At the March in Soldonta, Alaska, 500 people marched in a city of 3,482 people. As the marchers sang their praises to Jesus, "a beautiful, majestic bald eagle circled over us and the sun was shining for its Creator."
May 17, 1997: No More Walls
People in 700 U.S. cities sang Graham Kendrick's words, "Jesus' love has got under our skin." For many marchers and onlookers, it was more than words:
- Louis, MO - More than 3,000 Christians marched a route that connected racially diverse neighborhoods. "We believe God is bridging something in St. Louis as blacks and whites worked together on this March," said March Organizer Karen Stefacek. The March for Jesus helps to bridge the generation gap between Christians, and the event feels much like a family reunion.
- Kerrville, TX - a 99-year-old lady was celebrating her birthday on May 17. Her friends had planned to throw her a party, but she refused, saying, "I won't be there. I'll be marching for my Jesus." Most of the invited guests came out to march!
- South Bend, IN - Lynne Davis, the organizer, described the multi generational flavor of her March: "There were marchers from infant to 80-years-old. Some walking, some riding in vans and trucks, young ones in strollers and wagons. Truly, every generation was represented. One little girl was clapping and laughing because she was so excited about the March going past her house."
- Church youth groups led many marchers across the U.S., as a symbol of the new generation being raised up to be leaders in churches and communities.
- Report after report from March Organizer across the country testified how people came to faith in Christ at the Marches - both participants and bystanders on the streets. As Jesus is worshipped and lifted up in the marches, He draws people to Himself.
- Elgin, IL - A young woman at the March was touched by God's presence and was found crying as the March of 1,200 people passed by. "She told the evangelism team that she wanted “this Jesus", and prayed to receive Christ right then," reported Organizers Phil and Cathy Carter.
- Chicago Westside, IL - Irene Livingston, the organizer of the March, recalled a lady who showed up at the Prayer Rally drunk. "I asked her if she knew the Lord, and she said, 'Yes,' that she was raised in church, but she did not know Him as a personal savior. We prayed for her and she got delivered and was sober as a judge. Jesus saved her!"
- Los Angeles, CA - more than 100 people prayed to receive Christ as the 7,000 participants marched through a predominantly Hispanic area of the city. "Onlookers were in total amazement as we handed them 'Why are these people marching' tracts. ... they could not deny the love that was present as all these loving Christians of every color were marching down their street."
- March for Jesus participants are overcoming barriers that have kept churches from working together and impacting their cities.
- Oklahoma City, OK - 20,000 people marched and pastors washed each other’s feet during the Prayer Rally, as a symbol of their commitment to serve one another.
- Framingham, MA - More than 30 churches were represented. Pastors in the area have been meeting together since last year in an effort to bring their churches together in unity." At the Prayer Rally, three pastors publicly repented for sins of division, envy, and carelessness about each other’s church," said Organizer Kassia Pereira. "There was a great sense of repentance and unity."
- In many cities, government officials are welcoming the March for Jesus and its positive effect on their communities. The governors of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Tennessee and Texas all proclaimed May 17, 1997 as "March for Jesus Day." Dozens of mayors and city officials did the same in their cities.
- Austin, TX - A proclamation from Texas Governor George W. Bush was read at the March. "Today's world is too often confronted with stories of violence, crime and racial conflicts," said Bush. "March for Jesus provides Texans an opportunity to celebrate God's love so we can, with His help, make positive contributions in our families, communities, schools, and work places."
- Redlands, CA - The mayor led the 4,000-strong procession with two other mayors from nearby cities.
Marches Around the World in 1997
About six million people took to the streets for the 1997 Global March for Jesus. Here are just a few glimpses:
- Harare, Zimbabwe - The night before the March, the executive mayor invited Christian leaders to a meeting with civic leaders. "He then invited 200 of the marchers to a tea immediately after the March. We estimate that the March started with about 2,500 people but grew as people joined us from the streets to between 3,500 and 4,000. Over 10,000 tracts were handed out."
- Ecuador - The March in Quito was honored with the presence of the president of the country, Fabian Alarcon and his wife. The president said, "just as the material welfare is important, so is the spiritual welfare." There were 12 Marches with a total participation of 50,000 people.
- Mauritius - "3,000 people from 20 villages descended on the capital Port Louis for a praise march punctuated by stops for prayer.... All the ethnic groups of the island, Creole, Chinese and South Asian joined in."
- Goa, India - "Over 600 marchers (about a third of Goa's evangelicals) attended the march. As the worship leader led the group in jubilant praise through Margoa's main street, people came from homes and shops to see the celebration. It was also a tremendous demonstration of our unity in the Lord."
- Japan - A total of 25 towns participated in the March. In Najoya, "the marchers received many positive responses from shoppers on sidewalks as they marched by in the streets."
- Venezuela - 19 of the 21 states had a march, and Caracas alone had over 70,000 participants.
- Paraguay - "One of the priorities of the organizing committee was to involve more denominations and churches, and God was faithful to do it. 17,000 people marched in Asuncion. The president of the country sent a representative who asked for prayer for the government and God's blessing over the nation.
- Bolivia - In the city of El Alto, a newspaper headline read, "Jesus summons a bigger crowd than the political parties"!
- Barbados - "More than 8,000 Christians joyously proclaimed the lordship of Christ over the nation of Barbados during a 90-minute March for Jesus through the capital city of Bridgetown."
- Serbia - In Novi Sad, more than 10 nations were represented in the March of 200 people. "The sound system was echoing through the city powerful sons of worship and the marchers sang and danced in the center square."
May 30, 1998: Prayer for the Suffering Church
700,000 people in 633 cities in the United States and more than 10 million people worldwide took to the streets to worship Jesus. Around the world prayers were offered up for those who are persecuted and suffer because of their Christian faith.
May 22, 1999: Prayer for the Nations
Approximately 2,000 Antelope Valley residents Marched for Jesus in Lancaster from Lancaster City Park.
June 10, 2000: A Day on Earth as it is in Heaven – Jesus Day 2000
In the year 2000, there were massive parties and celebrations across the planet. Whether people knew it or not they were celebrating the 2000th birthday of Jesus Christ. March for Jesus made it possible for the whole world to know whose birthday it was with a glorious and extravagant Global March for Jesus.
In the year 2000 we celebrated great advances made in the final years of the millennium.
The procession was a prophetic symbol of our progress together in the gospel. Being on the streets symbolizes taking the walls off the church to make the gospel message more available to the people
God's people worked together towards reaching all nations in a way never seen before.
Jesus told us that the world will know Him by our love for one another and our unity. As we came together to march for Jesus, we realized that our common love for Jesus is more important than national or denominational differences. It is Jesus who breaks down the dividing wall between people and who makes us one.
Seeing God's people of different races, tribes, nations and languages as one body on the streets of the whole world spoke of that hope.
2001 - 2019
While no longer nationally organized, there have been many marches scattered around the nation through the years.
Almost Two Decades Later
In the spring of 2018 Gary Frost and Kathy Branzell of The Mission America Coalition (now known as The Table Coalition) began to prayerfully ponder the feasibility of promoting a nationwide March for Jesus in May of 2020. After sending out letters of inquiry to several strategic national ministry leaders it was acknowledged that the Lord was speaking simultaneously to numerous leaders and previous March organizers that it was time to work collectively to sponsor a national March for Jesus in May of 2020.
In the fall of 2018, it was learned that there was already afoot a movement known as GO 2020, launched out of Germany, with a global vision to mobilize believers worldwide to reach billions of people with the gospel in May of 2020. It became quite obvious that this was not a matter of coincidence but of Providence, so collaboration with this movement began.
Because the original March for Jesus, USA was birthed out of Austin, Texas, a group of former organizers convened there in the spring of 2019 to meet with Steve Hawthorne and others who were strategic in the early marches. It was unanimously agreed by those in attendance that they should move forward in planning for a national March for Jesus on Saturday, May 30, 2020 with the Theme: JESUS CHRIST IS LORD (Philippians 2:11). Gary Frost assumed the role of national director and Chuck Swanson became the operations manager. Since both live in Youngstown, Ohio it was determined that this city would become the national headquarters for MFJ/USA.
Through consultation with Graham Kendrick, Steve Hawthorne, Stephanie Tucker and David Bryant, and the technical support of the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, March for Jesus 2020 is gaining momentum, with the goal of encouraging the mobilization of Marches nationwide.
May 30, 2020: Jesus Christ is Lord
Christian denominations throughout the nation differ in many ways but most can agree that “Jesus Christ is Lord”. It is with that theme, that cities across the U.S.A. began to unite and March for Jesus once again. Months prior to the March for Jesus the COVID-19 virus pandemic sweep through United States as well as the rest of the world. However, the March for Jesus leadership felt that God has called us to celebrate Jesus Christ on May 30th. Communities were asked not to plan a public “gathering”, but to unite in a public “scattering.” Prayer teams, consisting of two or three people, would stand, walk or drive throughout their communities. Equipped with a simple, single-sheet praise and prayer guide, these teams could be confident that they are praying in unity with God’s people all over their city and the nation.
The 2020 theme bible verse for the March for Jesus was from the book of, Philippians 2:11, “...that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Paul prefaces that statement in verse 10 as he writes, “...that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow...” As a tangible way of expressing love and praise to Jesus, PraiseWalking teams would be invited to find public, but safe and appropriate places, where they could kneel at exactly Twelve O’clock noon on Saturday, May 30. While kneeling, they would unashamedly lift their hands before the Lord and declare “Jesus Christ is Lord!” Then, for at least one minute, they would remain in that posture, giving praise to Jesus Christ. Many more believers throughout their communities would be invited to join them in this simple gesture and confession of praise in or near their homes at the same time. After two decades of not having a nationwide led march 52 cities in 21 different states (and an island in Malaysia) registered to March for Jesus in their communities.
May 22, 2021: Worthy is the Lamb
The theme for March for Jesus 2021 is "Worthy Is the Lamb" drawn from Revelation 5:12.