Friday, March 7, 2014
McClatchy News Service
As Billy Graham turns 95 next week, many churches in the region are taking part in what is billed as the North Carolina-born minister’s last great evangelistic push.
Billy Graham speaks at the dedication ceremony for the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C., in 2007.
A project called My Hope America, which has been road-tested worldwide, is coming to the U.S.
Robert Ivey is the associate director of missions for the New South River Baptist Association, which has roughly 100 Southern Baptist congregations in Cumberland and Sampson counties in North Carolina. He’s also a state director for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
“The BGEA has been doing the My Hope emphasis since 1996,’’ Ivey said. “It’s been done in 57 countries around the world, and they’ve seen 10 million people come to Christ, in addition to the crusades.’’
My Hope America is described as Graham’s final call to turn to Christ, Ivey said.
The message he wants to share will be familiar, Ivey said, and one of the reasons Graham has remained the most recognizable name in evangelism for decades.
“He has kept it biblical,’’ Ivey said. “He has kept it as simplistic as he could, but he has also not been afraid to take advantage of technology. He was one of the first to take advantage of TV and radio in his crusades.’’
The My Hope America campaign will be available on every media platform possible, Ivey said, with multiple airings of a television special around Graham’s birthday on Thursday.
It airs on TBN that evening at 8, and on Fox News at 10 p.m.
How churches choose to observe My Hope America has been left to them, Ivey said. Some are encouraging small viewing parties in homes. Other churches are holding block parties or larger services, inviting groups to see the broadcast or watch it on DVD.
The Rev. Kelly Bullard, senior pastor of Temple Baptist Church, showed the video during his morning worship recently. “When I was watching a Graham crusade on TV, one quote stood out that I’ve never forgotten, and that I’ve preached many times,’’ he said. “God wants to give you a future that’s brighter than the noonday sun.
“That’s been his goal, to bring that message. The only way to have a hope like that is in Christ.’’
The Rev. Barry Lawrence pastors the Fusion Church in the Overhills area. He plans to use the Graham message to reach a multiethnic congregation with ties to Fort Bragg.
“Whenever you heard him speak, even in a large crowd or a crusade, you feel he’s speaking directly to you,’’ Lawrence said. “Wherever it is, the message is clear and simple, and it’s not changed over the years.
“That’s something people need to hear today, a clear, simple message of the gospel,” Lawrence said. “God has a great plan for our lives. Through My Hope, people will hear the same message he’s been proclaiming for years and years to touch their lives and give them hope.’’