Thousands of families and churches across North America are inviting friends and neighbors this week for food and conversation — and the chance to see the Rev. Billy Graham's last crusade.
Graham and the leadership of his North Carolina-based evangelistic association are planning a massive North America event called My Hope America, where small groups of people will join for dinner in homes and churches to watch a videotaped program that celebrates Graham's simple and powerful message of Christian salvation.
Over 25,000 churches are signed up to participate in the 30-minute broadcast event
, which culminates a ministry that has traveled the globe for decades as Graham, who turns 95 years old on the first day of the Nov. 7-10 event, shared the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the world.
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Eddie Cook, a pastor from Brighton, Colo., who is participating in "My Hope" with his church, told Newsmax that Graham's message, which he has previewed, brought him to tears.
"It is very, very personal, and also a little bit different," Cook said.
Cook and his wife will welcome a group of friends into their home and also at video-watching events at his church, which includes about 400 to 500 members. Cook said he believes the message they are set to hear will be transformative and modern.
"This one is bringing people together in a way never seen before," said Cook, a minister of evangelism at Harvest Fellowship and the owner of a Christian bookstore. "I think it's going to be a really encouraging and powerful message."
The Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the world-renowned evangelist, told Newsmax TV that the event will be his father's "last call."
"It is a tremendous film. It'll be his last call. It's called My Hope America. My father has hope. Ever since he was 16 years of age he's had hope and that's because at 16 he gave his life to Christ," said Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Cook, who served as a leader of a massive Graham crusade in Denver's Mile High Stadium about 20 years ago, has signed on as a "Matthew," the name for an event host.
The name draws on the Apostle Matthew, one of the 12 disciples, who, according to the New Testament verses Matthew 9: 9-13, answered Jesus' call to follow Him and opened his doors to introduce Christ to his friends.
Cook said the message will be delivered in a friendly setting that won't scare people away.
"Most of the people I know would rather have a God conversation outside of the church, so this is an opportunity for me to invite them into my home and not be threatening," Cook said. "Some people think the church is more for the believer than the unbeliever and I don't think that's good."
Preston Parrish, vice president of the My Hope America event, says the video, titled "The Cross," will show footage of Graham in the past and fresh film of him speaking today, interwoven with testimony from an athlete and a contemporary rap musician who share how accepting Jesus Christ as their savior changed their lives.
"You have him speaking it now as it applies to our society now," Parrish said of Graham's timely message, packaged in a way that it never has been before.
The programming will be distributed across multiple platforms, on national TV, various cable networks, local TV affiliates and also online for download and viewing, as well as on DVDs, Parrish said.
"Basically, we're offering it in whatever way works best for people to view it and show it to others. The message will be accessible," Parrish said.
Graham has held hundreds of crusades throughout his long career, Parrish noted. His first crusade was preached in 1947, setting off a career which sent him to six continents and 185 countries, where he ended his sermons with an altar call to accept Christ as savior.
Graham last preached publicly in 2006 at a crusade hosted by his son at Orioles Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore. He has continued to be active in what has been described as his retirement, writing books and engaging with his ministry programs as much as his health allows.
Parrish said that Graham's simple message — turning to God, confessing sin and accepting salvation — will ring loud and clear from Graham's latest venture, in which he has been very much engaged.
The "My Hope World Evangelism Through Television" concept has been rolled out in 57 other countries before this North America venture, and the association credits it as responsible for leading more than 5 million people worldwide to Christ.
"It's almost unthinkable that a man, as he approaches 95 years of age, would work to videotape a fresh message to the nation, yet that is exactly what Billy Graham has done," Parrish said. "Knowing this effort is taking place across the nation and working on his message has truly energized and excited him. It's a great thing to see."
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"The Bible says, even in old age, they will bear fruit," Parrish said. "It's a wonderful thing to see Billy Graham as he approaches his 95th birthday, still bearing fruit and conveying this message of hope in Christ that he's preached all his life."
Graham, Parrish said, worked hard to ensure that his message would be vital for today's world.
"He really has had a passion and burden to preach again. And I think Billy Graham can bring a new, fresh message once again across North America," he said of the "My Hope" events. "He'll do it this time by means of technology, by video … and people can come together to hear this in tens of thousands of living rooms across the country."
That personalized approach, in an intimate setting, is badly needed as many have become disconnected from those around them in recent years, Parrish said.
"Relationships are key in the Christian faith," he said. "Anytime people see a Billy Graham crusade on television, they see a great throng of people, but so often what folks miss is the understanding that by and large, these great throngs come together as a result of one-on-one personal relationships.
"By people coming together in living rooms, it's relationship based. It's based on truly loving, caring relationships and getting people into a setting where they have the opportunity to hear God's love for them."
The tactic also mirrors the life of the early Christian church, where new followers would meet in homes to learn more about Jesus.
"We see in the book of Acts, they met, they prayed, they fellowshipped and took meals together from house to house," Parrish said. "In our society, I think we've lost something very valuable. We are fragmented and disconnected. We have superficial online connections. So with this, the whole emphasis is on gathering face to face and focusing on real relationships."
In October, Billy Graham spoke exclusively with Newsmax
about the current political climate in America, noting the threats America faces from government in civil and religious liberties. He described the nation as sinking in a "sea of immorality" and said he believes Christ's return to Earth is ever more near.
Graham has released his latest book, "The Reason for My Hope: Salvation,"
and said he thinks the country has retreated of late from its founding principles.
"Our early fathers led our nation according to biblical principles," Graham told Newsmax in writing. "'Hope and change' has become a cliché in our nation … The human heart can be changed only by the power of God. Hope is certain only through His Son Jesus Christ — not in the change agents of the world."
For more information go to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website
You can watch the broadcast online by clicking here.
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