EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of a seven-part series by veteran journalist Troy Anderson about major evangelists who are turning their attention toward America to help ignite what Billy Graham describes as an end-times “great spiritual awakening.” The first story featured Graham’s warning for America and the second centered on another famed evangelist’s testimony that God spoke to him in a dream last year saying, “America will be saved!” In the third story, Graham told of his fervent prayers for a “fresh awakening” in America. In the fourth, Graham sounded the alarm that the Second Coming is “near” and signs of the end of the age are “converging now for the first time since Jesus made those predictions.” In the fifth, prophecy scholar Paul McGuire warned America is at a spiritual crossroads. The sixth article recounts the many inspirational stories and extraordinary measures hundreds of thousands of people in America are taking to spread the news of Graham’s special Gospel presentation Nov. 7.
By Troy Anderson
On his 95th birthday Nov. 7, the most famous Protestant evangelist of the 20th century will give what could be his final and most important message to the world.
In the months leading up to the unprecedented event, Billy Graham has declared in an exclusive interview with WND that signs of the end of the age are “converging now for the first time since Jesus made those predictions.”
In his new book, “The Reason for My Hope: Salvation,” Graham wrote the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is “near” and the United States “can’t go on much longer in the sea of immorality without judgment coming.”
Now, in a trailer to “The Cross,” the primary program in the My Hope America with Billy Graham evangelistic outreach, Graham said that with “all my heart I want to leave you with the truth.”
“We have been going down the wrong road for a long time,” Graham told WND. “Seemingly, man has learned to live without God, preoccupied and indifferent toward him and concerned only about material security and pleasure.
“And yet mankind is also adrift morally and spiritually, confused and fearful because he does not know where he is or where he is going. He lives in a world dangerously torn by hate and violence and conflict, and yet he feels powerless to do anything about them. He also knows his own heart is driven by destructive passions and motives he cannot seem to control or change.”
Graham – who has preached to more people, 2.2 billion, than any Protestant in history and has appeared on Gallup’s list of the “Ten Most Admired Men in the World” 56 times since 1955, more than any individual on the planet – told WND that people need to repent of their sins, turn to God and “take the narrow road that Jesus talks about in the Bible.”
“The narrow road means that you forsake sin and you obey God, that you live up to the Ten Commandments and that you live up to the Sermon on the Mount desiring to please God in everything. The narrow road is hard and it is difficult; you can’t do that yourself. You need God’s help and that’s the reason we ask people to come to receive Christ because when you receive him, the Holy Spirit comes to live within to help us live the life.
“Our world is desperately seeking answers to the deepest questions of life – answers that can only be found in the Gospel. That is the reason for my hope, that there can be changed hearts and a changed society as we yield ourselves to Christ.”
In what the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association describes as the largest outreach in its six-decade history, Graham will give a powerful pre-recorded message the week of Nov. 7. The “My Hope” programs will be available for viewing online, including on YouTube. “The Cross,” the primary program in the “My Hope” series, will be broadcast on the Fox News Channel, TBN, Christian networks and local television stations in a number of cities. [More information can also be found at the websites or by calling 1-877-7MY-HOPE, or 1-877-769-4673].
More than 25,000 churches – one of every 12 in America – are participating in the outreach along with 2,300 houses of worship in Canada. Participating individuals, called “Matthews” after the disciple who invited guests to his home to introduce them to Jesus, will open up their homes to people they have been praying for. At the gatherings, they will show one of the My Hope evangelistic programs and share their own personal stories of coming to faith in Jesus.
The outreach comes as a number of major evangelists – Graham, his son Franklin Graham, Reinhard Bonnke, Greg Laurie, Luis Palau, Banning Liebscher and others – are turning their attention toward America in the hope of helping to ignite what Graham calls a “fresh spiritual awakening.”
Heartache for America
The movement began after Graham, who provided spiritual counsel to every president from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush, released an open letter to America in the summer of 2012 titled “My Heart Aches for America.”
In the letter, Graham wondered what his late wife, Ruth, would think of a nation where “self-centered indulgence, pride and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle.”
Graham, who has appeared on the covers of Time, Newsweek, Life, U.S. News and World Report, Parade and numerous other magazines, compared America to the ancient city of Nineveh, the lone superpower of its time. When the prophet Jonah finally traveled to Nineveh and proclaimed God’s warning, the people repented and escaped judgment, Graham wrote, adding he believes the same thing could happen in America now.
Greg Laurie, the senior pastor at the 15,000-member Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., said the letter caught his attention and is certainly an “apt description” of modern-day America. Laurie, president of Harvest Crusades, said Graham “is a prophetic voice and it’s like Isaiah or Jeremiah standing up and telling the nation what they need to do.”
“I’d say, without question, that Billy Graham is the greatest evangelist who has ever lived, not just in our generation, but in any generation,” Laurie said. “No one has even come close to accomplishing what he has. Billy Graham has always been an authoritative voice. One of the best-known phrases that he uses is, ‘The Bible says,’ and I think one of the reasons for Billy Graham’s longevity is he has stood on the Word of God.”
Bill Leonard, a Wake Forest University Divinity School professor, said Graham remains “an American phenomenon, the most enduring and perhaps the most beloved preacher in American religious history.”
“Graham is a major historical figure, not merely to American evangelicals, but to American Christianity in general,” Leonard said. “Although not so well known among a young generation of evangelicals, he remains the closest thing to a national Protestant chaplain that the U.S. has ever had. There really is no one successor. Unashamedly Christian, he demonstrates a graciousness that extends to persons inside and outside the church.”
Graham, who founded Christianity Today and Decision magazines, was reared on a dairy farm in Charlotte, N.C.
Growing up during the Depression, Graham learned the value of hard work on the family farm, but he also found time to spend many hours in the hayloft reading books on a wide variety of subjects.
In 1934, the 15-year-old Graham committed his life to Christ through the ministry of traveling evangelist Mordecai Ham. He was ordained in 1939, graduated from Wheaton College in 1943 and married fellow student Ruth McCue Bell, the daughter of a missionary surgeon who spent the first 17 years of her life in China.
After college, Graham pastored the First Baptist Church in Western Springs, Ill., before joining Youth for Christ. He preached throughout the U.S. and Europe after World War II.
But the Los Angeles Crusade in 1949 vaulted Graham into international prominence. At the time, William Randolph Hearst, the publisher of the San Francisco Examiner and many other newspapers, told his editors to “puff Graham.”
Over the ensuing decades, Graham preached at crusades on every continent, from remote African villages to major cities, including a crusade at Madison Square Garden in New York City that ran nightly for 16 weeks.
Hundreds of millions of people have seen him preach at stadiums and arenas around the world, and millions have read his New York Times bestselling books and inspirational classics, including “The Jesus Generation,” “Angels: God’s Secret Agents,” “Approaching Hoofbeats: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” “Storm Warning,” “The Secret of Happiness,” “How to be Born Again” and “Nearing Home.”
For more than six decades, Graham’s weekly “Hour of Decision” radio program was broadcast around the world. His syndicated newspaper column, “My Answer,” is still carried by newspapers both nationally and internationally.
Test of time
“Billy Graham has stood the test of time, and where others have come and gone and others have had scandal, he has not,” said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research in Nashville, Tenn. “He is a man that Americans and people around the world look up to. They know a man of character, and I think they are interested to know what he’s got to say at this time because, increasingly, society seems to be coming apart at the seams and somebody who has seen it for 90 years, who has been faithful for 90 years and who has preached the Gospel for decades and decades, is worth listening to.”
Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said his father, even at his advanced age, hasn’t quit working or pursuing his lifelong mission to fulfill the Great Commission – the instruction of the resurrected Christ to his disciples to spread his teachings to all the nations of the world.
“At 94, he hasn’t lost his vision,” Franklin Graham said. “At 94, he is still concerned about people being lost and separated from God and spending eternity in hell, and it’s a burden to him. I would just hope that others would see this and do likewise. We need to have that burden for the lost. And my father, even at this age, hasn’t lost that burden.”
Bonnke, an international evangelist whose ministry, Christ for all Nations, has recorded 72 million people responding to the call of salvation in Africa and elsewhere, said Graham is a “true man of God, a wonderful evangelist.”
“Billy Graham has done an outstanding job, and his family is continuing that legacy,” Bonnke said. “But we can’t rest and say, ‘It has all been done.’ We have to get busy to launch out and reach the present generation with the Gospel as well.”
Liebscher, director of Jesus Culture, an international Christian revivalist youth outreach ministry based out of Bethel Church in Redding, Calif., said he believes the nation can experience another “awakening,” and he’s greatly encouraged that the “Lord is speaking to some of these generals of the faith … because he’s really trying to stir hope in the church.”
“One of the things that happens is we lose hope and we begin to become hopeless about the state of our nation and when we become hopeless faith isn’t able to grow,” Liebscher said. “I really believe God is turning the hearts of these leaders to this nation, and it’s going ignite hope in the hearts of people that God can do this.”
Liebscher said Graham’s comparison of America to ancient Nineveh – a nation that repented and escaped God’s judgment after hearing the prophet Jonah’s warning – inspires him that “God can still break in and God can still turn a nation.”
“We read in history again and again that as nations would be in decline, moral decline, and there would be violence and sexual immorality and all this stuff, that God would break in, and he would turn a nation, he would turn the hearts of the people,” Liebscher said. “We see it biblically. We see it in history. I think God is speaking again and that hope is coming. Hope is alive.”
David Jeremiah, pastor of the 8,000-member Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., said Graham has watched the nation’s moral decline over many decades and understands the critical, existential point it is at now.
“He’s seen it as we’ve continued to slide downward away from the very principles that our country was founded upon – now at an all-time low in all the years I’ve been doing this,” said Jeremiah, author of “What in the World is Going On?: 10 Prophetic Clues You Cannot Afford to Ignore.” “He’s 25 years ahead of me so he knows.”
While watching the “Defining Moments” video, Jeremiah said it struck him that national repentance is the only hope America has.
“We’ve tried everything else,” Jeremiah said. “There is no other hope. The political process isn’t going to make it happen. We’re not going to elect somebody who is going to immediately turn this thing back. We don’t seem to be able to coalesce as a group of Christians and get anything done together. The Gospel is the power that can change the lives of people, and I believe that’s what Dr. Graham believes in his heart, too.”
Best is yet to come
Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, author of “The Harbinger: The Ancient Mystery that holds the Secret of America’s Future,” said one of the mysteries contained in “The Harbinger” is the parallel between the fall of ancient Israel and the fall of modern America.
“In this ancient template, the nation undergoes a metamorphosis in which those who simply hold true to the ways of God, to that which the nation as a whole once held to, now find themselves increasingly at odds with the culture around them,” said Cahn, whose book has remained on the New York Times bestseller since January 2012.
“The case of Billy Graham reveals this dynamic. Graham is undoubtedly the most famous face of American and world evangelism. Thus his recent statements concerning America are all the more noteworthy. They are increasingly at odds with the direction of American culture and have increasingly taken on a prophetic tone. It is a sign of the times.”
Cahn, the senior rabbi at the nation’s largest messianic congregation, the Beth Israel Worship Center in Wayne, N.J., and a descendant of Aaron, the brother of the biblical prophet Moses, noted Graham has been known as the “pastor to presidents” and has prayed at numerous presidential inaugurations.
“But had he began his ministry today instead of years ago, holding the same views he has always held, it is likely he would have been banned from praying at the most recent inauguration. This is a sign of how much America has metamorphosed in the past half-century – a sign of how great and deep is its spiritual and moral apostasy.”
Amid this growing immorality, Graham told WND that the greatest hope of the Christian faith is the return of Jesus.
“That promise will someday become literal history, and with God’s help we’re going to be a part of that history that is yet to come,” Graham said. “Only Jesus Christ when he comes back again is going to bring it. He will defeat every enemy. Sin will be eliminated. Death will be eliminated. War will be eliminated. Crime will be eliminated. The hope of the Second Coming of Christ generates energy and sacrifice and faithfulness and diligence and zeal.”
The best is yet to be. Heaven is yet to be, along with eternal life, Graham said.
It is the hope of the Second Coming that “thrills me every day of my life,” Graham said.
“I know that he’s coming again, and I know that he’s going to set up a kingdom of which there will be no end,” Graham said. “In Titus 2 it says, ‘Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.’ Our hope centers in a person, not in circumstances, not in a political party, but in a person.”
An award-winning journalist at the Los Angeles Daily News, The Press-Enterprise and other newspapers for two decades, Troy Anderson writes for Reuters, WND, Charisma and many other media outlets. He’s also the president and editor-in-chief of the World Prophecy Network – An Online Newsmagazine and Community Spreading the Hope of Jesus in the End Times. He lives in Irvine, Calif.