President Bush has quickly followed through on his promise to preach the message of faith-based solutions to social problems. He wants to expand “charitable choice” far past its original 1996 parameters. While experts warn against exaggerating how much religious groups can do, the turn to faith-based groups is a fact of life.
Members of my household are preparing for a journey that will involve both regular and light backpacks. Regular hiking backpacks are made to hold a vast amount of gear—you strap them on when you go to the woods for a week or more.
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.