Some 750 churches participating in an evangelistic Festival in Australia's second-largest city will see their work come to fruition this weekend as Franklin Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) present the Gospel in Melbourne for Festival Victoria.
The three-day festival, which kicks off today, will see Christians from many denominations come together and unite in the prayer that God will draw many people to Himself.
"Festival Victoria is uniting the Church across every denomination," CityLife Church's Tina Waldrom told the BGEA. "Prayer is a priority, and we are mobilizing the Church to prayfirst for the event itself and then for unbelievers to come to know Christ. We recognize that without prayer, we really are not going to see the great results that we want to see happen."
According to the BGEA, the goal of Festival Victoria 2005 is to strengthen the local churches by mobilizing the Christian community to assemble as many people as possible to hear the message that Jesus Christ is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life."
The Festival speaker, Franklin Graham was invited to Melbourne by the heads of Churches and heads of Christian Ministries that represent the majority of churches in Victoria. Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, is internationally recognized as the President of the international Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse. Graham also serves as President of the BGEA and has preached on every continent in over 100 similar Festivals.
In addition to presenting the Gospel through Graham's preaching, the Festival will put Christ's love into action by running, in conjunction with The Salvation Army, a 24-hour-a-day café with free food during the days of the Festival. The café, which will seat up to 150 needy people, will play video excerpts from the Festival meetings for patrons.
The program is filled with top Australian artists as well as overseas guests artists including Darlene Zschech, The Katinas, Roma Waterman, The Tommy Coombes Band, Marina Prior, Colin Buchanan, and Nicole C Mullen. It will provide the Churches with an opportunity to send a united message of hope to the Victorian community, the BGEA said.
Christians anticipate powerful results from Festival Victoria.
"We haven't done anything like this in Melbourne on a large scale for at least 30 or 40 years, and I think the wider community is probably ready to stop and take notice," said the Right Reverend Stephen Hale, Anglican bishop for the Eastern Region, Diocese of Melbourne. "I am looking forward to the chance for churches in Melbourne to put evangelism into key focus.
According to the BGEA, the Festival meetings themselves will be the "tip of the iceberg". Prior to the Festival there have been months of training and preparation through prayer and personal outreach as the churches of Victoria come together in unity to support and participate in the Festival in a variety of ways. Through a simple activity called Operation Andrew, Christians were encouraged and mobilized to pray for and invite their friends, neighbors, and colleagues to the Festival.
Operation Andrew, a four-week Christian Life and Witness Course, offered at a variety of local churches, gave thousands of Christians the opportunity to be renewed in their personal relationship with Christ and to be trained to share their faith. Additionally Christians and churches were trained to follow up those who make a commitment at the Festival until they also become active members of a local church.
Last week, Christians took prayer to the streets of Melbourne on a "prayer bus." According to Festival coordinator Paul Molyneux, each day a dozen or so people will ride the bus to three different locations, where they will meet with scores of other Christians to pray for the Festival. The prayer bus effort was organized by Youth For Christ and local Christian radio station Light FM 89.9.
In Warragul, a community of 10,000 located some 65 miles southeast of Melbourne, pastors Trevor Heiniger and Steve Messer reported a growing sense of unity among churches.
"When we look at what God has done among the churches in Warragul, from a history of independence to the unity and cooperation we have today, it is truly remarkable," they wrote in a recent report.
"As the fellowship has grown among the ministers, we have seen the churches come together to pray, they continued. And now the coming together of all the local denominations to share in the Franklin Graham Festival is both a culmination and a starting point for which we thank God."
Festival Victoria will be Grahams second Festival since the beginning of this month. Last week, Graham brought a message of eternal impact to the more than 10,500 who attended Festival Tasmania in Hobart, Tasmania. According to the BGEA, the total number of those who attended the event from Mar. 11-13 nearly tripled local pastor' estimates of how many people are in church services on any given Sunday.
The BGEA is asking for believers to pray that God will draw thousands of people to saving faith during Festival Victoria, and that churches will continue to work together to win their communities to Christ.