By Troy Anderson
Believing God will allow him to live to 95, famed evangelist Billy Graham is making his “final call to America to turn to God.”
Timed to coincide with his 95th birthday, Graham is calling people in the United States and Canada to repentance as part of the “My Hope with Billy Graham” evangelistic outreach set for the week of Nov. 7, 2013.
Unlike his famous stadium crusades over the past six decades, Graham is asking Christians to invite family, friends and neighbors to their homes to watch the “Living Room Crusade” on their televisions, tablets or smartphones as part of a massive grassroots effort to ignite a spiritual awakening in North America.
In what is expected to be the largest undertaking in its 60-plus year history, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association hopes to mobilize millions of Christians to register as host “Matthews” at www.myhopewithbillygraham.org and undergo training to learn how to share their faith with others.
“We have seen God visit our nation in powerful and transformational ways in the past,” Preston Parrish, vice president of “My Hope with Billy Graham,” told WND.com. “We are praying this will be a real moment of revival and awakening and transformation across our nation.”
The announcement comes as Graham – whom Parrish described as “very sharp and keen mentally” at age 93 – released a letter last month entitled, “My Heart Aches for America.” In the letter, Graham recalled how his late wife Ruth once expressed concerns about the “terrible downward spiral of our nation’s moral standards” – exclaiming, “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”
Graham wondered what his wife would think of America today – noting millions of babies have since been aborted and “self-centered indulgence, pride and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle.”
“My heart aches for America and its deceived people,” wrote Graham, who has preached to more people – 2.2 billion – than any other Protestant in history and has provided spiritual counsel to every president from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush. He received Barack Obama in his home in 2010.
“The wonderful news is that our Lord is a God of mercy, and He responds to repentance. In Jonah’s day, Nineveh was the lone world superpower – wealthy, unconcerned and self-centered. When the prophet Jonah finally traveled to Nineveh and proclaimed God’s warning, people heard and repented. I believe the same thing can happen once again, this time in our nation.”
Anne Gimenez, the national chairperson of America for Jesus – The Awakening, says similar revivals have occurred in the past in America and Europe during other times of declining morality and spiritual darkness.
“I think Billy Graham’s idea is genius,” says Gimenez, whose organization expects hundreds of thousands of people to gather at Independence Mall in Philadelphia, Pa., Sept. 28 and 29 to pray for another Great Awakening in the United States. For more information, log onto www.afj2012.org. “We’ve been waiting for an idea that would spark America into revival and perhaps this is it.
“America and the world seem to be in a state of growing apostasy and unbelief. Atheism and agnosticism is growing by leaps and bounds. In history, when there is great darkness engulfing the world, there is also the opportunity for a great light to come – the gospel light. And so at this time when we seem to be spiraling downward into spiritual darkness, it is the ideal and opportune time for a great spiritual awakening.”
Graham’s letter comes as a growing number of spiritual and political leaders have made similar calls for repentance, stressing that the nation is in a downward spiral of economic decline, corruption, immorality, secular humanism and attacks on religious liberty.
Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, the author of the New York Times bestselling book, “The Harbinger – The Ancient Mystery that holds the Secret of America’s Future,” says the fact Graham released the letter at “this point in his life” and “at this moment in America is very significant.”
“Billy Graham has been a pastor to presidents and the most famous evangelist in the world for the past several generations. For such a word to come from such a voice is stunning,” says Cahn, the senior rabbi at the nation’s largest messianic congregation, the Beth Israel Worship Center in Wayne, N.J. “He is giving the nation a prophetic warning.”
“His words match the overcall message and call of ‘The Harbinger,’ that America is in rapid departure from God and His ways – that it now stands in danger of judgment and the signs that appeared in judgment of Israel are now reappearing on American soil. And yet no matter how dark it gets, there is still hope for mercy and room for redemption, but that redemption can only come through the repentance and prayers of God’s people.
“The other thing that’s striking about Billy Graham’s warning is that it comes at the same time when believers across the nation are sensing this very same thing and when leaders are increasingly calling for prayer and intercession for America. ‘The Harbinger’ ends with a call for prayer, repentance, and revival among God’s people. That all these things are converging at the same time is significant.”
In fact, the most in-demand Christian video around today is “Isaiah 9:10 Judgment,” the video that explains the message from “The Harbinger.”
The Graham crusade also comes as several organizations are planning prayer gatherings, evangelistic festivals and other events over the next year.
Starting Sept. 28 and continuing through Nov. 6, 40 Days to Save America is calling for repentance, prayer and fasting in the 40 days prior to the presidential election. For more information, log into http://40daystosaveamerica.com.
This event and others follow The Response when Texas Gov. Rick Perry declared Aug. 6, 2011, a day of prayer, fasting and repentance. He invited fellow governors to attend the event at Reliant Stadium – saying it was time to “convene the leaders of each of our United States in a day of prayer and fasting, like that described in the book of Joel.”
Luis Cataldo, the director of The Response and an intercessory missionary at the International House of Prayer, says when a “father of the faith like Billy Graham” issues a letter of this magnitude it has to be taken seriously.
“When he says America is in trouble, we have to repent,” Cataldo says. “He’s gone through global wars as a spiritual shepherd. He’s seen a bunch of stuff and he’s saying America, ‘We have to repent.’ This may be our last chance to repent. We’ve turned away from God and God is just, loving and right to bring judgment.”
Even more significantly, Cataldo says, God is now awakening the church through a convergence of political and spiritual leaders calling the nation to prayer, fasting and repentance.
“It’s almost as though the Lord is trying to awaken the church and is now bypassing the church and going to government officials,” Cataldo says. “Gov. Perry, (Kansas) Gov. Sam Brownback and other leading government officials are calling for Joel 2 solemn assemblies. They are doing it because there is a spiritual crisis in America.”
Billy Wilson, executive director of the Awakening America Alliance and the Center for Spiritual Renewal, says the alliance representing a coalition of 300 Pentecostal and charismatic ministers is partnering with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association as it prepares for the crusade.
“We are very excited about Dr. Graham”s desire to speak at this stage in his life to our nation,” Wilson says. “Obviously, Dr. Graham’s voice in America is one of the strongest of perhaps the last two generations of Christians. We are honored to partner with him and ‘My Hope with Billy Graham.’”
At this time, Wilson says America finds itself in perhaps the place of greatest spiritual need in its history.
“We find ourselves in a 21st century world where in many ways our future and destiny is at stake,” Wilson says. “Really, the only hope for America is God’s grace and His covering over our nation. That only comes when God’s people humble themselves and pray, and sometimes we forget the last one – turn from our wicked ways. The call for righteousness among Christians and the church in America should be very strong in every pulpit across the nation right now.”
“My Hope with Billy Graham” is a massive effort to reach people across the United States and Canada with the “good news of God’s love,” Parrish says.
Since 2002, Graham’s son, Franklin, and grandson, Will Graham, have spoken at “My Hope” evangelistic festivals in 57 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. More than 305,000 churches have participated and more than 10 million decisions for Jesus have been recorded
“Now, in 2013, there is a broad sense of conviction and urgency about the timeliness of this important project in the U.S. and Canada,” Parrish says. “We want to help people in North America understand in a fresh way the love God has for them and the forgiveness and eternal life he offers them in the person of Jesus Christ.”
Following a simple biblical model, the outreach combines the reach and excitement of a nationwide media event with the power of personal 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 different media programs featuring Graham’s message, popular music and real-life testimonies.
“The idea is part of the biblical pattern for us as Christians to be showing God’s love to the people around us,” Parrish says. “The most loving thing we can do for someone else is not only to give them food and water, but to give them the message that has given us hope for eternal life.”
The outreach is modeled after the biblical story of Matthew. After accepting Jesus’ call to follow Him, Matthew invited friends into his house to meet the person who changed his life, Like the Apostle Matthew, Christians in North America will invite their guests into their homes to learn about Jesus using prime-time television, while others will gather at a coffee shop or the park to watch the program on a tablet or smartphone. They will then share their own story of how they met Jesus and invite their friends to pray to receive Jesus. Each host will follow up with new believers and encourage them to become part of a local church.
With “My Hope with Billy Graham” and other events and outreaches planned in the coming months, Wilson says he has great hope for the spiritual future of North America.
“We may be on the edge of a new Great Awakening right now, to be honest,” Wilson says. “Though things look dark, that has always been true in America before every great spiritual movement. This was true before the First Great Awakening, the Second Great Awakening and the other awakenings. In that darkness, God’s people united in prayer to turn the tide. If we unite together in prayer, I believe we can see a new Great Awakening and I believe what Dr. Graham is trying to do can be very effective – but only if God’s people really humble themselves, pray and repent in this season.”