Many baby boomers across the country share similar memories of Billy Graham Crusades. Perhaps the most common image in their minds is that of people walking forward—in masses—to respond after he gave an invitation to the Gospel.
But for this generation, Mr. Graham has introduced a new type of Crusade. Rather than packing out stadiums, My Hope America challenges believers to develop relationships to share their faith—which may not always lead to salvation on the first attempt.
For 14-year-old Eboni Jackson, that lesson proved to be true this weekend.
As she pulled up to the Swirl frozen yogurt bar in Albany, Ga., on Saturday, she hoped to be greeted by a group of classmates she’d invited for a night out. Her plan was to have a little dessert with them, then watch Mr. Graham’s newest message, “The Cross.”
“She talks about Christ all the time. They call her ‘the Jesus girl,’” Eboni’s mother, Shenika Jackson, said with a laugh.
“She set up the entire meeting,” Jackson continued. “She did not want my help. She wanted to do this herself.”
But in the end, only Eboni and her two friends Hannah and Kamaya showed. The three of them decided to participate in My Hope after hearing about the program at Sherwood Baptist, where they attend church.
At first, the teens seemed a little down that their gathering didn’t go as planned. But then they went on a mission.
“Let’s go to Publix!” Eboni said.
Their detour to the grocery store led to them asking random people in the produce section if they’d seen Billy Graham’s latest message. Soon, the friends were praying together next to the wine and beer.
Eventually, they ended up at Chick-fil-A, watching “The Cross” on a laptop next to an unsuspecting family with a toddler who seemed to like Lecrae’s music in the film.
The night didn’t end with a salvation from one of her Hindu friends she’s been praying for, or another close friend she’s shared her faith with since sixth grade. But to Eboni, that’s OK.
“It’s kind of discouraging, but it’s not going to stop me,” she said.
John Spencer, Sherwood’s associate pastor of families, is encouraged by her attitude.
“To me, she’s a ninth-grade student doing more [with] My Hope than most adults,” he said.
“You’ve got three girls tonight, of course they were there for moral support for one another, but they were there,” Spencer continued. “And even coming out of tonight … in their mind it was still, ‘How can we get this message out there?’”
“It’s not, ‘Oh well, we tried.’ It’s, ‘Ok, this didn’t work. Let’s regroup and figure out how to do it again.’”
Spencer has seen Sherwood’s student ministry rally hard behind My Hope in recent months.
The last two weeks, the young people have been praying and reaching out to friends. A recent event where Eboni shared her faith led to six salvations.
“My generation dropped the ball on the Gospel,” Spencer said. “We are very comfortable in church. And their generation is very unchurched. They have a much bigger challenge than we ever did.”
“If we’re going to change our nation and our world, then it’s the Gospel that’s going to change it one person at a time. And I think our kids have got to grasp that concept,” he added.
And as Eboni and her friends plan for “take two” of their My Hope outreach – possibly a Bible study at school or playing “The Cross” at their table during lunch – it’s evident they can live up to that challenge.
Find TV listings of “The Cross,” at www.watchbillygraham.com