Graham wants My Hope to be about gospel, not him
    November 19 2013 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

    Billy Graham is often called the pastor to presidents, the world’s greatest evangelist and the most recognized Christian in the history of the church. So when his family held a 95th birthday celebration for the famous Southern Baptist preacher on Nov. 7, it was not surprising that Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Rupert Murdoch and other notable individuals were among the 900 guests present.
    Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, called it “an extraordinary evening. Our nation owes such a debt a gratitude to this man who has stayed so consistent in his heart, in his decisions and in his message. So many parts of the evening left me moved, praising God for His grace, His love and seeing what happens when someone truly surrenders their life to fulfilling God’s plan for them.”
    In Graham’s mind, the evening was not about his birthday. Neither was it about his notoriety.
    His definitive focus has been the same for 75 years. He wanted others to hear the message he has preached around the world.
    Harris said that in his 26 years of ministry, “I cannot recall a time of leading a congregation or speaking in a church, that I have not met someone who came to Christ or their parents came to Christ listening to Billy Graham. It’s almost unreal, but everywhere you go you find testimony after testimony of people who either attended a crusade or were watching a crusade on television when they received Christ as their personal Savior.”
    Graham wanted his birthday gathering to be another event where the gospel was presented. So, his son, Franklin, played “The Cross,” the video that his team produced over the past year to launch “My Hope America.”

    BGEA photo
    Each night, as “The Cross” aired on various television stations across North America, 40 response centers were open, with volunteers from Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Focus on the Family, Liberty University and the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board taking calls from viewers.

    Harris called the video presentation, “extremely powerful and effective. Billy Graham truly wanted that message of the cross to be front and center, and even led into the conversations around the table.”
    Preston Parrish, vice president of My Hope America, said, “I think Thursday night, Nov. 7 at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville was, in a very real sense, Billy Graham’s own personal ‘Matthew’ event.” Named after the gospel writer, “Matthew” is the label given to those who invited friends into their homes to view “The Cross.”
    “While [Graham] was the guest of honor – because it was his 95th birthday – there is a very real sense in which he was the host with many of us inviting, on his behalf, others who need to discover the grace of God in Christ for themselves,” Parrish said.
    “It’s pretty cool that at 95 an evangelist would celebrate his birthday, not by just sitting at home alone with a few friends ... but he would labor for months to do his very best with all of the energy that God is still giving him to communicate the timeless gospel in a fresh way for people across the nation, beginning with those who gathered with him that night.”
    Donald Wilton, pastor of First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C., where Graham is a member, worked closely with the evangelist throughout the production of “The Cross.” As his pastor, Wilton said Graham “is very used to me talking with him about every subject under the sun. So, for My Hope America everything was set up in his home in Montreat.” 
    The video team worked with the two ministers for more than a year. “The team did such an incredible job. I had conversations with Mr. Graham about the cross – about the Lord Jesus Christ, about the passion of his heart concerning the love of God in Christ Jesus and the final project is what our nation is able to watch,” Wilton said.
    Wilton believes there are three elements of My Hope that are particularly significant. “First, we are once again given an incredible picture of the focus of Mr. Graham’s heart, as he has shared the love of Christ with people around the world for decades,” he said.
    “Everything about Mr. Graham’s life has been about the Lord Jesus Christ, and [his] deep and abiding passion for people to know about the love of God in Christ Jesus.”
    Through Wilton’s weekly visits, he said he “heard Mr. Graham pour out his heart with an uncommon passion for the people of this nation that he loves so deeply. He has cried out to God that the Lord would send a true revival across America, and that people would come to know Christ and that we would turn back to the Lord.”
    The second element Wilton describes “is the whole issue of the manner with which God loves us. Mr. Graham not only preaches content [of the message] concerning the love of God, but he preaches with God’s love in his heart.
    “As I sat in front of Mr. Graham, preparing for My Hope, one could literally ... feel him loving people as Christ loves people. And it’s a very deep spiritual truth that blessed my own heart and challenged me in my own life and my own ministry.”
    Third, Wilton talked about “the complete humility of this man. I don’t know that I have ever been around a man who demonstrates such a genuine God-given humility. Here you have Dr. Billy Graham who has been used so mightily by the Lord to touch the lives of presidents and prime ministers and kings and queens and people who many would regard as great in the eyes of man, yet Mr. Graham completely deflects everything away from himself, and he only gives the glory to God.
    Parrish also highlighted the same quality in Graham, describing a unique moment at the birthday celebration. “Anybody who knows Mr. Graham will know that he is always quick to deflect attention to the Lord and to the team that has served so faithfully with him all these years,” he said.
    “We’ve heard from many people that the most touching moment of the evening was when Mr. Graham – who was not scheduled to speak because the film, ‘The Cross’ [was the evening’s message] – expressed his love and appreciation to his long-time friend and companion in the work of the gospel, Cliff Barrows,” he said.
    “Unrehearsed, utterly sincere, Cliff likewise, grabbed the microphone and did the same thing back. We’ve heard so many people comment about how touching that was to them – to see these two giants of the gospel – both in their nineties, still preferring one another in honor and love, showing such deep respect for one another. What a beautiful picture that was for all of us to learn from and to emulate.”
    It is almost certain that My Hope is Billy Graham’s last public evangelistic event. He led his last crusade in New York in 2005. Within nine months he preached at the Franklin Graham New Orleans Festival, post Katrina. About four months later he spoke one night at the Baltimore Festival. But his physical abilities are waning.
    Addressing the results of Graham’s last effort, Parrish said, “What we’re seeing in the days following Nov. 7 in North America is what we have seen in 57 countries around the world over the past decade ... while there will be some immediate flashes of response or results, consistently it takes a number of weeks to get a fuller picture of how the Lord works through this effort.
    “This side of heaven we won’t have the full picture, but... we have statistics arriving throughout each day, and tracking them, analyzing them and getting an accurate read is an ongoing process,” Parrish said.
    “Some time in the next few weeks Franklin will give some kind of report about what we have seen pretty clearly. It is just a little bit too early right now to say anything concrete or authoritative. ... It is very clear even at this early stage, that this is a big ‘wow’ for God’s glory and for the advance of the gospel across our nation.”
    Wilton said, “We’ve already received reports of quite a number of those who came to the birthday party that gave their lives to Christ. I personally had eight people there who didn’t know the Lord, and they all gave their lives to Christ.”
    Parrish recalled an interview he gave the Biblical Recorder a year ago as My Hope was launched.
    “We talked about our desire and our prayer that North Carolina and N.C. Baptists in particular would be at the epicenter of this nationwide effort. I want to report back to you that N.C. churches and certainly N.C. Baptists were indeed at the epicenter of this nationwide effort.”
    Across North America over 26,500 churches registered their participation in My Hope. More than 2,000 N.C. churches were involved.
    Parrish said, “We are very thankful for the way the churches in Billy Graham’s home state gave themselves to this effort and indeed did lead the way.”
    11/19/2013 1:42:15 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments
    Filed under: 95th birthday, Billy Graham, My Hope America

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