(Photo: A. Larry Ross Communications)
Dr. Erwin Lutzer, senior pastor of The Moody Church in Chicago, has said that Billy Graham's message in "My Hope" can be used to help address the spiritual well-being of the Windy City, which has now become the murder capital of America.
"There is a tremendous amount of violence in Chicago, and much of it is gang related. There is also a rootlessness of the children living in the context of torn relationships, which gives birth to much of this violence," Lutzer said. "So, many people in this city are desperate for a spiritual solution."
According to official 2012 statistics released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in September, Chicago had more reported murders than any other U.S. city, with 500 homicides – 81 more than second-placed New York City. The report followed numerous news stories of excessive violence that have come out of Chicago in the past couple of years, including a particularly violent Fourth of July weekend where 12 people were shot dead and at least 60 others were wounded.
Lutzer, who has led the Chicago church since 1980, suggested that the first change the city needs to go through is a "heart reform" – which is why The Moody Church will be participating in the My Hope America With Billy Graham campaign, the major evangelistic outreach effort which begins on November 7.
"When the Church in Chicago begins to evangelize, we will see the transforming work of the Gospel in our community. The visible changes in our city may be seen in just small ways, but even small changes should be encouraging; any change of the heart is important," Lutzer continued. "This is where 'My Hope' can propel change in our city."
The senior pastor noted that The Moody Church will be participating in the campaign, which creates an environment "where people can not only hear the Gospel, but can build relationships with people who know Jesus" by encouraging believers to invite neighbors and friends to their homes to share a meal and watch the "My Hope" broadcast.
"I think that this combination of truth and friendship will be used by God to bring people to a saving faith in Jesus Christ," Lutzer said. "Many Christians are intimidated when it comes to sharing the Gospel. But, that's the beauty of 'My Hope' - you don't really have to be the preacher, because Billy Graham is the preacher."
He added that he believes "My Hope" will be able to bring people to faith not just in Chicago but throughout America, and reach "the courts and in high levels of office in our nation."
Individuals and churches wishing to participate in "My Hope" can find resources and more information on the campaign's official website.