EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of a seven-part series by veteran journalist Troy Anderson about major evangelists who are turning their attention toward America to help ignite what Billy Graham describes as an end-times “great spiritual awakening.”
By Troy Anderson
“God’s prophet” – famed evangelist Billy Graham – is praying America will experience another “great spiritual awakening.”
International evangelist Reinhard Bonnke – whose ministry records 72 million people responding to the call of salvation in Africa and elsewhere – says God told him the time has come for “a mighty wave of salvation to sweep the USA.”
And Harvest Crusades President Greg Laurie – a Southern California megachurch pastor who became a believer during the legendary Jesus Movement of the late 1960s and 70s – believes America’s “only real hope” is national revival.
At a time when many believe the midnight hour on God’s prophetic clock is fast approaching, major evangelists – Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, Bonnke, Laurie, Chuck Smith, Banning Liebscher and others – are turning their attention toward America in the hope of helping ignite an end-times awakening.
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The movement comes as Graham, the 94-year-old New York Times bestselling author and evangelist who has preached to more people – 2.2 billion – than any Protestant in history and has provided spiritual counsel to every president from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush, released a letter last summer titled “My Heart Aches for America.”
In the letter, Graham wondered what his late wife, Ruth, would think of a nation in which “self-centered indulgence, pride and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle.”
Graham compared America to the ancient city of Nineveh, the lone superpower of its time. When the prophet Jonah finally traveled to Nineveh and proclaimed God’s warning, the people repented and escaped judgment, Graham wrote.
“I think it’s an apt description,” Laurie said. “I think in many ways America is like Nineveh. The wickedness of Nineveh was so great that God effectively said it was recognized up in heaven – ‘the sin of Nineveh has come before me’ – and I believe America is at such a state.”
Laurie said Graham “is a prophetic voice, and to me it’s like Isaiah or Jeremiah standing up and telling our nation what we need to do.”
“We would be wise to heed his warning and his admonitions and turn back to God, because I believe God’s prophet is speaking to us,” Laurie said.
Hope for America
Believing that America, like Nineveh, also has a window of time to repent and return to God, Graham is holding the My Hope America with Billy Graham evangelistic outreach the week of Nov. 7, his 95th birthday. [More information can also be found by calling 1-877-7MY-HOPE, or 1-877-769-4673].
A Billy Graham meeting at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1963 set an attendance record of 134,254
“My Hope has been used in many countries and hundreds of thousands of people have received Christ as Savior,” Graham said. “I think it’s going to be a tremendous time of evangelism. I think that the Lord is going to use it mightily. I’ve been praying that we might have a spiritual awakening. But I think that becomes possible as individuals surrender their lives fresh and anew to Christ. And that’s the hope that we have.”
In a massive, nationwide event now involving more than 16,000 churches and hundreds of thousands of people, Americans are expected to gather with family, friends, neighbors and co-workers the week of Nov. 7 to watch programs featuring a new and powerful message from Graham, dynamic music and testimonies.
Some will invite guests into their homes or churches to learn about Jesus using television or video, while others will gather at a coffee shop or the park to watch the program on a tablet or smartphone.
“I believe this could be a huge night in American church history as hundreds of thousands of homes are opened and hundreds of thousands of people are sitting and watching and hearing the gospel,” said Franklin Graham, Graham’s son and president and chief executive officer of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. “It just might be one of the largest evangelistic efforts in the history of our nation.”
The My Hope America with Billy Graham event is part of a larger effort by major evangelists and ministries who are planning numerous evangelistic crusades, conferences and other events this year and next.
The movement began in February when Bonnke declared to 5,000 people in attendance at the two-day Gospel Fest in Vero Beach, Fla. that, “All America shall be saved!” Bonnke is best known for his crusades in Africa and for his cry, “All Africa shall be saved!”
On June 16, several thousand “Jesus People” gathered at the Calvary Chapel Summer Crusade with Franklin Graham and Calvary Chapel Pastor Chuck Smith in Costa Mesa, Calif. Then, on July 22-24, about 6,000 youth gathered for the Jesus Culture Conference in Universal City, Calif. where Bonnke spoke.
Bonnke, known for his Great Gospel Crusades in Africa in which as many as 1.6 million people attend, said God told him last year it was time to “cast the Gospel net across America.”
Bonnke will speak next Sept. 27-28 at the Good News Orlando crusade at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla.
He said he wants to fill the Orlando arena and then “go from city to city, from state to state and from coast to coast.”
“America will be saved!”
Bonnke said Americans “need to hear the Gospel.” When he preached in Germany, he said, skeptics told him Germans had rejected the Gospel.
“I preached in a stadium and when I made the altar call, the power of God was so wonderfully present that I saw with my own eyes people jumping over the benches to come forward,” Bonnke said. “They couldn’t come forward for the prayer of salvation fast enough, and then I realized one thing: Germany has not rejected the Gospel. I think the new generation has never really heard the Gospel.
“Every generation has a right to hear the Gospel, the ABC’s of the Gospel – the Gospel of salvation. And I believe the younger generation in America also has the right to hear the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ and make up its own mind.”
Call to repentance
The crusades and other events come as a number of spiritual and political leaders have made calls for repentance in recent years, arguing the nation is in a downward spiral of economic decline, corruption, immorality, secular humanism and attacks on religious liberty.
WND.com founder and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Farah is calling for a nationwide day of prayer, repentance and fasting on Sept. 11 – the 9/11: National Day of Prayer and Repentance – in response to the “ongoing downfall of our nation.” The plan is embraced by thousands around the country, including Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., Chuck Norris, Laurie and Rabbi Jonathan Cahn.
Rabbi Jonathan Cahn
Cahn, author of the New York Times bestselling book “The Harbinger: The Ancient Mystery that holds the Secret of America’s Future,” said there is a strong awareness among believers and Christian leaders that America is in “great spiritual danger.”
“The speed of its departure from God has accelerated,” said Cahn, the senior rabbi at the nation’s largest messianic congregation, the Beth Israel Worship Center in Wayne, N.J., and a descendant of Aaron, the brother of the biblical prophet Moses. “Hardly a day passes without another step in the nation’s moral and spiritual descent. To anyone who is spiritually sensitive or, for that matter, who reads the Bible, the picture is clear.
“We stand at a tipping point,” he said. “I believe that’s why the Lord caused ‘The Harbinger’ to be released at this exact point in time. It’s a warning, the sounding of the trumpet, the call to return. The only hope we have is that of a turning of course, repentance, revival, a return to God.”
In addition to the annual Harvest Crusade Aug. 23-25 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., Laurie will preach Sept. 28-29 at Harvest America at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Harvest Crusades, in its 24th year of leading national and international Christian revivals, selected Philadelphia because of its history as the birthplace of the nation.
Many believe the U.S. is at a new historic crossroads and hope that events such as this can help bring spiritual revival across the land. The event will be held at 7 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 28 and 29. Thousands of other locations around the country will participate via satellite and live-streaming.
“I think (Graham) is the reason we are seeing this emphasis on the gospel and bringing it to America,” said Laurie, who has preached to more than 4.7 million people and has seen nearly 400,000 make a faith decision since beginning Harvest Crusades in 1990. “Those of us who are Christians recognize that the only real hope for our country is for us to have a spiritual awakening.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of ministers and others in all 50 states are continuing to gather in preparation meetings for My Home America with Billy Graham. At the meetings, pastors and lay church leaders are learning how to maximize the nationwide evangelistic outreach in their own congregations. Meetings are still taking place across the country through the summer. In addition to the meetings, thousands of individuals have registered for the project and participated in the free online training.
“The My Hope strategy asks churches to involve their members as Matthews,” said Preston Parrish, the BGEA vice president for My Hope America with Billy Graham. “Matthew was an early follower of Christ in the New Testament who had been a tax collector for the Romans. When he met Christ and began to follow Christ, he threw a party in his home and invited his friends so they could meet Jesus as well and experience his life-changing power.
“So these participating churches, more than 16,000 of them now, are encouraging their church members to make themselves available as Matthews – as people who will open their homes to their family members, neighbors, friends, co-workers and others in conjunction with a specially-prepared program in which Billy Graham communicates the Gospel.”
After the broadcast, Parish encourages these “Matthews” to share their brief, personal stories of salvation about how Jesus has changed their lives and then give a “loving invitation … to begin having this experience of a relationship with Jesus Christ too.”
Franklin Graham, who conducted his first evangelistic event in 1989 and has since preached to more than 7 million people around the world, said it’s called “living room evangelism.”
“It’s beginning to pray now for your unsaved family and friends and on Nov. 7 invite them to your home,” he said. “Have a hot dog, have a meal. Everyone has friends and family come to their homes, but invite some of your unsaved ones. Have them come and we will bring the telecast everyone can watch, either by downloading it on your computer or watching it on television. There are a number of formats in terms of ways it can be seen.
“But the point is it’s a 30-minute program and at the end of the 30 minutes the Gospel is given. The invitation is there. All you have to do then is turn to your family and friends and say, ‘You heard Dr. Graham. What do you think? Would you like to invite Christ into your heart?’ Once the invitation is extended, then you just watch the Holy Spirit go to work.”
Franklin Graham said the event couldn’t come at a more important time in America’s history. He says America “is in trouble.”
“We have turned our back morally and spiritually on God,” Franklin Graham said. “Our churches are in trouble, too. We are so concerned about being relevant to the culture. God never called us to be relevant to the culture. Our Father in heaven has called us to be obedient to Him. We are to be faithful and true. But the fact this whole relativism has got a hold of our churches is troubling to me. We need to get back to what God has called us to do and that is to evangelize.”
The church, he said, is “losing our country.”
“We are not evangelizing,” he said. “We have all these religions coming into our country. We have opened up the door to Islam and Hinduism and all these other religions have come in. They are making great strides, but the church is asleep. We are praying that with My Hope this fall that churches would catch a vision for evangelism and they would see that evangelism works.”
When asked if there is still hope, Cahn said if there was no hope there would be no harbingers and no book called “The Harbinger.”
“Why would there be warnings if there was no chance to heed them,” Cahn said. “If I only looked at the direction in which American culture is heading, I would have no hope. But with God, there’s hope. The fact that so many of God’s people and leaders are feeling led to pray, to seek God’s face, and to repent is a good sign. It may even be taken as a sign of God’s grace.”
When people ask Cahn what the future holds for America – judgment or revival – he says he answers “there can be both.”
“In fact, revival can even come through judgment and national shaking,” Cahn said. “And the Lord can touch a remnant in the midst of national judgment. It’s interesting that these calls for prayer including that of 9/11: National Day of Prayer and Repentance converge around the time of the holy days of the Bible – the days which are linked to judgment, repentance and return to God.”