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EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fifth story in 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.
By Troy Anderson
Jim Buckley walked across America to tell people about what could be Billy Graham’s final message to the world.
Alan Humphries flew to remote villages in the Alaskan bush to deliver “The Cross” DVD containing the famed evangelist’s sermon.
And Gary Powell is preparing a fly-tying party to share the good news with his fellow fly fisherman in Arkansas.
“There is a lot of openness to Jesus in America,” said Buckley, 67, who walked 3,131 miles from his home in Newbury Park, Calif., to Times Square in New York City, telling people along the way about Graham’s optimistic vision of a possible “great spiritual awakening” in the United States.
“I think Billy Graham is right. Not only is America ripe for another Great Awakening, but I’m not so sure it’s not happening right now.”
These are just a few of the inspirational stories and extraordinary measures hundreds of thousands of people in America are taking to spread the word about the message America’s best-known preacher will give in early November as part of the My Hope America with Billy Graham evangelistic outreach.
In what the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association describes as the largest outreach in its six-decade history, Graham – a New York Times bestselling author and evangelist who has preached to more people, 2.2 billion, than any Protestant in history – will give a poignant, personal message to the world during the week of Nov. 7, his 95th birthday.
The outreach comes as 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 an end-times “great spiritual awakening.”
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.
“These churches are telling us that, based on their interaction with members, what they are anticipating is that a quarter of a million people will be opening their homes and having their friends and neighbors over in connection with Billy Graham’s 95th birthday on Nov. 7,” said Preston Parrish, vice president of the My Hope campaign.
“After 22 months of work with churches across the denominational spectrum, this really has assumed a scale and magnitude that as far as we know is unprecedented across the country in terms of the number of people coming together to share the good news of Jesus Christ.,” he said.
During this time, Parrish said he’s heard amazing stories of how God is already working through My Hope, including a church in North Carolina that showed the “Defining Moments” program on a recent Sunday and nearly 300 people made decisions for Christ.
“This is in a land where a lot of churches will go through a whole year and never have one person register a decision for Jesus Christ,” Parrish said. “Here, in one morning, the church saw almost 300 decisions about beginning a relationship with Jesus Christ. This is because individuals reach out, show concern to others, invite them to some warm, friendly setting – whether a home or a special service in a church – so they can hear the message and have the opportunity to understand that God loves them and wants to give them life to the full eternal.”
David Jeremiah, pastor of the 8,000-member Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., said he watched the “Defining Moments” program, was overwhelmed by the “clarity of the message” and decided to join churches nationwide in the evangelistic outreach.
So far, more than 800 families in his church have decided to invite friends and neighbors into their homes the week of Nov. 7 to hear the message of Jesus through a customized video and a new message from Graham. A number of youth also plan to throw “big house parties” to watch “The Cross” program. More than 70 people who heard the “Defining Moments” program on a recent Sunday gave their lives to Christ.
Jeremiah said Graham’s vision for My Hope is a great example of how believers can share their faith with others.
“Most people I know would like to be able to share their faith, but they don’t know how and feel ill-equipped to do so,” Jeremiah said. “He’s taking all of the angst out of it by saying, ‘Just invite them over, serve them something to drink, push the DVD button and then tell them what Jesus means to you. Anybody can do that and our people are excited about doing it.”
Polls show many Christians struggle with sharing Christ with others. A 2012 LifeWay Research poll found 80 percent of those who attend church one or more times a month believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith, but 61 percent have not told another person about how to become a Christian in the previous six months.
“We’ve got to find ways to mobilize God’s people to share the good news,” said Ed Stetzer, president of the Nashville, Tenn.-based LifeWay Research. “I’ve found that Christians love evangelism as long as someone else is doing it. We’ve got to get to the place where Christians see that there is no such thing as the gift of evangelism.
“In the Bible, there is the evangelist, but there is no such thing as the gift of evangelism. So let’s all stop saying you have to have the gift of evangelism. We all have the responsibility of evangelism, so let’s share the gospel widely and broadly.”
Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale Pastor Bob Coy said it can be intimidating to think that “you’re all alone in your efforts to share Christ with a non-believer.”
“But My Hope America is something that everyone can be connected to and know that they’re part of something that God is using on a grand scale,” Coy said. “And once people get a taste of what it’s like to be used that way in someone else’s life, it’s going to ‘stick’ and become a part of their Christian experience. Sharing Christ will become the norm.”
Adding a sense of urgency to the mission of My Hope and Jesus’ larger admonition to spread the gospel worldwide are Graham’s recent remarks that the Second Coming is “near” and that the signs of the end of the age are “converging now for the first time since Jesus made those predictions.”
“The church should be boldly proclaiming the deity and authority of Jesus as the powerful antidote to the present trend toward world chaos,” Graham told WND in an exclusive interview. “The Bible indicates that as the time for Christ return approaches, evil and social chaos may well intensify. Are we living in those days? Only God knows the future and the answer to that question; the Bible makes it clear that we aren’t to predict the exact time of Christ’s return or claim to know when it will happen.
“At the same time, many of the signs or events that Jesus said must take place before his return are certainly in place. Never before, for example, has it been possible to penetrate virtually every corner of the world with the gospel, as Jesus predicted (see Matthew 24:14).”
Coy said Graham’s remarks regarding the Second Coming are “motivating because we know for a fact that Christ’s return is closer now than at any other time in human history.”
“I think it’s sobering, because as you look around at the world we live in you get a sense the things are coming to a conclusion,” Coy said. “And I think it’s exciting, because this is what every believer fixes their hope on, Christ’s return for his people and his restoration of all that’s wrong with the world.”
Jeremiah, author of “The Coming Economic Armageddon: What Bible Prophecy Warns about the New Global Economy,” said he believes Graham is “absolutely correct.”
“Never before in the history of the world have as many things been on the (world) stage at the same time as they are now,” Jeremiah said. “And, of course, it began with Israel in 1948 and now all these signs are becoming reality so you’d have to believe that the Lord’s return is near.”
At Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, Pastor Jack Graham said every generation should live with the sense of urgency – that today could be the day of Jesus’ return.
“We live in the terminal generation with the proliferation of weaponry, terrorism, moral collapse and all the rest,” Graham said. “It’s all predicated on Scripture and we can say these could be the final hours. We should live every day with that anticipation and should preach that and teach that and we’ll leave the timing up to God.”
Fly fishing for Jesus
As part of its effort to spread the gospel in the Dallas Metroplex, more than 1,000 members of the church plan to open their homes the week of Nov. 7 to show family, friends, neighbors and co-workers “The Cross” program. At its three campuses, in Plano, Prosper and Dallas, the 30,000-member church has a large map with stickers on it showing where My Hope viewing parties are going to be held.
“It’s been a great experience for our church,” Graham said. “Our whole focus in the church this fall is revival and pursuing revival for our church and people across the country. So this is really the climax of an entire six-month period in which we’ve been praying and asking God to do something great.”
Powell, a fly fishing guide and minister, decided to combine his love of fly fishing with My Hope. In early November, he and some of his friends who enjoy fly fishing will gather for a “fly fishing Matthew party” and will watch Graham’s message.
“My Hope is effective because it’s Christians reaching their lost friends who may be unwilling to go to a structured religious event, but they are comfortable going to a friend’s home,” said Powell, the Arkansas coordinator for My Hope. “I’m excited about this. Some of the fly fishers wouldn’t go to a church service. But a lot of them would go to a friend’s home for dinner and a fly-tying party, knowing they are also going to watch a Billy Graham video.”
Humphries, pastor of the Soldotna Church of God in Alaska, said he recently flew to the remote villages of Alaskan natives to tell people about Graham’s message and offer copies of “The Cross.”
“I’ve been doing prison ministry for 25 years and got to be a friend with a number of Alaskan natives,” Humphries said. “God put a burden on my heart for the Alaskan native people. They are awesome, wonderful people. They are very sincere, genuine people, and alcoholism, drugs and suicide is just rampant in some of those villages. They need hope. What a perfect message.”
Humphries said he saw Graham speak at a crusade in Sacramento, Calif., in the 1980s, a remarkable event and memory in his life.
“What greater message to the world than the world needs hope,” Humphries said. “We are dying for a lack of hope. What a message is the message of hope and him saying he wants to leave America with the truth. We’ve got so many voices screaming today and there are so many lies and deceptions out there, but Billy wants to leave the truth with America before he goes. I just think it’s phenomenal, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
Walking across America
Buckley, 67, the associate pastor at Newbury Park First Christian Church, said the idea to walk across America telling people about My Hope came to him one day on his morning walk.
“It came out of the blue,” Buckley said. “I told my wife, ‘I think God wants me to walk across America.’”
On April 1, Buckley, accompanied by his wife driving their recreational vehicle, began walking across the nation. He averaged about 22 miles a day.
“We were on the back roads, the small towns and the safe roads where we could walk,” Buckley said. “We were just awed by what we saw on the road and in the churches. Something is going on.”
Along the way, Buckley routinely stopped to talk to people about Graham’s upcoming message of hope. He talked to people along the nation’s highways and byways, in their homes over a meal and at their churches.
“There is something brewing, a spiritual hunger,” Buckley said. “People are willing to talk about Jesus.”
Before the trip, Buckley created a website that focuses on spreading the message of “Jesus in every home in this nation.”
“It’s important because it’s biblical,” Buckley said. “The church started in a home. They had no structure. They had no professional clergy. What we are pursuing is for every home, 24/7, has to have Jesus living there.”
Buckley, accompanied by 25 members of his family, concluded the walk in New York City and went to Times Square. During the trip, he celebrated his 50th anniversary of dedicating his life to Jesus at an Aug. 25, 1963, Graham crusade.
“Billy Graham preached on the Second Coming that night,” Buckley said. “There were 60,000 people there. He said, ‘You come forward,’ and I did. I said, “Lord, I’ll go wherever you want me to go,’ but I had no idea one day I’d be walking across America.”
Buckley said he has no doubt that Graham is correct about the convergence of signs pointing toward the approaching end of the age.
“People get ready,” Buckley said. “Decide today. You may not have tomorrow. You have today and I praise God for every breath I have. It says in James that we’re a mist and a vapor. I wouldn’t disagree with Billy Graham that the signs of the end of the age are here. We need to be ready. Decide now. Don’t wait.”
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.