July 9, 2013
By Erik Ogren
The Twin Cities — where it all began.
It was here in 1950 that a young college president and part-time traveling evangelist incorporated a ministry that would be called the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Its cluster of industrial buildings at 1300 Harmon Place in Minneapolis served as the base from which the hope of Christ was spread worldwide.
It was here that Billy Graham proclaimed the Good News of Jesus in Crusades spanning four different decades in 1950, 1961, 1973 and 1996. It was here that the ministry returned as part of its Rock the River youth tour in 2009.
And, today, it is here that a special focus is being made as part of what has become the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s largest United States evangelism effort yet.
A massive blitz of events is being planned across the Twin Cities and Minnesota beginning next week as part of My Hope America with Billy Graham, a nationwide effort for relationship evangelism culminating in November and coinciding with Billy Graham’s 95th birthday.
A total of 21 seminars (each one-and-a-half hours in length) are being held across Minnesota over the next month, beginning with events on July 9 at Northern City Baptist Church in Duluth, Minn., and Shiloh Temple International Ministries in Minneapolis.
“I think that My Hope has a fabulous, strategic role to bring greater awareness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Bishop Richard Howell of Shiloh Temple. “This is done one-on-one, personal evangelism, which I think also equips the leaders to really know how to handle sharing the Gospel to people in their own house. This should be an event that will shake the country.”
My Hope America with Billy Graham is a nationwide effort to reach people across the United States with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Following a simple biblical model, the outreach combines the impact of video programs with the power of personal relationships. Under the guidance of their local pastors, Christians across America will open their homes this November to share the Gospel message with friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors using one of several new evangelistic programs featuring life-changing testimonies and powerful messages from Billy Graham.
Already, with four months to go before the culmination of the program, more than 16,000 churches have registered to participate, including 188 and counting in Minnesota.
“I think we need catalytic opportunities like My Hope provides,” said Pastor Dave Gibson of Grace Church in Eden Prairie, Minn., referencing back to the Billy Graham Crusade in 1996 and Rock the River in 2009, as well as other large-scale evangelistic outreaches that united the church.
“I think large initiatives like that are catalytic. They’re momentum-builders. They’re an opportunity to bring the body of Christ together to rally around initiatives to bring Christ to the community and the nation. So, I think this a tremendous opportunity. I think the Twin Cities area is primed for it.”
Grace Church will host a seminar on July 29.
Pastor Mike Smith’s Redeeming Love Church in Maplewood, Minn., will host an event on July 25. He also cited the unifying nature of an outreach like My Hope as a key reason that churches should participate and be energized.
“When Baptists and Lutherans and Pentecostals and Methodists and Presbyterians – whatever denominations – when they’re all working together, sharing the same goal and sharing the same strategy, I think it’s wonderfully unique in unifying the body of Christ. It gives us a common goal, it gives us a common vision, and it gives us hope.”
And what will be the end result? Well, that’s in God’s hands, but Bishop Howell – along with Pastor Gibson and Pastor Smith – is praying for big things.
“I’m praying for a hunger and a thirst for Jesus Christ,” said Bishop Howell. “I really believe that something dynamic is going to happen through prayer and fasting as well; that people are going to really come to Christ as a result of this national outpouring in November. It has to happen. It has to happen. It’s got to happen.”