Evangelist Billy Graham returned to Texas Stadium, a venue he “opened” 31 years ago with his last evangelistic mission in North Texas, to again bring the message of hope about God’s love and forgiveness during his four-day Metroplex Mission, Oct. 17-20.
“I’ve come for one reason and that’s to preach the same Gospel that I did many years ago here,” Mr. Graham said. “This type of meeting is needed in every city in the country, and it’s needed at this particular hour in the history of our world.
“All we read in our newspapers and see on the television is the terror and the crime. People are searching for something, they are asking questions,” Mr. Graham continued. “We are trying to touch this city with the love of God that will leave behind a great sense of the need of God and of faith and that will strengthen and bring a new unity to the churches. We’re going to forget the divisions in theology and divisions in every other area and just stand together and see what God can do.”
Despite congested traffic and torrential rain the first two days, crowds set consecutive stadium attendance records of 82,000 and 83,500 on the weekend, with thousands more turned away each night. More than 15,500 spilled onto an overflow area in the parking lot on Sunday after gates were closed 45 minutes before the program began. An average of 51,000 attended each evening, of which nearly 11,100 made commitments to Christ throughout the four-day event.
Mission Co-Chairs Jim Nichols of Fort Worth and Boone Powell of Dallas welcomed Mr. Graham and those in attendance the first evening at the stadium. “As a general rule, upon leaving Texas Stadium, there are losers and there are winners,” Mr. Nichols said. “Everyone here tonight will be a winner after hearing an inspirational message from Billy Graham.”
Former President George Bush also spoke at the mission, thanking Mr. Graham for his ministry and encouraging audiences to embrace his message. “All of us who have been privileged to call the White House home have gained strength and a greater sense of purpose from his healing ministry,” Mr. Bush said. “Today we live in uncertain times and an unpredictable world, yet as Americans we have faith in a loving God. The God we all pray to, as Billy would tell us, is a God of love and peace.”
Pat Summerall, reknowned and beloved National Football League announcer, shared his own faith journey with the audience Friday evening, outlining the changes in his life since he made a commitment to Christ.
“What happened to me is one of the great miracles of all time — I am proud to say that I am a Christian, that I believe in Jesus Christ, and that I am ready for Eternity,” Summerall said. He encouraged the audience to consider assurance of their own salvation and future, then raised his hand in a toast, saying, “Here’s to Eternity.”
Mr. Graham’s younger brother, Melvin — a gentleman farmer who lives in their home town of Charlotte, North Carolina, — also challenged the crowd to be a witness for their faith whatever they do and wherever they go. “I just want to be a nobody willing to tell everybody there is Somebody who wants to save anybody,” he said.
The program appealed to the diversity of the Metroplex, with varying styles to help prepare hearts before Mr. Graham’s message. Musical genres and guests included country with Randy Travis; contemporary Christian with Caedmon’s Call, Michael W. Smith and CeCe Winans; Latin with Jaci Velasquez; southern Gospel with the Gaither Vocal Band; and performances by veteran youth night artists Jars of Clay, dcTalk, and Fort Worth’s own “hip-hop” sensation Kirk Franklin.
Impact Throughout the Community
More than 1,000 churches representing 37 denominations from throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex worked together during the year-long preparations for the four-day stadium event. Altogether, nearly 25,000 individuals volunteered their time and energy for the mission, serving as counselors, ushers, choir members and follow-up workers.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area is a community of churches, with 36 of the top 100 mega-churches in the country located in the Metroplex — half of which currently have building programs underway. One of the distinctives of this mission was a theological reconciliation among Christian leaders and congregations across denominational, geographical and racial boundaries. Meetings were translated into a variety of languages so that individuals from varying cultural backgrounds could hear Mr. Graham’s messages in their own “heart language.” Languages included Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Gujurati, Russian and Hindu.
In partnership with Operation Starting Line, the Metroplex Mission reached more than ten area prison facilities, where mission speakers and musicians and other volunteers — including Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship — were able to share Christ’s love and compassion to nearly 25,000 inmates, of which many indicated a desire to make a faith commitment.
The local need selected for the “Love-in-Action” emphasis was transportation, as many families in the area have a difficult time getting to and from work. “Bibles and Bikes,” became the theme, while the committee also encouraged donations of running cars and public transportation passes. To date, more then 600 bicycles have been donated, which will be distributed around Christmastime, and nearly 4,000 Bibles have been collected. At least four cars have been given to the cause, with more donations to follow.
Mr. Graham has repeatedly said he has no plans to retire, that he wants to preach the Gospel as long as he has strength, and that he wants to consider additional missions next year. Mission organizers observed that his preaching, which got stronger each night, was the most powerful it had been in the last five years. The evangelist reaffirmed that he will make a prayerful decision about future missions and ministry after he returns home from the Metroplex. “It’s in God’s hands,” he said.