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Mass evangelism returns

Billy Graham and Bethel Church plan major Australian events in 2019

As the world mourns Billy Graham, planning has started for a possible Australian campaign by his son, Franklin Graham.

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Churches and leaders have been sounded out about a possible evangelism programme or campaign for February 2019. A series of  “invitation only” lunches and dinners for church leaders have been held in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin and Brisbane. Franklin Graham is the son of evangelist Billy Graham, and father of Will Graham, who has conducted a number of regional Australia rallies in the last few years. Will Graham will be in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia for a series of evangelistic events in May this year.

“The same foundational principles that were used 60 years ago in Billy Graham Crusades are used today…”

“Next year, Lord willing, we will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of Dr Billy Graham’s historical 1959 Australian Crusade, and his 100th birthday,” read the invitation from Viktor Hamm, Vice-President Crusade Ministries of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

“Franklin Graham’s heart has in recent times been increasingly focused on Australia, not only because of the upcoming anniversary but because of the urgency of the gospel.

“Franklin’s already very active. Gospel worldwide ministry in recent years has grown even more urgent as he senses the leading of the Lord to reach out to millions around the world who have not yet found the hope that can only be found in the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ.

“The same foundational principles that were used 60 years ago in Billy Graham Crusades are used today in Franklin Graham’s evangelistic ministry: prayer, training, proclamation and extensive follow-up, directing people to participating local churches.”

Organisers claimed an “overwhelming response to the gospel” after the Vancouver event.

However, a “Festival of Hope” led by Franklin Graham in Vancouver last year, which was supported by 300 local churches, drew controversy not only from Liberal Christians but from some evangelicals for Graham’s perceived closeness to President Donald Trump. (Graham prayed at the Trump inauguration, and described Trump as a “changed person” on CNN in January, explaining that Trump’s affairs occurred before he was elected, in comparison with President Clinton.) Organisers claimed an “overwhelming response to the gospel” after the Vancouver event.

Melbourne’s 53,000-seat Etihad Stadium is the venue for another campaign called Awakening Australia, in November 16–18 this year. The director of Awakening, Ben Fitzgerald, is a pastor at Bethel Church in Redding, California, but is originally from Australia. He met Jesus in an encounter that deeply changed him late in 2002 while he was dealing drugs. He will be joined by Bethel’s Pastor, Bill Johnson. Awakening is supported by a list of mostly Pentecostal churches including ACC Victoria, several C3 churches, Victory Life Centre in Perth, Dayspring in Sydney and YWAM.

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