Graham Reaches Largest Television Audience

Billy Graham's latest project, an "MTV-style" television program aimed at young viewers, is reaching the evangelist's largest audience ever in telecasts this month in 48 languages to 160 countries.

In an attempt to reach a worldwide audience, 70 percent of which is under age 30, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) interspersed Graham's preaching from an October 1994 Atlanta youth night crusade with MTV-style music, interviews, and dramatic presentations. The program uses quick cuts from the sermon to different segments, alternating between black-and- white and color.

In one installment, the program uses music from the group Nirvana, whose lead singer, Kurt Cobain, committed suicide. Bob Williams, BGEA's director of international ministries, says the Nirvana music, which Graham refers to in his message, is in the program with other negative imagery to demonstrate the pointlessness of life without Christ.

Williams says the hour-long show may be too contemporary for some viewers. "It is a provocative program," Williams says. "It may provoke some in ways I wish it wouldn't provoke them." While Graham has reoriented his crusades the past two years to attract a younger audience, his television ministry has remained largely unchanged--until now.

The BGEA knows viewing tastes are changing rapidly. When the BGEA produced a special for India's government-owned network in 1990, many Indians viewed George Beverly Shea, the 87-year-old hymn singer who has accompanied Graham on crusades for 49 years, as too modern. However, the Indian government recently asked the BGEA for a program "something like MTV" to appeal to a younger audience, Williams says. This month's show has appearances by Christian musicians Michael W. Smith and ...

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