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Graham’s son steps in to read comments emphasizing evangelism

AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands (BP)–The centrality of evangelism was underscored at the outset of the Amsterdam 2000 world conference of evangelists.

Health problems, however, prevented Billy Graham from delivering his opening remarks even via satellite from Rochester, Minn., where the 81-year-old evangelist is being treated for fluid build-up on his brain. Instead, his son, Franklin, read his father’s address to the 10,000-plus evangelists and church leaders gathered in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

“Why is evangelism our priority?” Graham asked in his prepared address, as delivered by his son. “It isn’t simply so our institutions will survive from one generation to the next. It is because of the lostness and hopelessness all around us.

“We are also called to worship and to prayer, and we are called to compassionate service in our world,” Graham acknowledged. “We should be involved in many other social, educational and family ministries. However, in priority, evangelism comes first.”

Three-fourths of the evangelists and church leaders at the July 29-Aug. 6 conference hail from developing countries and represent at least 190 nations.

Conference proceedings can be viewed on the Internet at crosswalk.com.

In addition to three daily plenary sessions, some 900 teaching sessions are scheduled. Speakers include some of the world’s top Christian leaders, including Korean pastor Billy Kim, president of the Baptist World Alliance; Charles Colson of Prison Fellowship; Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ; and theologian J.I. Packer.

“I deeply regret the circumstances that have kept me from being with you,” read Franklin Graham from his father. “Be assured, however, that I will be with you in sprit and prayer throughout the conference. We must go back and search the Word of God to discover what we need to do for the extension of the kingdom in our day. That is the reason we have convened this conference.”

Jerry Drace, immediate past president of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists, reported from Amsterdam, “Southern Baptist evangelists are well represented with approximately 55 in attendance. A special luncheon for all the SBC evangelists will be held Thursday with several members of the Graham team scheduled to attend.”

Drace is one of five Southern Baptist evangelists serving on the conference’s strategists task group, along with Sammy Tippit from Texas; Jim Wilson from Florida; Ken Holland from Tennessee; and Wesley Paul from Kentucky.

Two other key groups also are meeting during the sessions, a church leaders task group and theologians task group.

The strategists task group, composed of approximately 450 evangelists representing each continent, is to discuss, plan and propose strategy for world evangelization for the next few decades. Among their topics of discussion: “Obstacles to Reaching the World for Christ,” “Solutions to Overcoming Obstacles,” “Funding Evangelistic Ministries” and “Increasing the Quality of Evangelistic Approaches.”

The strategists task group is meeting for 20 hours during the eight-day conference, Drace reported.

Several Southern Baptist evangelists are slated to be interviewed on “Decision Today,” a national radio program sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Drace, of Humboldt, Tenn., also reported.

Concerning Graham’s health, a news release from his evangelistic association noted, “Shortly before he was to address the conference participants via satellite up-link, he felt he lacked the energy and strength, following a sleepless night, to deliver his opening remarks. He asked that they be read from the platform in Amsterdam.”

The news release stated that Graham still is “looking forward to bringing a closing word at the final session next Sunday, Aug. 6.”

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