The questions started coming as soon as Billy Graham left the spotlight following his last crusade in 2005 in New York. Can anyone take his place as a galvanizing figure in American Christianity? What is the future of his style of evangelism—and, more specifically, of the organization he founded, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association? All that son Franklin Graham knows about the future of the organization that he now runs is this: “If I’m around 20 years from now, I’ll be doing the same thing—telling people about Jesus Christ.”The question is how many will be listening.
What book would you recommend to someone eager to learn more about Christianity, someone who is just coming alive to the faith and to the power of the community of faith—the church—and who is full of questions about these matters?
“How do we do effective evangelism? All our ‘outreach’ events are just another excuse for fellowship!” Our new associate pastor looked around at the outreach committee, but nobody answered him. He pressed his point. “I mean, how do we actually reach nonbelievers, not just believers?” Eventually a discussion got under way, and finally one idea stuck. Our town was known as a “jazz town,” with a couple of jazz venues that were always crowded. We hatched the idea of Jazz Night. We’d hire a name-brand jazz artist to play at the church, convert the sanctuary into a coffee shop atmosphere, put church brochures on the tables, be ready to greet people and then “let it rip.” What could go wrong?
New “nonnegotiable” guidelines for evangelism at Young Life ministries has led to the closing of a North Carolina office of the group and the claim by a national expert on youth and religion that the organization is moving in a fundamentalist and authoritarian direction.
I was not prepared to enjoy as much as I did The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House, by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. Over the years, I’ve kept my distance from revivalist preaching and the Billy Graham phenomenon.
Bryan Stone’s Evangelism after Christendom is a remarkable book that was about 30 years in the making—three decades of thinking, research, experimentation and reflection on the church in post-Christendom.
"The trouble with the church in Finland,” a Finnish Lutheran pastor told me, “is that everybody loves it and nobody goes there.” Some 85 percent of the 5.2 million Finns are disengaged from the church except for brief pit stops for baptism, confirmation, marriage and burial.