God has 'softened hearts,' more people receiving Christ during COVID-19: Franklin Graham
The Gospel has advanced powerfully in 2020, Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association President Franklin Graham told The Christian Post.
In 2019, 1.3 million people gave their lives to Christ through online ministries, Graham said. In 2020, 1.7 million people did.
“I try to shy away from the questions on numbers. God’s the one who gives the increase. It’s not Franklin Graham and it’s not the institution,” he said.
The pandemic meant that Graham had to cancel evangelistic crusades and concentrate on using new ways to spread the Gospel. Situations might change but the call to preach the Gospel faithfully always remains, Graham emphasized.
“I think there’s nothing normal about 2020. We’ve never gone through a pandemic in my lifetime. The world has never been locked down before,” he said. “It’s God who touches people’s hearts and opens up people’s eyes. The pandemic hasn’t stopped it. If anything, it’s advanced it.”
For the first time, the BGEA operated a 24/7 Gospel call hotline and bought ads on television. In a 60-second ad spot, Graham can engage viewers, ask them about the condition of their souls and pray a quick prayer. The glory for the Gospel’s spread this year goes to God, Graham said.
“The people’s hearts have been softened a little bit. People who have not listened before are listening now. For evangelism, it may be one of the better years we’ve had,” he said.
People haven’t changed their attitudes toward the Gospel, the evangelist noted. Instead, it’s their attitude toward the rest of life that changed as people fear the pandemic and feel near to death. People have reacted in panic toward the coronavirus and their fear leaves them yearning for a message of hope.
“I think they’re willing to listen to the Gospel. People are scared and afraid. When you give them the hope we have in Jesus Christ, they’re eager to accept that. When the world turns upside down is when they’re eager to listen,” Graham, who’s the son of the late evangelist Billy Graham, said.
The BGEA’s evangelism numbers have increased even as regular church attendance has dropped. Barna Research found that one in every five Christians said they have not attended church at all in person or online since the start of the pandemic. Graham believes the decrease in church attendance comes from churches that already don’t preach the Bible. Christians who value their faith less leave, but those who love God remain.
“Bible-teaching churches have generally done very well and are full. The pews may not be full, but more people are watching online than those [who usually] attend the church,” he said.
At a time when many churches remain closed, the BGEA and Samaritan’s Purse provide discipleship resources for new believers as well as an introduction to the Gospel, Graham added. Christians can grow in faith with the BGEA's daily devotions and other online resources.
“We don’t rely on the churches to do the discipleship for us; we do it ourselves,” he said.
Operation Christmas Child, a Samaritan’s Purse program that gives gifts and the Gospel to children worldwide, also offers a 12-week course in discipleship.