WORLD-renowned evangelist Luis Palau insists he's not in Newcastle to talk about religion.
"We don't want to say to children, to adults, you must become religious," Mr Palau said yesterday before his appearance at the CityFest event at the Newcastle Foreshore this weekend. The event, organised by a collection of Hunter churches and religious groups, is expected to draw 25,000 people to the city.
But the preacher headlining the show says organised religion can seem archaic to many younger people.
"We don't talk about religion," Mr Palau said. "Firstly because there is a pile of religions, you know, and secondly because it has a bad reputation right now.
"This generation of young people don't know what a hymn is, and when they hear it they don't want to hear it, so we've got to communicate the same basic truth that never changes . . . in terms that this generation understands."
The CityFest event features extreme sports, children's acts and music from well-known artists including Stan Walker and Evermore.
Mr Palau, who was born in Argentina but now lives in the US city of Portland, said he wanted to show young people that "serving Jesus Christ can be a cheerful thing".
"Many people who say they are Christians or followers of Jesus are not the happiest people in town, and we want to turn that around.
"God is not some old fashioned, angry retired policeman that goes around with a billy club beating up on people who misbehave."