As I stood outdoors under a wet sky a couple of weekends ago, proclaiming the Gospel to thousands of young people who gathered–in spite of the rain–in Canada’s Fraser Valley near Vancouver, I couldn’t help but think how fitting an occasion this was to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA).
Jesus told His disciples, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19, NKJV). Fishermen attract fish with bait, and we used music to draw the young people, but we were there to preach the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christian bands popular with teens played all during the afternoon and evening in a festive, open-air setting. Young people came to hear the music and to my surprise, stayed for hours in the pouring rain. Every hour and a half, I would get up and preach.
Over a period of seven hours I preached three different times about God’s gift of eternal life through repentance and faith in Christ, and I gave four invitations. With every invitation, I shared the Gospel that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died on the cross, shedding His life’s blood for our sin, and who God raised to life.
As the Holy Spirit worked, young adults and teenagers responded each time, praying to receive Christ as Savior and Lord–just as the Holy Spirit has stirred a response in thousands upon thousands of lives throughout BGEA’s years of worldwide ministry. It made me so grateful to know that God is still using and blessing the same work that He has called us to for decades–the preaching of His Gospel.
When an aging Paul wrote the last of his inspired letters shortly before he was martyred in Rome, he used powerful words to remind his young protégé Timothy of the priority of his ministry: “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ … preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. … Do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:1–2, 5).
Our society has become so secularized today. Some churches feel like they have to adapt to the culture, but by doing so they can shy away from clearly presenting the Gospel, as though ashamed to talk about Jesus Christ who died to save us from our sins. They may feel that the Gospel sounds too radical for the culture–but it is radical. “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
At BGEA, we never have and never will water down the Gospel. We relentlessly and boldly preach the message of the cross of Jesus Christ, His death, burial, and resurrection.
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Today’s culture has almost inoculated our society–especially our youth–against an awareness of sin. Our society is exposed to so much ungodliness and iniquity that it hardly even shames us any more. For that reason, we are engaged in a battle for the hearts and souls of a new generation. Many in the crowds of young people gathered at the Rock the River event in Fraser Valley outside Vancouver knew little or nothing about Jesus. But as God’s Gospel was proclaimed, the Holy Spirit worked to convict hundreds of their sin, making them aware of their separation from God and pointing them to the redemption found through faith in Jesus Christ.
When I gave the invitation, I simply told them, “If you have never asked God to forgive you of your sins and have never by faith invited His Son Jesus Christ into your life, do it right now. By coming forward, you are saying to God, ‘I am a sinner, I believe Jesus Christ is your Son who died on the cross and was raised to life, and I want Him to take control of my life.'”
Many responded. Pray for these young people and the many others whose lives are being changed by the power of the Gospel this summer. Pastors from the Fraser Valley area told me that one of the things they appreciated most was the training for evangelism we provided ahead of time. Some pastors called the results of the outreach a miracle, and many thanked us for coming. As I write, we have two more Rock the River evangelistic events in the next few weeks in Alberta, Canada–one in Calgary and one in Edmonton.
Later this fall I will take the BGEA team to Osaka, Japan, for a Crusade. The Japanese people have the highest life expectancy in the world, but only 2 percent are ready for eternity. So very many need to hear the truth of Jesus Christ, and we feel a great urgency to reach them with the Gospel.
After Osaka, we will hold a Crusade in Latvia, a small nation on the Baltic Sea in Eastern Europe that was formerly under Russian domination during the Cold War. This is Latvia’s first large-scale evangelistic outreach since it gained independence. Pray that many will hear and respond to the lasting hope found in Jesus Christ. We need your prayers for our team and especially for myself as I stand before men and women to share the Gospel.
As we celebrate BGEA’s 60th anniversary this month, how grateful I am that my father is still with us, along with Bev Shea and Cliff Barrows. This anniversary is also an occasion to remember the wonderful team and staff God has called over the years to assist my father and me in the preaching of the Gospel.
Approaching age 92, my father has a strong desire to preach one more time and is working hard to build his strength. Because of failing sight, he cannot see sermon notes or read the Scripture, and his hearing is poor, but his mind is sharp. Pray with us about this.
Thank you for your gracious support of this evangelistic ministry. My father and I greatly appreciate your partnership in the Gospel. Please remember us in prayer. We also need your financial support, if you are able to help, because God has given us enormous opportunities in the weeks and months ahead.
May God richly bless you in all the ways you serve Him,
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
God works through people like you to change the world by the power of the Gospel.
ROCK THE RIVER TOUR
The largest generation in our history knows less about Jesus than any generation before, yet they have a deep hunger for truth. Your gift of any amount can help produce an immediate dividend still this summer as teens and young adults hear and respond to the life-changing Gospel through our Rock the River Tour outreach.
After the Rock the River youth outreach, we will hold an evangelistic Crusade in Osaka, Japan. Shinto and Buddhism are the dominant religions in Japan, and 2 percent of the people know Christ. We need your urgent prayers. Then we’ll go to Latvia for a Crusade, on Russia’s western border. Your gift today will help us bring the Good News to people in Asia and Europe who desperately need Jesus.