Franklin Graham breaks new ground in Australia

Souls being saved yet traditional allies withdraw support

As Sydney gears up to be the last stop of Franklin Graham’s tour of Australia this weekend, an interesting pattern has emerged. Billy Graham’s son leaves a double legacy.

His meetings have drawn a good crowd this month. In Melbourne, about 500 could not get into a packed Hisense Arena to hear Graham, the Planetshakers band and guest musician Crowder.

“I’ll see you in heaven.” – Franklin Graham

But it wasn’t the sound of music that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association team highlighted in their report. “….there is a sound. Oh, yeah, there’s that sweet sound of celebrating a new life in Christ that’s unmistakably powerful.”

“Franklin Graham had just led more than 400 people packed in front of the Melbourne Arena floor stage in a prayer of salvation, when the crowd erupted on Saturday.

“Spontaneous heavenly combustion.

“‘God bless you,’ Franklin Graham said a few minutes later to the filled-capacity-crowd of more than 9,000. ‘I’ll see you in heaven.’”

Before the official stats are compiled, with the precision of the original Billy Graham tours about sixty, fifty and forty year ago, it is clear that the 2019 Franklin Graham tour has seen hundreds come to Christ. Nearly half in Melbourne were 25 years old or younger.

Billy never made it to Darwin, but Franklin did, and 85 per cent of the local churches took part. Hundreds were reported as being added to a harvest of souls.

In Melbourne, leading churches such as Crossway and CityLife took part, as well as many smaller and ethnic-based churches. But across Australia, there have been critics from within the traditional Billy Graham Coalition.

A second (and, compared with salvation, lesser) legacy for the Franklin Graham tour is the complicated response on the part of churches.

“Lie down with rats and you get up with fleas” – Dominic Steele

Anglican evangelicals were key to the original Graham tours, with Bishop Jack Dain a key to building unity between churches. But Eternity has noticed the “Trump problem” (Franklin Graham’s support for the US President) among Anglican and Baptists in particular.

There is a whiff of inner city disdain for this Graham tour, even among very conservative preachers.

“Lie down with rats and you get up with fleas,” said Dominic Steele of Village Church Annandale, inner Sydney. He was speaking about Graham’s strong support of  President Trump despite Trump’s attitude and behaviour towards women. Steele was saying Graham has compromised his ability to preach the gospel. This contrasted with a warm endorsement by Glenn Davies, Steele’s Archbishop. Other comments have been less colourful, but it is clear that Franklin Graham has built a different coalition to his father.

There’s been strong support from Pentecostal networks such as the Australian Christian Churches, and as mentioned above, smaller and ethnic-based churches.

In Melbourne, in Australia’s most left-leaning state, Graham got a standing ovation when he was introduced. “A very Pentecostal response”, one very senior Graham observer told Eternity. A new Graham has drawn a new crowd.

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