The grains of sands are quickly vanishing.
Nobody knows how much time believers have to tell their friends, neighbors, family members and co-workers about Jesus.
But most agree it’s not much.
And that’s why the nationwide outreach called My Hope with Billy Graham is so critical.
“It’s almost midnight,” said Preston Parish, vice president of My Hope with Billy Graham. “It’s time to do something so we’re not scratching our heads after we’ve lost the battle and wondering what just happened.”
As nearly 300 pastors and denominational leaders from 27 states gathered this week at The Billy Graham Training Center (The Cove) in Asheville, N.C., the urgency of reaching a nation for Christ became more apparent.
Yes, this nationwide outreach known as My Hope with Billy Graham — which will equip and encourage Christians throughout the U.S. and Canada to use their homes for personal living room crusades—is still 13 months away.
But there’s so much ground to cover between now and November 2013. And for many, the movement began in earnest this week on a mountaintop in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
“We must do all we can at this time to call this nation to God,” Parrish said. “That’s why we’re doing My Hope with Billy Graham.”
Bill Conard, the My Hope with Billy Graham director, who has led the project for 10 years in 57 countries around the world, talked candidly about how this style of relationship evangelism is not an overnight sensation.
And while November 2013 seems like it’s far off on the horizon, when it comes to relationship building, it’s not at all.
“This takes time,” Conard said. “This is not something that takes three days. This is not street evangelism. That’s why we want you to begin now, so there’s not a rush.”
Conard used practical examples of inviting people over for special events or just to share a meal and conversation. He cited the example that it takes four cookouts to earn the right to witness to someone.
Conard also painted a picture of how relationship evangelism looks in your home.
“They’ve been in your house so much, the dog doesn’t bark,” he said. “They know where the soft drinks are in the fridge and they feel free to help themselves.
“They know which chair you’re going to sit in.”
The My Hope with Billy Graham training was a time for both vision casting and practical teaching, including what is a host Matthew and how to become one.
Each Matthew will receive an important list of 10 blank lines — either a hard copy or downloaded and printed from a computer — and the mission is to fill out those lines with people in their circle of influence who need Christ.
“The most important part of the project is this page, where there are 10 blank names,” Conard said, holding up the Matthew brochure. “When you start to think of names of people who need Christ, that’s when the project begins for you.”
Conard also shared the five “Looks” of a Matthew, who will host people for a 30-minute evangelistic program that will include music, testimony and a message from Billy Graham. Matthews will then share a three-minute personal testimony and invite their guest to receive Christ.
For some, the My Hope with Billy Graham project was a new concept, for others they were fully aware of how this style of “relationship evangelism” works.
Here’s a sampling of what people were saying this week from around the country about My Hope with Billy Graham.
From Woodstock, Georgia: “If someone can bake some cookies and hit play on the DVD, you’re 80 percent down the road,” said Ben Smith, minister of Outreach of Woodstock First Baptist Woodstock, Ga. “It’s basically just telling people how Jesus changed your life. You don’t need a seminary degree to do that.”
From Des Moines, Iowa: “I like the concept of having people in your home—it’s a natural setting,” said Ty Berry, Evangelism/Pastoral Care director of the Baptist Convention of Iowa. Jesus did that. He went to people’s houses and shared a meal.”
From Starke, Florida: “We’re not bold enough. It’s our job to tell them. And it starts with us. It starts with the pulpits,” said Alvin Greene, pastor of St. Paul Missionary Baptist in Lake City, Fla. “When you say Billy Graham and what he’s done in the world, it’s just an awesome feeling to join him.”
From Clinton, Kentucky: “I think that’s really the best kind of evangelism there is,” said Rev. Aaron Dowdy of First United Methodist. “To befriend people, it gives you the right to speak to them once you’re friends.”
From Philadelphia: “There’s millions of people in our nation who don’t know Jesus,” said K. Marshall Williams Sr., senior pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church. “That’s why it’s so important for people to see how Jesus changed our life. It’s not just something somebody told me, but it’s a personal story.”