If anybody knows about running a race with perseverance it is Billy Graham. The 80-year-old evangelist made racing the theme of his four-day crusade in Indianapolis last month, borrowing the terminology and glory of sports to clothe the gospel in sweat, grit, and relevance.

The analogy went over well at the home of the Indy 500, and when NASCAR racer Jeff Gordon stepped on stage to share his testimony, the crowd of 50,000 rose to its feet to welcome him with a conquerer's pomp. "Racing is just a small part of my life compared to my relationship with Jesus Christ," Gordon declared.

Other athletes shared their testimonies as well, including Dallas Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders and the Indiana Pacers' Mark Jackson. In his final sermon, Graham focused on an eight-point comparison between playing sports and living the Christian life.

RUNNING TOGETHER: The June crusade marked the third time Graham has held such events in Indianapolis, following visits in 1959 and 1980.

More than 900 churches of 35 de nominations partnered with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) to prepare for the crusade. Their unified efforts to impact their city will continue through a series of community festivals dubbed Love-in-Action. The festivals will take place in parks through out the city and offer free medical screenings, as well as distribute food, clothing, and health products. Churches are also continuing to challenge members to volunteer with domestic-violence assistance, homeless services, prison ministries, and teen pregnancy and adoption programs.

"We don't want what we've accomplished to end here tonight," said Russ Blowers, honorary chair of the crusade's executive committee.

Pastors and performers at each service represented a mix of cultures and races, but an overwhelming majority of the audience was white. Singer Steve Crawford of the black gospel group Anointed said he hoped the crusade would be a place for Christians of different races to find common ground. "Growing up in the church, we've seen a lot of confusion, division, and strife," Crawford said, "and we really desire to bring races and churches together. I think that's part of why we were invited to perform—that has always been our vision."

RUNNING HARD: During the crusade, Graham challenged young people to become "morally and spiritually strong" so they could respond with the same godly courage as teen martyrs Cassie Bernall and Rachel Scott, two Christians slain in the Columbine High School massacre in April.

The powerful witness of the students reverberated among the 42,000 young people at the crusade's youth night concert. Audio Adrenaline, Michael W. Smith, and Graham all referred to the Littleton, Colorado, killings.

Almost 5,000 young people responded to Graham's invitation to "totally surrender" their lives to Christ.

Teens pogo danced up and down, screaming the lyrics to Audio Adrenaline's "Some Kind of Zombie": "I hear you speak and I obey / I walk away from the grave / I will never be afraid / I gave my life away." Many believe Columbine has laid the foundation for a new youth movement.

Mark Stuart, lead singer of Audio Adrenaline, said that youth are pressured to be tolerant of every viewpoint to the exclusion of absolute truth. "When you live your life like that, it tends to push you toward hopelessness and depression because you don't really see anything worth believing in." Stuart said Graham's lengthy ministry made him an ambassador to kids searching for meaning.

FINISHING THE RACE: In his closing sermon, Graham spoke about finishing a more personal race, announcing that his physical condition no longer permits him to participate in international crusades. "I doubt I will host another crusade outside the United States—except maybe in Canada or Mexico," he conceded. Graham also asked for prayer for his wife, Ruth, who did not attend due to poor health. The Indianapolis crusade marked the first for Graham since his October crusade in Tampa, the only U.S. crusade he conducted last year (CT, Dec. 7, 1998, p. 30).

Nevertheless, Graham still plans to speak at the BGEA conference for international evangelists in Amsterdam in the summer of 2000. Graham will also continue to preach in U.S. crusades, with the next one scheduled in October in Saint Louis.

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