Q& A: Will Graham on Preaching Hell and Why He Doesn't Believe in Mass Evangelism
Has Billy Graham Evangelistic Association changed its approach to events over the years?
The music has changed, but we still have the preaching of God's Word and we still have testimonies. My Hope is something that my dad thought of years ago in trying to reach more people with the Good News. What we did is take my grand-daddy's old sermons and dubbed them into foreign languages with [his] inflections. We do all that same work for My Hope, but instead of filling [a stadium] for three days, we've been working through the churches. The Christians open up their homes. So on these three nights, instead of going to a soccer stadium, they fill their homes with their friends and family and they turn on the television and there's Billy Graham preaching in [their language].
We started something called Rapid Response. Chaplains come along in a disaster, whether it's manmade or natural, and we simply pray with people. Sometimes we literally dig stuff out and pray with them. We have chaplains on the ground in Japan. There was big flooding in Nashville last year; [we were also there after] the Virginia Tech shooting. It was born after 9/11. My dad came up and saw all these people were just crying and in a sense needed someone to hug or to hug them, so they started a prayer center and they had a line going out the door of people wanting to come in and just be prayed for. Samaritan's Purse does a lot of disaster relief work, but the chaplains are from the Billy Graham organization, so they kind of dove tail and they're always working together. It's what happens when your boss is the same boss of both organizations. There's synergy.
What have you learned about evangelism overseas, particularly in the developing world?
Setup-wise for my organization, it's very similar to what happens here, but we are seeing God doing some amazing things. I will say doing crusade-style evangelism here is tougher, but it's not impossible.
Are people more open to crusade-style evangelism in other countries?
That's a standard.
Is that true in Western countries as well, or more so in developing countries?
I have not spent a lot of time [in Europe], so I can't speak for that. But in Africa, in Uruguay, in India, I've done preaching in some of these countries. There's still hunger. You hold a crusade. We just had one in northern India in Gangtok. We had the largest religious meeting that the state [of Sikkim] has ever had. We had ten thousand people there and this is a small community. It's between Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet.
Who else has been influential in your life, apart from your father and grandfather?
From a ministry standpoint, besides family, probably the pastor I was working with [at Bay Leaf Baptist Church] because he really taught me how to be a pastor. His name is Ron Rowe. I was in seminary and so I was really learning. He had to teach me and we hit heads too. We ate lunch together almost every day. I think a lot of the other staff got jealous because we spent so much time together, but we accomplished more over lunch than any of these guys did in a meeting with him. He really invested in me, even to the point where we took vacations together. We loved being around each other. To this day I still call him my preacher. I call him, "Hey preacher, how are you doing?" and he'll talk to me and give me some advice. He was never the best communicator of God's Word, but he was faithful in it. What he taught me was how to be a pastor. Now you're going to say: what's the difference between a preacher and a pastor? Pastor literally comes from the word that means shepherd, and at those skills, he was by far the best.