As the aircraft was revving up its engines and picking up speed on the El Paso runway, I leaned back in my seat and thanked the Lord for what had taken place in this border-crossing town on the Rio Grande. More than 42,000 heard the Gospel proclaimed; and including pre-Festival meetings, the Festival itself and the live Internet stream, 2,880 indicated their decision to commit their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. Recorded statistics show that people from 157 countries participated in the Festival via the Web. I thanked the Lord for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and our team.
The Apostle Paul’s words came to mind: “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:14-16).
This passage demonstrates how much God wants to extend His magnanimous grace to all people. Paul’s personal commitment to proclamation evangelism was rock-solid: I am obligated, I am eager, and I am not ashamed. Similar commitment marks the ministry of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
For more than 60 years, BGEA has been actively involved in proclamation evangelism, obediently fulfilling the Great Commission of the Master; and there are no signs of slowing down. The mandate remains unchanged: “Do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5). God called us to be practitioners of the Word. Unless we do evangelism, individuals worldwide will continue to live in sin and perish. The essence of evangelism is straightforward—proclaiming the unchanging, God-inspired message of God’s Son who came to earth, who died for our sins, who rose again and who is coming back. And all who will turn from their sin and put their faith in Jesus Christ will be saved. We are instructed to tell the story in a simple, appropriate manner and leave the results to the Holy Spirit.
The Apostle James reminds us to be “doers of the word” (James 1:22). In the original, the word doer is the same as the word poet. Poets are a creative bunch. They always pick the right word and choose a rhyme. Evangelism also requires great creativity. How do you share the Gospel in 20 seconds through a narrowly opened door with someone who is holding a child in one hand and a cellphone in another? How do you share the Gospel to a stadium filled with people of various ages, cultures, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds, and through an interpreter, someplace in Tbilisi, Georgia; or in Mt. Hagen, Papua New Guinea? Ask BGEA folks, and they will tell you. This is a highly creative and committed group.
Evangelism is to be done with the highest degree of integrity. The sacred psalmist says, “May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you” (Psalm 25:21). The Modesto Manifesto is a set of ministry guidelines birthed by BGEA founders in 1948 in a hotel room in Modesto, Calif. The guidelines were born out of a desire to be above reproach in all areas of ministry—particularly in finances, morals, statistics and church life—and are still central to everything BGEA does.
Evangelism must be done strategically and with a definite goal in sight. We go to places where Christ has not yet been named. This year alone, Lord willing, BGEA will hold 28 large-scale evangelistic Festivals worldwide. The great Puritan writer Thomas Watson said, “The heart is a triangle, which only the Trinity can fill.” As we proclaim the Gospel, we call people, under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, to make a decision for the Lord.
Eliphaz of old, a very religious man, asked a reflective question: “Can a man be profitable to God?” It is true that God does not need man to accomplish His purposes.
Yet, He decided to include us in His divine purposes. He calls us to serve Him, and whatever results from our obedient service for Him, God considers a benefit to His Kingdom.
One of the many benefits an active and committed follower of Christ can render to God is mobilizing other believers for service, stirring their souls until they willingly say together with the prophet: “His word is in my heart like fire. … I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (Cf. Jeremiah 20:9). With God’s help, BGEA is attempting to mobilize many for the work of the Kingdom. This year alone, we will work with more than 2,000 churches worldwide in our Crusade ministry.
BGEA mobilizes individual Christians to become team players. The reason Paul the Apostle achieved so much in his lifetime is that he was able to mobilize a team. Just look at a list of members of his team: Barnabas, Timothy, Luke, Silas, Mark, Tychicus, Urbanus, Rufus and Olympas, to name a few. BGEA mobilizes those who have the courage to stand up for the Lord, maximizing the ministry’s impact for global evangelism.
If there is something BGEA has learned to do over the years, it is to mobilize Christians to pray for evangelism. Active, unceasing prayer by thousands of believers is the foundation of every evangelistic effort. Historian Stanley High tells of a Scottish minister standing one rainy night with Billy Graham while thousands streamed into the venue. The minister remarked, “What a miracle,” to which Billy Graham said, “It is no miracle. It would be a miracle if they didn’t come. What is happening is the inevitable and natural result of God answering prayer. This is God in action.”
By doing what it’s been called to do, BGEA considers itself to be a partner of the local church in the work of evangelism, not the owner of a particular mode of evangelism. We invest in those who are lost, in local believers and local churches. As a result, churches are strengthened by training, encouragement and new believers. The Bible says that all those who have invested wisely are invited to enter into the joy of their Master (Matthew 25:21).
Søren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher, has written a number of parables, including one about religious geese. Suppose geese could talk and have their own religious services. Every Sunday they came together, and one of the ganders preached what a lofty destiny the geese had—they could fly away to distant regions.
Some of the geese seemed to be suffering and grew thin, and it was said, “There, you see what it leads to when flying is taken seriously. Because their hearts are occupied with the thought of wanting to fly, they become thin, do not thrive, do not have the grace of God as we have who become plump and delicate.”
Sunday after Sunday, these geese went to worship, and the old gander preached the same sermon about the high goal the Creator had set before the geese, whereto the wings were designed. As soon as the assembly broke up, each waddled home to his own affairs—never once actually flying as they were created to do!
BGEA may not do evangelism to everyone’s liking, but by the grace of God, I know the parable above will never be true of this worldwide ministry. I witnessed evidence to the contrary in El Paso. ©2014 BGEA
Viktor Hamm is vice president of Crusades for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.