Nearly 1,000 churches in Alabama host ‘My Hope’ eventscomment (0)
November 14, 2013
By Carrie Brown McWhorter
Throughout Alabama and the United States beginning Nov. 7, thousands of people once again heard the familiar voice of evangelist Billy Graham sharing the gospel. Ministry leaders in Alabama are optimistic that many hearts and lives were changed as a result of the effort.
My Hope with Billy Graham, a project of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, began in El Salvador in November 2002. Since then, nationwide efforts in more than 57 countries, including Russia, India, Brazil and Portugal, have spread the gospel to millions around the world.
In 2013, in conjunction with Graham’s 95th birthday, the campaign came to the United States. Months of planning culminated with a national airing of “The Cross” on Nov. 7. The video, billed as Graham’s last sermon, is available on DVD and online at myhopewithbillygraham.org. Two additional English language videos, “Defining Moments” and “Lose to Gain,” as well as a Spanish language video “Momentos Decisivo,” are available for download at the website as well.
Each video combines contemporary music, art and powerful testimonies with footage of Graham’s past messages. “The Cross” also features recent words from the aged evangelist, sharing the message of hope in Christ one final time with viewers. Though reports were incomplete at press time, ministry leaders and lay people around the state reported they were encouraged by the response to the effort so far.
“I was amazed to see how many people were talking about the video on Facebook after it aired (Thursday) night on the Fox News Channel,” said Gwen Norris, a member of First Baptist Church, Frisco City, in Bethlehem Baptist Association. Norris also attended a Matthew party at Pastor Mark McCullough’s home. Prior to the event, she and others had reached out to friends and community members, inviting them to a time of fellowship followed by a message from Graham.
“The message of the Cross, of the impact of the Cross, that was really powerful,” Norris said.
It was a message that resonated with many throughout the state.
In Sardis Baptist Association, a handful of churches participated in the effort, and several individuals served as Matthews, inviting friends and neighbors into their homes to view Graham’s message, according to James Preachers, director of missions for the association. Preachers, who also serves as pastor of Mount Carmel Baptist Church, Coffee Springs, hosted a Matthew house party.
“Everyone who saw it was intrigued with the video,” Preachers said. “One person rededicated his life to Christ, and others were moved.”
The flexibility of the video format allowed churches to plan evangelistic events in a variety of settings, according to Don Hagel, Sunday School director at Locust Fork Baptist Church, in Friendship Baptist Association. Hagel hosted a birthday party in honor of Graham at a local nursing home and shared the plan of salvation with residents after showing the video.
Beulah Baptist Church, Muscadine, in Cleburne Baptist Association, promoted the church’s regular Wednesday night services as “dinner and a movie” and encouraged members to bring unchurched friends to see the video.
At Union Hill Baptist, Oneonta, also in Friendship Baptist Association, Pastor Bill Barnett said more than 50 youth watched “Defining Moments,” which addresses youth suicide, drugs and skepticism at a student event on Wednesday night that resulted in seven decisions. One of the youth members at the church also used his birthday party as a Matthew party and shared the video with his friends there.
Donnell Brown, director of missions for Morgan Baptist Association, hosted a Matthew party in a predominantly unchurched neighborhood. Though no first-time commitments were made, Brown said there was a “tremendous Spirit” in the small group and that the individuals watching were “powerfully moved.”
Since there were opportunities to see the video in both small group settings and at home on television, he expects to see many personal decisions for Christ, both in his association and around the state.
“I expect that a lot of people made decisions (after viewing the video) and that many of them will be in church for the first time in a long time on Sunday morning,” Brown said. “The response in our churches likely will be the best gauge of how effective the effort was.”