William Franklin Graham IV will be preaching at Jersey Shore this weekend at the same age his grandfather, Billy Graham, first preached in the same venue in 1955.
At the age of 36, the younger Graham has already preached the Gospel to more than 50,000 people. Beginning Friday, he’ll speak to thousands more with the hope of changing lives.
The Jersey Shore Will Graham Celebration kicks off at the Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove Friday night with popular Christian artist Matthew West. The three-day event is just the first part of a longer process of bringing people to Christ.
“We are going to start the event and we will still have some work to do with following up on people and the local churches,” Graham told The Christian Post. “We are only half-way through this whole process.”
Although he will be carrying the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association banner with him, he wants people to know that he is part of the new generation that uses different means of communication when it comes to proclaiming the Gospel.
He stated, “No one can replace Billy Graham and I’m certainly not going to try,” said Will of his influential grandfather, who is now 92. “I just need to be myself and do whatever God asks of me. Whatever the future holds is in God’s hands.”
His evangelistic approach for the most part is similar to that of his father, Franklin, and grandfather, he said, but with slight changes in music and illustrations that people can relate to, such as “Seinfeld” and “Everybody loves Raymond.”
“My granddaddy’s generation, people probably don't know about it, but for my generation I mean, ‘Seinfeld,’ I think I have seen every episode of ‘Seinfeld’ and it's just a great show. People close to my generation can relate to the same shows somehow,” he said.
The younger Graham spoke to his grandfather last weekend, when he was released from the hospital after having complications with pneumonia. He shared that while living a few miles from him, he had to opportunity to visit him on Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
“I went up to say hi to him. I wanted to give him three things,” the 36-year-old evangelist recalled. “One, to give a report about where I had just come home from. I had just come home from Australia and then the Philippines and I just wanted to give him a verbal report on how that went.”
“Second thing, I just wanted to give him and update about me coming to Jersey Shore, and he started smiling and said 'oh, I remember being there, I remember the great things God has done.' And then the third thing, I just wanted to sit there and talk with him.”
“You know, he's my granddaddy and so I just wanted to sit there and talk, share what's on each other's hearts and I got to do that Sunday.”
He is happy to report that although his grandfather still has pneumonia, he is responding extremely well to the antibiotics. The elder Graham was already sitting in his office the day he visited him.
While Will Graham had no comments about his father’s recent controversial comments on President Obama or about his involvement in politics, especially from the pulpit, he does encourage Christians’ involvement in politics.
“I do believe that Christians should be involved in politics. I don’t think we should just be on the sidelines. When it comes to endorsing candidates, I think every Christian should be involved in politics in terms of voting and saying their piece on certain issues and stuff like that.”
Beyond everything else though, his priority right now is bringing the Gospel to Jersey Shore, unity among churches, and taking the focus of Christianity as religion and replacing it with faith instead.
“I want to be able to preach that Gospel in the next three nights and talk about, not about being religious – because religion is anything that man does trying to earn his way to heaven – but Jesus; God sent his son to man.”
One of his biggest concerns at the moment is people believing that there are multiple ways to heaven and multiple ways to God, and above all, multiple ways of mixing Jesus with something else.
It’s not about Jesus plus good works, but rather about trusting in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins above all.
His biggest prayer this weekend is “that the community is better than when we first arrived. And what I mean is that it's not because the Billy Graham Organization was there, but that God moved His people and He worked in the heart of the people.”
While going to Jersey Shore was only by invitation from the local churches in the area, he hopes that they continue to work together and unite and become stronger.”
“It doesn't mean that we have to believe what each other believe,” he added. “I believe it's important to have our distinctive but at the same time we have a lot more in common that we have in differences.”
He said he is excited to work with some of the biggest Christian artists today such as Newsboys, Matthew West, Flame, and Chasen, whom he has not met before.
He shared that “when it comes to music taste, my taste follows my friends. I think I like their music more because I know them personally. My music taste is driven more by my personal relationships than anything else.”
He concluded by encouraging Christians to bring their non-Christian friends to the event this weekend.
“That's my greatest desire. I don’t want to fill up the arena with a whole bunch of Christians; I want Christians to bring people who are looking for hope, looking for peace, looking for joy.”