A few days before the Lowcountry Festival kicked off in Charleston, S.C., Franklin Graham took some time to share his thoughts on fear, freedom, and the importance of evangelism.
Q: You recently visited North Korea, a country that has little to no religious freedom, and where the Gospel is greatly needed. Coming back home, do you find that Americans take religious freedom for granted? Is the need for the Gospel just as great here in South Carolina?
Graham: The Gospel is needed everywhere. The fact is that God loves us, cares for us, and sent His son Jesus to earth to rescue sinners – and Franklin Graham is a sinner. In North Korea there are millions of people searching; it is very difficult for them to hear the truth because the church is restricted. But the Christians who are there are vibrant.
Right here in Charleston, there is no difference. There are sinners in this city, people who are lost, people who are going through everyday life thinking that they are O.K., but they are not O.K. They need to come into a right relationship with God through His son Jesus Christ.
We are living in a period of time where the stock market is on a roller coaster, up and down. People are afraid of the mortgage crisis, people are afraid of the political mess we are in, people are afraid of the war. People are uncertain about the future.
But I can tell you if you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, you don’t have to worry about the future. We are secure. Our hope is in Him. My hope is in Christ, not in the systems of this world because they are going to fail.
Q: Referring to freedom again, just a few blocks from here, human beings were bought and sold into slavery. Human commerce has ended, but people are still slaves to addictions and many other things. How can they find freedom?
Graham: We are in South Carolina, of course, where the Civil War started and slaves were bought and sold. But there are slaves today; men and women who are enslaved to sin, who cannot break the chains of sin. They have tried and tried. They’ve tried and failed. They can’t do it. The only way we can be free from sin is by coming into a right relationship with God and that is through a relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ.
It is Christ who died for our sins. No other person in all of history died for our sin. Mohammed didn’t do it; Buddha didn’t do it. No other religion in the world can save someone from sin. It’s only by the blood of Jesus Christ. That’s why we’ve come to Charleston, to preach and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
He died for our sins; He shed His blood for our sins, took our sins to the grave and on the third day, God raised His son to life. Jesus Christ is alive and He’ll come into a person’s life if He is invited and will change that person immediately and break those bonds and chains of sin. We can be set free.
Q: Why did you choose to come to Charleston? Why spend time and money to come to cities like this?
Graham: We were invited to Charleston. More than 300 churches invited us. People have asked me, ‘Why would you come to Charleston rather than other places?’ Three hundred churches! That is why we are here. We are not here to put on an event or just bring music in. No, we were invited by churches that prayed and worked together for months.
These are churches that are concerned about evangelism. These are churches that are burdened about the lost in their city. I’ve come just to join with them, cooperating with them, to win the lost, to preach the gospel, to tell men and women how they can be free and find a new life and a new beginning.
Q: What are some of the unique needs in Charleston?
Graham:They are the big issues for everybody. Everybody is worried – whether you are in Charleston, New York City, Chicago – it’s the same. People are just so uncertain – is their 401k going to be there when they retire? The little bit of savings that they’ve put into the stock market – is it lost now? These are the concerns that people have and they are rightful concerns. I think we are all in that same boat as we look at our investments.
You know what? All of this is going to pass away. There is a heaven and we need to make investments in it. Every time a person invests in the Gospel, every time we preach the Gospel, we put an investment in heaven where moth and rust and crooked politicians and dishonest investors cannot take it. Invest in heaven!
Anyone reading or watching, if you want to make a good investment, support the Billy Graham Association, support us with your prayers, with your finances, because you are making an investment in eternity.
Q: You just mentioned prayer. How important is prayer for a weekend like this?
Graham: We couldn’t do anything without prayer. People in 300 churches have been praying for months for these meetings. They prayed to bring us to their city. We couldn’t do it without prayer. We need prayer for our team. We need prayer for the lost. God hears prayer. He’ll answer prayer.
Q: Some people would say that large evangelistic events don’t work, that they are outdated. How would you answer the critics? Why do you still do what you do?
Graham: The reason we have success is because of the prayer that goes into these events. We work and cooperate with the local churches and put a huge amount of time and effort in the way this is set up. We don’t just come to city for a weekend. We’ve been here over a year already.
So, God blesses and honors prayer, and the commitment of His church, and the work of His church. The [Festival] is the work of hundreds of churches doing this in the name of the Lord; it is not in the name Franklin Graham. In my name this thing would fail fast, but we are here in the name of Christ.
In every Festival city, you see thousands who put their faith and trust in the Lord. So we are going to continue with evangelism. This is something God has called us to do and we use elements that are tried and true: prayer, prayer and prayer!