Q: How has the church stopped educating the next generation of the faith heroes of the past?
A: I think perhaps in an effort to be “cool,” many have tried to reach the next generation by emphasizing the “new” and leaving out the central message of the Gospel. In reality, younger generations are looking for authenticity, not just novelty. I am hoping that my new book, Billy Graham: The Man I Knew will introduce the evangelist to a whole new generation—especially of young people that don’t really know Billy. They may have not been raised seeing Billy on television all the time. They never went in person to a Billy Graham crusade.
But in fact, he was the coolest of cool because he was him. He was an authentic Billy Graham. I recall attending an event he spoke attended by a lot of young people. When he walked out, he got the greatest applause of the night. When he spoke, those kids listened. You could have heard a pin drop. He had this ability to connect from the beginning to the middle to the end of his ministry, and so I think his story can resonate with any generation.
Q: What led you to want to write the book, Billy Graham: The Man I Knew, and why is it important that we share stories like this?
A: There have been a lot of biographies written about Billy Graham, but my aim was to show the human side of Billy. Sometimes a person can fade into history and people never really had any interaction with them. They almost become one-dimensional like President Lincoln on the $5 bill.
Billy Graham was a real flesh-and-blood guy. It was my privilege to spend a lot of time with him—a lot of time just hanging out with him. A lot of time asking him questions. A lot of time listening to him preach. I got to know him—dare I say—as a friend. He was just such a great man to observe. And what I found was that the private Billy was even more impressive than the public Billy. The public Billy was very impressive. I mean, I can’t think of a greater preacher I have ever seen. But privately, he was very humble, very gracious, and always was interested in whoever he was speaking to. That’s the Billy Graham I wanted to show.
Q: Why are personal testimonies the key to building hope?
A: My goal in writing biographies on people like Steve McQueen, Johnny Cash, and now Billy Graham is to show that no matter who you are, God can still work through you. They are living examples of how God can transform a life.
A person cannot really argue with what God has done for you. Sure, they can argue with you about what the Bible says and argue with you about other things, but they can’t argue with your own story of how Christ transformed you. I like to say that our personal testimony of how we came to the Lord is one of the most effective tools in our spiritual toolbox. So I like to use testimonies as a bridge to share the transforming power of the Gospel message.
Q: How is hope the antidote for all the fear people have been feeling during the pandemic and all the lockdowns?
A: It’s been said that we can live 40 days without food, three days without water, and approximately eight minutes without air. However, we can’t live a second without hope. I think the pandemic has only increased our realization that we need hope in our daily lives. Our usual go-tos for hope and comfort—entertainment, social media, politics—have all been disrupted, and so people are looking for something stable, something permanent and eternal. This is our opportunity to bring people to Christ and have the hope that is an anchor for their souls (Hebrews 6:19).
Q: The pandemic has also created a need to rethink how we do evangelism. How has your church responded to this?
A: Over the years we’ve been going large-scale evangelism and media outreach, we’ve had multiple changes to the way we do things, but one thing stays the same: the message of the Gospel. We applied the same principle to the COVID-19 lockdowns. When we learned we had to close the doors of our church, we pivoted into an online ministry called Harvest at Home and saw it reach 20 times more people than we were reaching before the pandemic. And it wasn’t a short-term thing. A year later, we are still seeing that audience grow.
The Church has always adapted its strategy to reach people. When persecution came, they would change locations. When Paul the Apostle was imprisoned, he changed from outdoor preaching to writing letters. During the Reformation, the Church used the printing press to reach beyond their four walls. In the 1900’s we saw the Church use traditional media like radio and television to evangelize. In our times the internet has led to a revolution of information. The Gospel is literally accessible to every human being on the planet because of the internet. That has never happened before in human history.
So today I think it’s important for Christians to use these digital tools to distribute information, but also to develop real relationships. Yes, we want to reach people with these digital tools, but we want them to follow Jesus and connect with real people in real churches. So in that sense, our message and mission have never changed, even though our methods have.
Q: What kind of impact can creative evangelism have through getting outside the walls of the Church?
A: For over 30 years, we’d held evangelistic outreaches in stadiums called Harvest Crusades. But with the lockdowns in place, we were unable to hold those large gatherings. We could have just sat it out and waited until we could meet again.
But instead we created a cinematic crusade film called A Rush of Hope: Find Answers to Life’s Questions. At our stadium events we’d normally see 100,000 people attend and see 10,000 make professions of faith to follow Jesus. With the movie, we had over 4 million people watch the film, and over 25,000 make professions of faith. So we rejoice that when one door closes, another opens. God is never limited.
It’s important to remember that Jesus did not tell the whole world to go to church. But in the Great Commission, he did tell the Church to go to the whole world (Matthew 28:18–20). These are our marching orders, and we want to fulfill them using whatever methods we can.
Q: Despite state restrictions, why is this time we’re living in one of the greatest for the Church?
A: We might bemoan our current condition and limitations, but the fact is that people are looking for hope more than ever before. When the lockdowns began, nearly half of Americans believed that COVID-19 was a “wake-up call” from God. So I believe the Church has an unprecedented opportunity to reach more people than ever before with the hope of the Gospel. Not only that, but through technology we have the means to literally fulfill the Great Commission in our lifetime. The window of opportunity for the church is there if we’re willing to take it.
Q: Many people are experiencing worry and anxiety right now. How do we as the body of Christ address this?
A: Worry is the most common problem that Christians face. Sometimes the simplest lessons are best to remind us of how to deal with worry. We know these things, but we need reminders. God loves us. He cares for us. He knows what we struggle with. He has promised to fix everything—eventually.
I have a bird feeder outside my kitchen window, so in the morning I’ll watch the birds at the feeder while I eat breakfast. We can learn a lot from birds, which is a point Jesus made 2,000 years ago. He said, “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” (Matthew 6:26–27 NLT).
He concluded, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (verses 33–34 NLT).
It’s simple really. If God takes care of the birds, then He will take care of us. Because He loves us so much more.
I have a free e-book that tackles this topic. You can get it here.
Q: What do you believe God is doing in the Church in this season, and what is your prayer for the Body of Christ?
A: It’s true that we are living in divisive times, but I believe that the time is right for revival to come to the Church. I came to Christ during the Jesus Movement of the 1960’s and 70’s, and I really pray that we see one more great revival in America.
Just in the last year, Harvest Ministries saw over 150,000 professions of faith through our online outreach—through channels such as Harvest at Home and our first-ever cinematic crusade, A Rush of Hope. If we had that same number of professions of faith at an in-person event, it would be beyond our wildest dreams and front-page news. What I’m saying is that we may be at the beginning of an “invisible revival” happening right now, and I’m praying it sweeps our nation and the world.