Into All The
WE, ACCORDING TO HIS PROMISE, LOOK FOR NEW HEAVENS AND A NEW EARTH IN WHICH RIGHTEOUSNESS DWELLS.
AND A NEW EARTH IN WHICH RIGHTEOUSNESS DWELLS.
2 PETER 3:13
When will the world come to an end?
We all wonder about it. Philosophers ruminate sagely. Scientists offer knowledgeable guesses. Astrologers play with numbers. Science-fiction writers scribble off lurid descriptions. Filmmakers produce even more lurid descriptions. Comedians conjure up jokes. Preachers refer to scriptural warnings. Kids dread it.
But Christian children go to Sunday school and sing happy songs such as:
We are longing for His coming,
we are looking to the skies,
we are watching, we are waiting...
Are they really singing about the end of the world?
In Matthew 24:14, Jesus says, "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come." That verse seems to answer the key question of the future, for it tells us when. That answer may raise eyebrows at the Hale Observatory on Mount Palomar, California, but nobody seems to be able to find a better one in the telescope.
For Billy Graham, as for many Spirit-filled evangelists for the past
2,000 years, Matthew 24:14 has been a challenge to carry the Gospel the length and breadth of our planet. Billy's whole career over half a century has been, in a sense, his response to that verse. He is convinced that Jesus Christ meant what He said, and Billy has taken it personally by making the second coming of Christ the crown and centerpiece of his closing crusade messages.
Wherever he is preaching, Billy spends his final Sunday afternoon moving past the Cross and the Resurrection to the future when Jesus has promised that He will return in glory and "the end will come." One by one Billy describes the prophetic signs of things to come, including the promises in Matthew. Of all the creative aspects of his ministry that have won him worldwide recognition, none has been more significant than his response to Jesus' clear call to evangelize.
Starting several decades ago, when he was first filling stadiums, Billy began experimenting with what he now calls "global evangelism." Back in 1970, with the rest of the team, I took part in one of his early experiments. The ultimate aim was what a beloved professor of mine called "the universal purpose of God revealed supremely in Christ." That purpose was and is to fulfill Jesus' command to go and make disciples and save souls.
Flanked by a brilliant British engineer, David Rennie, and a strong task force of technical experts, Billy set out to preach the Gospel, make disciples, and save souls in Dortmund, Germany, and simultaneously in thirty-five other major cities of Europe. People would gather in different places and watch and hear his message on 20 x 27-foot television screens reflecting giant Eidophor projectors, which in turn relayed electronic signals from Dortmund's huge Westfalenhalle. Those watching and listening lived as far away to the north as Tromso, Norway, above the Arctic Circle, and to the south in Zagreb in what was then Yugoslavia.
What were some of the other cities participating in this electronic miracle called "Euro 70"? In Germany Cologne, Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Nuremberg; in Wales Swansea; in Austria Salzburg and Vienna; in England Chatham; in Switzerland Geneva; in Norway Skien, Stavanger, and Bergen; in
The Netherlands Hilversum; and in France Paris. Total number attending the services in the thirty-six cities that week: 838,023.
What a challenge to this editor and his photographer trying to cover thirty-six stories at once! We made it from Minneapolis to Oslo and Kristiansand, Norway; to Dortmund; then to Vienna, Austria, and Zagreb. There you might say we ran out of petrol.
Don't get me wrong, it was an enchanting experience. I have sometimes said that to work for Billy Graham is to grab a strap, pray, and hang on. The call to discipleship was heard in Europe and answered. Large crowds in Norway were jubilant; the Viennese were warm and responsive; and in Zagreb the Roman Catholic Church of St. Marko Krizezcanin (the largest venue Dictator Tito would permit) bored a hole in its inner church wall so the television projector could flash Billy's message through to the screen. Everywhere people physically answered Billy's invitation and challenge by walking up in front of the screen and praying words of commitment. The experiment was a huge success. But as for my covering the rest of the cities, technology outclassed me.
Here is what I wrote in Decision (July 1970):
What shocked Europe was the touch of the Holy Spirit. He did what the technicians could not do. He caused me to weep and women to pray and children to stand tall in their faith. He broke the sophisticated reserve of student intellectuals. He tore the masks of pride from self-satisfied church-men. He taught Europe a lesson it had almost forgotten: that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is "the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes."
And not only that, the Spirit of God got into the legs of Europe. People (16,000 of them) did what everyone said they would never do. They walked forward from their seats in thirty-six cities to commit their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Move ahead twenty-five years to 1995. Billy Graham had finished his experimental study of simultaneous gospel meetings in different parts of the world. He had conducted missions from London to all of Africa; from Hong Kong to much of Asia; from Essen, Germany, to
all of Europe; and from Buenos Aires to all South America. Fully convinced that even wider evangelism could be achieved, he was about to launch his "Global Mission" using the latest high-tech skills and equipment to expand his outreach by satellite transmission to 185 nations simultaneously for three consecutive days.
The outstanding natural obstacle to world evangelism is language. In today's world English has become a far more prevalent and popular language than in the past and has in fact become the first truly global language. Yet it still cannot do the job. There are too many people, too many cultures, too many ways of speaking,
How has Billy Graham, who speaks only English, resolved the language problem? This modern marvel was accomplished in March 1995 by means of multiplicity of satellites in outer space. Billy preached his three messages, a different one each night, from the podium of the crowded Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico, March 16-18. He had assembled a battery of 117 translators, each to put his preaching into a different language for transmissions of the telecast over thirty-seven satellites.
The statistics boggle the mind. Live locations worldwide with satellite dishes numbered 2,999. The telecast thus reached crowds of people around the globe ranging from 5,000 to 60,000 with Billy speaking in English and the translators in San Juan rendering it in each case into the appropriate language. The viewers on six continents gathered in school buildings, churches, tents, auditoriums, cinemas, rented halls, stadiums, refugee camps, even hillsides and open fields wherever there was a satellite dish. And supporting all the viewings were the accompanying prayer meetings, counselor-training sessions, and follow-up meetingsthousands of them dotting the surface of the earth.
Had anything like this taken place before in the history of the world? No. Nothing. Not the Olympic Games, not the landing on the moon.
Directing personnel and equipment for this vast operation called "Global Mission with Billy Graham" was Robert Williams of the team, who had held executive responsibilities in the 1980s at both Amsterdam world evangelism conferences.1
Rather than capping his worldwide ministry, the extraordinary success of Billy's Global Mission outreach from Puerto Rico instead led him to pursue more and greater high-tech developments. In April 1996, Robert Williams was in charge of a second remarkable worldwide Billy Graham outreach, but with a distinct difference.
Whereas the Global Mission had been transmitted to locations equipped with satellite dishes, this new World Television Series program took the gospel message straight into private homes. Billy and
his board of directors authorized negotiations for prime-time placement of a specially produced program on the major television networks of virtually every country in the world. My wife, Ruth, and I watched it in southern California.
Cooperating in this endeavor were an astonishing 1,040,000 churches in 204 countries. They arranged private meetings in the homes of their congregations. Reports coming in showed that attendance at the home meetings around the world averaged twenty-nine persons. While the televised program involved interviews and testimonies, the main thrust of this new outreach was capsuled in a strong message by Billy Graham entitled, "Starting Over."
This telecast was interpreted into over fifty languages as the program was produced. Afterward it was interpreted into many additional languages locally as people viewed the program.
The response was tremendous. Here is a sampling of the nations where Billy Graham's message of salvation came in April 1996: Angola, Jordan, Uruguay, Panama, Ukraine, Ecuador, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Seychelles, China, Taiwan, Macau, Philippines, England, Burundi, Russia, Croatia, Hungary, Spain, Belize, Namibia, South Africa, Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Argentina... In the United States the telecast went out from 438 stations.
Robert Williams told me that Billy Graham is frequently asked whether all this globe-circling evangelism is truly a fulfillment of Matthew 24:14. The question is sometimes put this way: "Since the Gospel of the kingdom has now been preached by satellite to the whole world, can we expect 'the end?' Will you bring it in?
To this Billy has replied by quoting other statements of Jesus, such as Matthew 28:19: "Go and make disciples of all the nations." He tells the media that it is obvious "not every ear has yet heard the Gospel." If anything, he concedes that "perhaps what we are doing may be considered just a step on the way."
Let me try to sum up. Exactly when the angel Gabriel will blow his trumpet may not be clear, but from this global effort one thing is clear to me at least: The very fact that Billy Graham's message in April 1996 reached as many as 2.5 billion viewers (half the world's population) is far more than a tribute to an individual or a triumph
of technology. It is confirmation of the validity of the Evangel itself. The redemption story is the authentic, unadulterated, infallible message of the Holy Scripture. Otherwise few would listen.
Let the technicians take off their shoes with the rest of us, for they are standing on holy ground.2
In April 1996, when people gathered in three million households around the world, speaking in forty-five different languages, they did not come together to hear the speculations of the higher critics and Bible revisionists or the scoffings of the doubters and skeptics. They came to hear the truth as it is in Christ. For them the New Testament is the valid, normative expression of Christianity, and in their minds Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Leaving Billy Graham out of it for the moment, and leaving out also the various religious hierarchies, I draw tremendous joy from this outreach of 1996. It was apparent that hundreds of millions of members of the church universal were giving their assent and endorsement to the biblical message of God's eternal love. Billy himself was, as he has often said, simply a Western Union messenger boy delivering God's telegram to the door of humanity.
We may conclude that whoever questions or denies the teaching of the Gospels, of the apostles, the prophets, the psalmists, the historical books, the thirty-nine chapters of the Old Testament and the twenty-seven chapters of the New Testament does not share the kind of faith demonstrated that day in April 1996 by millions of believers in 204 nations around the world.
If that much can be said for Billy Graham's satellite evangelism, it is saying a lot. And the end is not yet. Looking ahead, more satellite telecasts are scheduled by Billy Graham and his colleagues at prime time in over 200 countries during the remaining years of the twentieth century.
Give a man credit. In time the churches may catch up to Billy Graham's spiritual vision of the universal purpose of God. But right now nobody else seems to have the imaginative zeal, the practical determination, the appeal, the team, the personnel, the volunteers, and the resources to engage in such a total global ministry.
Credit? Yes, but God commands the ultimate credit. The
almighty Sovereign of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob took an unsophisticated Carolina farm boy and made him into His instrument to accomplish His desire in a world that was not ready for it. The result is that, despite an indifferent and often hostile environment, millions are now claiming Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives.
As for Morrow Graham's son and Ruth Graham's husband, many look to him the way I do, simply as "beloved Billy."
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1. During preparation for the Hong Kong crusade of 1975, I accompanied Robert and Karen Williams and Mrs. Ruth Graham on an excursion to Macau by hydrofoil boat. Ruth had an appointment with Rev. Luis Ruiz, a Macau missionary clergyman, and the Williamses were helping the Macau churches that wished to participate in the forthcoming crusade. We four also visited the grave of Robert Morrison (1782-1834), the British missionary who first translated the Bible into the Chinese (Cantonese) language.
2. Cf. Exodus 3:5.
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