This wasn’t exactly a kitchen table conversation.
But Will Graham didn’t come to Montana for a nine-day, watered-down tour to sugar coat the truth.
On Friday night, inside Helena’s Lewis and Clark County Fairgounds, he broke down a topic that doesn’t get much play on social media these days. Or any day, really.
“Sin—it’s not a popular concept,” Billy Graham’s grandson said at the Big Sky Celebration kickoff. “But sin separates us from God.”
Like stealing? Cheating? Or what about murder?
“Have you ever lied?” Graham kept going, bringing things back down a notch. “Do you worship money? Success? Fame?”
The crowd grew eerily quiet. All this sin talk was getting a little too real.
“Jesus said, ‘Have you ever hated your brother?’” Graham, wearing a dark gray checkered sport coat, paused for an extra beat. “I’ve got two brothers, so that says enough.”
His humor and authenticity brought laughter and self-reflection to the crowd of 1,100-plus. He also spoke directly to the audience online, where more than 6,000 tuned in around the world.
After high-energy music from The Afters and The Color, Will Graham closed out the night’s final chapter, calling people to follow Jesus Christ as the Lord of their life.
And quickly, they came forward.
“You say, ‘I’m tired of the guilt. I’m tired of the shame,’” Graham said. “It all starts tonight.”
Tears of Repentance
Annika, 14, of Townsend, Montana, couldn’t help but smile. After driving 40 miles to the Celebration to serve as a counselor, God put her and a woman in her 60’s together during the counseling time.
Annika’s heart raced a little.
“I was a little nervous to talk to her,” she said. “But as soon as she started talking and opening up, it was really great.”
Graham’s message about the need for a Savior to “pay the price” pierced her heart.
“She was very impacted by Will’s message,” Annika said. “She was crying, saying how good it was. It felt like she really needed to be here.”
A 15-year-old girl came to Christ as her friend and cousin walked forward with her. A 20-year-old man responded, telling his counselor “something is missing in my life.” And two cousins, both students at Helena Christian High School, came forward to make sure they understood what it means to be Christ followers.
Stacey, their counselor, walked them through the heart of “Living in Christ,” a discipleship booklet which includes the Gospel of John, given to each person who came forward.
“If God takes a group of kids and sets them on fire, that would make such an impact in this city,” Stacey said.
Over half of those making decisions for Christ on Friday were age 25 and younger.
‘I Was Thrilled’
Forget that it’s been over 70 years now. Patricia Lindeman remembers that tent revival like it was last week.
Patricia and her husband Conrad were newlyweds who moved from Miles City, Montana, to Los Angeles for ministry training in the late 1940s when they heard about a Billy Graham Crusade under the big tent in L.A.
“We didn’t even have a chair to sit on, there were so many people,” she recalled. “So we took turns standing on a pipe, so we could see him. He was tremendous that night. He preached on what it means to be born again.”
Patricia, 89, now lives in Helena and heard that Billy Graham’s grandson was coming to town. “I was thrilled,” she said. “Oh Billy, I’m going to see your grandson. I’ve heard a lot of good things about both Franklin and Will.”
Many times over the years, the Lindemans would go to “Billy’s meetings” around the country, Patricia said, to the point where his preaching and George Beverly Shea’s music left a lasting impression on their 60-plus years of ministry. Conrad passed away eight-and-a-half years ago.
“Billy was my hero,” she said. “A marvelous, marvelous evangelist.”
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