The world’s most famous evangelist is calling pastors and church leaders across America to pray and prepare for nationwide evangelistic outreach. With training opportunities spread across 26 cities in Texas throughout the summer and spring, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is encouraging congregations to get on board for the weeklong outreach in November—culminating with a broadcast message from Graham on his 95th birthday.
According to organizers, “My Hope with Billy Graham” is a grassroots effort to reach people across the United States and Canada with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The evangelistic effort combines the technology afforded through video programs with the personal impact of relationships.
“Under the guidance of their local pastors, Christians across these two countries will open their homes to share the gospel message with friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors using videos featuring Billy Graham, dynamic music, and testimonies.”
Local churches are the focus of My Hope with Billy Graham effort. SBTC Evangelism Director Nathan Lorick affirmed Graham’s strategy of strengthening the local church by preparing pastors to train their members to pray for and share Christ with lost people around them.
“The BGEA is and has always been on the frontlines of evangelism,” Lorick said. “‘My Hope’ is another way in which they are penetrating the darkness of the human heart with the glorious light of our Lord Jesus. I am grateful for this effort and am praying for many to come to faith in Christ as a result.”
Thousands of trained Christians will use media programs to share the gospel with the people in their communities.
The training strategy, which kicks off in Texas in late March, is based on the example of the apostle Matthew described in Matthew 9:9-10 as inviting friends into his home for a meal to meet Jesus.
“Many Christians are nervous about sharing their faith with others,” a BGEA official noted. “But as we’ve done this outreach across the globe, people remark that it was well worth the effort.”
Organizers describe the typical community with 100 “average neighbors” as a place where:
—7 of your neighbors struggle with depression, even contemplating suicide,
—7 abuse or are addicted to drugs or alcohol,
—60 don’t profess to be born again,
—14 feel crippled or trapped by fear and anxiety,
—3 are grieving the death of a loved one, and
—8 are struggling with the loss of a job.
After holding the Los Angeles Crusade for eight weeks in 1949, the event captured the public’s attention to what became Graham’s singular vision of sharing the love of Jesus with all who would listen. “Everywhere I go I find that people, both leaders and individuals, are asking one basic question. ‘Is there any hope for the future?’ My answer is the same, ‘Yes, through Jesus Christ,’” he has stated.
Having preached the gospel on every continent, Graham said he has found that by presenting “the simple message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, with authority, quoting from the very Word of God, he takes that message and drives it supernaturally into the human heart.”
The strategy being introduced in Texas has over a decade-long track record of effectiveness throughout the world in 57 countries. In September 2002 more than 60,000 Operation Matthew house parties provided a gospel witness to every corner of El Salvador. Later that year a similar effort in Honduras led to 86,405 decisions with participation by 1,270 churches.
The reports from BGEA have repeated the same story every year. In more than 30 international “My Hope” campaigns, BGEA recorded 104,000 decisions in Russia in 2003; 700,000 responses in Columbia in 2004; 247,000 commitments in Peru in 2005, 4 million responses in India in 2004, 12,000 new believers reported in Thailand in 2009, 3 million decisions in Peru in 2010 and 120,000 commitments in Haiti in 2011.
The outreach’s vice president Preston Parrish says church leaders have proven vital to the effort.
“We’ve seen in 57 countries that ‘My Hope with Billy Graham’ really does depend on the involvement of pastors and churches to make it happen because they’re the ones whose members have the relationships with people in which they can be sharing the gospel,” he told KCBI-FM News.
Parrish said all it takes is five simple steps: look around, look up, look out, look forward and look after.
“Those are hooks on which strategy for reaching out to people in our network of relationships can take place.”
More than 970 churches and over 5,400 “Matthews” were trained in 2011 for My Hope Portugal, a project that was spread out over five days (Dec. 6-10) on a variety of mediums—over-the-air TV, pay-per-view TV, online streaming and DVDs.
For more information visit MyHopeWithBillyGraham.org or RSVP for one of the listed training events by calling 1-877-MY-HOPE.