We've all seen those massive, conglomerate, super churches. And we've also all either been supremely awed by their presence, or extremely jealous that our favorite sports teams don't have gyms as nice as the local church. Whatever the reaction, there is probably one man to thank or despise - Billy Graham. Reverend Graham rose to prominence in the 1950's due to his large, public rallies and demonstrations. His popularity has increased over the years, and thus his name has become synonymous with evangelism. Now, at the ripe age of 95, Billy Graham intends to release his "My Hope" campaign to the United States.
The campaign is set to hit American airwaves on November 7 - Graham's birthday. To celebrate both momentous occasions, Graham has invited more than 800 people to his North Carolina home to view the program. The list of attendees includes Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Governor Pat McCroy, and musician Michael W. Smith. Both Bush Sr. and Jr. declined Graham's invitation, the former due to ill-health and the latter due to scheduling conflicts. Bill Clinton has yet to make a decision about whether or not he will attend.
The spirit of Graham's message lies with the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew was an apostle of Jesus who often invited people into his personal home to meet Jesus and spread the gospel. Through his "My Hope" campaign, Graham is hoping to inspire millions of Americans to "become Matthews". So far, more than 25,000 churches have agreed to support the program and air the 30 minute video, which features athletes and musicians sharing their stories of how Jesus has impacted their lives, along with a few messages from Graham himself.
This will be the first time Graham has publicly presented a message since 2006. Due to his increasing age, declining health, and the ever-increasing pervasiveness of digital media, Graham has opted to present his message in a video instead of to a live audience. Preston Parrish, the vice president of the "My Hope" America event, believes that this method of delivery will be the most effective way to reach America:
"We see in the book of Acts, they met, they prayed, they fellowshipped and took meals together from house to house.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."
While this is the advent of the "My Hope" message here in the United States, the Billy Graham Evangelical Foundation estimates the this particular campaign, which began worldwide in 2002, has reached more than 10 million people, in 57 countries, worldwide. So why is this campaign coming to the United States after 11 years of existence? Graham feels that now is the right time due to several reasons, such as the facts that 7% of people struggle with depression on a daily basis, 14% of people are afflicted by fear/anxiety, 7% of people are addicted to some form of drug, 8% of people are unemployed, and most importantly - 60 out of every 100 people do not consider themselves "born again."
Franklin Graham, Billy's son, has said that the "My Hope" campaign will "be his [Bill Graham's] last call." Considering the man is turning 95, one can rightfully say it is time to hang up the vestments and let God handle the rest of the work (because God is theoretically immortal and whatnot, you know).
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