LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Hundreds of ministers from various denominations came together Jan. 16 to begin preparation for the upcoming Greater Louisville Billy Graham Crusade and to receive an update on the 82-year-old evangelist’s health.
The meeting, held at the Kentucky International Convention Center, brought together ministers from Kentucky and southern Indiana to plan for the June 21-24 crusade at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Graham’s most recent crusade took place in Jacksonville, Fla., in early November.
It will be the third crusade Graham has held in Louisville. He held a four-week crusade in 1956 and a one-day crusade in 1964.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr., who is serving as the crusade’s executive committee chairman, noted that the crusade will be held some 28 years after a group of Christian ministers extended to Graham the initial invitation.
“I think we need to ponder, to pause just a moment to realize how remarkable it is that God laid Louisville, Ky., and this region on Dr. Billy Graham’s heart,” Mohler told the gathering. “Just imagine all of the invitations that come to him. … It is a great encouragement to me to hear Dr. Billy Graham himself say, ‘I’m coming to Louisville because God has put your city on my heart.'”
The organizational meeting came just days after Graham announced that because of health reasons he would not be able to give the invocation at President-elect George W. Bush’s inauguration. Graham underwent surgery last summer to insert a shunt and to treat Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, which is normally referred to as fluid on the brain. The shunt system was modified in December, but now must be removed because doctors say it is blocked.
Sterling Huston, director of North American ministries for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said the evangelist is doing fine.
“There were concerns that infection had set in, but … the good news is that there is no infection,” Huston said. “They will still do some tinkering with the adjustment to deal with this fluid build-up.”
Huston said doctors and neurosurgeons had advised Graham “that it would take probably a year to do all the fine-tuning they had to do when they do these procedures, so he went back into Mayo Clinic in December for adjustments, which indeed should require a longer recuperative period.”
Huston said one of Graham’s doctors recently told the evangelist, “Billy, you’re walking the best I’ve ever seen you walk.” Huston said imbalance is one of the signs of fluid build-up on the brain.
Huston added that following Graham’s Jacksonville crusade, those in attendance said “they could see a dramatic difference in his physical capacity, and we as a team could see that the clock had been rolled back in his ability to preach the gospel with clarity and power.
“… I encourage you to pray for him, but I encourage you that you may pray with a positive outlook,” Huston said. “He is focused on this crusade come June, and a second crusade” in Fresno, Calif., later this year.
At the organizational meeting Mohler announced the crusade’s executive committee and the general committee. Bob Russell, senior pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, will serve as first vice chairman of the executive committee.
“Billy Graham can reach people for the gospel that churches cannot,” Russell said. “Billy Graham has such credibility across the board that he has earned the right to be heard perhaps more than anybody else in the Christian world over the past century.
“Some will come to this crusade out of curiosity. Some will come out of need and desperation. Some will come because of an invitation from a loved one. Some will come to cover it as a media event. But they will all hear very clearly the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Russell said.
Mohler said he has met Christians who say they accepted Christ as their savior during Graham’s crusade in 1956.
“I continually meet persons in this community who tell me they came to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord in the context of that crusade,” he said.
Mohler said he believes Louisville is ready to hear Graham’s message.
“I believe what we see by God’s providence is the coming together of a tremendous opportunity for the preaching of the gospel, for the unifying of a community [and] for the glorifying of the one true and living God in Jesus Christ whom he has sent,” he said.
Mohler stressed the importance of unity among Christians during the coming months.
“As you look at that roster of leaders you will see several different dimensions of representation,” he said. “This is a sign of the unity in the gospel that characterizes a Billy Graham Crusade. … We are glad to have the representation across denominational lines here.
“There is a great need for unity in this community, and … this is the great opportunity for unity in our community.”
Mohler said leaders and area pastors have much work to do before the crusade begins.
“There is an enormous task before us,” he said. “There is yet one solitary purpose that has called us together, and that is to the preaching of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that this is the gospel which the apostle Paul said, ‘I am not ashamed, for it is the power of God to salvation for all who believe.’
“Our prayer is that a great harvest will come out of this crusade — men and women and young persons coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo title: BILLY GRAHAM INVITATION.