FRESNO, Calif. (BP)–It wasn’t all preaching at the Billy Graham Central California Crusade Oct. 11-14 in Fresno’s Bulldog Stadium.
There was singing, too.
Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea, longtime friends and associates of the North Carolina evangelist, took the stage each night during the four-day evangelistic outreach. Their association with Graham dates back to the mid 1940s.
Barrows, 78, hails from Ceres, a small town north of Fresno. He led the 3,500 voice Central California Crusade choir composed of church members from the San Joaquin Valley. At each service, the choir sang Graham’s trademark hymn of invitation, “Just As I Am.”
Shea, at age 92, is Graham’s senior by a decade. Still, Shea sang favorite hymns nightly in his still-booming baritone voice.
But it wasn’t all hymns. There was also country-gospel and contemporary Christian music. Some had a Latin flavor that appealed to a broader audience than just the Valley’s large Hispanic population. And there was Christian rock music with a sound that rivaled the finest pop music anywhere.
A different line-up of musicians appeared with Graham at each service. Included were solo performers such as Crystal Lewis, Fernando Ortega and Kirk Franklin. Groups included Christian rappers “dc Talk”, “The Katinas,” a boy band made up of five brothers, and country music’s “Charlie Daniels Band.”
But it wasn’t just music. Several of the performers spoke of their faith in Jesus, urging those in the stadium to follow Christ, too.
Charlie Daniels, known for his broad-brimmed cowboy hat, flowing beard and red-hot fiddle, said his Christian faith influences everything he does. Daniels described Jesus as the only hope for peace in troubled times.
“The world is never going to be in peace, not really, not till Jesus comes back,” Daniels said, sparking loud applause that signaled agreement among many of the more than 40,000 crusade-goers who packed the stadium. But, Daniels added, “You can make your part of the world at peace.”
Daniels, who performed three gospel tunes, said people often put off receiving God’s forgiveness because they don’t feel they are good enough.
“Well let me tell you something: you’re not good enough. I’m not good enough; nobody’s good enough,” the entertainer said. “We don’t come to Jesus because we’re good enough; if you wait until you’re good enough you’ll never come.”
Daniels, who has taken part in seven Billy Graham crusades, prepared the crowd for the evangelist’s invitation.
“Bring all your baggage, all your sins, all your illicit relationships and all your bad habits with you,” Daniels said. “Let Jesus Christ help you clean them up ’cause that’s the only way you’ll ever get rid of them.”