NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Some of gospel music’s most popular entertainers turned out to participate in the Middle Tennessee Billy Graham Crusade, with every artist citing Graham’s integrity and faithfulness to God as reasons for their involvement in the Nashville crusade.
Graham’s four-day crusade, June 1-4, drew an estimated 227,000 people to Adelphia Coliseum, with more than 8,000 people making personal decisions of faith.
The crusade featured a wide variety of musical performers, from country to urban gospel as well as the ever-present George Beverly Shea. The 91-year old Shea, a stalwart of Billy Graham’s crusades over the years, delighted the stadium crowd with traditional renditions of “How Great Thou Art” and “I’d Rather Have Jesus.”
Among those appearing with Graham were Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith, Bill Gaither and the Gaither Vocal Band, Cece Winans, Kirk Franklin, Charlie Daniels, Ricky Skaggs, Point of Grace, Jars of Clay, and dc Talk.
Chapman said he was touched by the compassion and concern Graham has expressed for the country’s teenagers. “He intentionally tries to step into the young culture,” Chapman said. “It’s evidence that Billy Graham’s heart beats for young people.”
Since 1994 Graham has devoted one night of each crusade to a youth emphasis. In Nashville, the event featured a heavy dose of energetic musical guests including Franklin, Jars of Clay, and dc Talk.
Youth nights have set stadium records in all but two cities, Graham spokesman Larry Ross said. Nashville was no different, with a record-setting 71,800 people in attendance.
“I think that says something about the integrity of Billy Graham that when he gets up to speak every teenager is quiet and respectful,” Ross said.
Chapman said he remembered the youth night when Graham walked on stage wearing a Harley Davidson motorcycle jacket. “Billy Graham is doing what it takes to bridge the gap,” Chapman said.
The trio of men who make up dc Talk agreed. “Kids need some real fathers and real grandfathers, and Billy Graham is real,” said Michael Tait.
Toby McKeehan recalled when they first received an invitation to play at a Billy Graham crusade there were more than a few raised eyebrows. “Lots of folks said, ‘I don’t know about this music,’ but he wanted to reach the teenagers and he stuck by his decision,” McKeehan said.
Since then, dc Talk has performed in 14 crusades. McKeehan said the reason teenagers are drawn to Billy Graham can be summed up in one word. “Integrity,” he said. “Our generation is lacking in integrity and Billy Graham is a man of integrity and faith.”
Gospel music artist CeCe Winans praised Graham for his efforts in bridging racial gaps at the crusades. “We’re finally catching on to what heaven is going to be like,” Winans said, referring to the multicultural and ethnic makeup of the Nashville crusade. “There are going to be many different races and many different styles of music.”
“God is a God of unity,” Winans said. “And it was great to see so many faces of different colors and backgrounds in the stadium.”