Two years ago, American evangelist Franklin Graham was getting ready to launch a UK-wide tour when it was hit by a wave of venue cancellations and then the pandemic.
Now, with the pandemic in retreat in the UK and multiple venues ready to host the tour, he is back with a message of hope for both the Church and the nation.
The four-date God Loves You Tour is being put on completely free of charge and kicks off in Liverpool today.
Prior to opening night, Christian Today spoke to Graham about the Good News he wants to share with the UK and why he's not surprised to encounter some opposition.
CT: We've been through a pandemic and you have had to fight pretty hard for this tour to even take place. Coming back to the UK now, does anything feel different this time round?
FG: We're coming back after a worldwide pandemic that has changed the world, changed countries and changed people. And for me personally, I feel that it is God's will to have us here at this time. Looking back at it, I don't think God wanted us here two years ago; I think He wanted us here in 2022 so that we could give people hope. I think a lot of people are hopeless right now and I want them to know that God loves them and cares for them very much, and He can take their life and turn it around.
CT: The last time round, you encountered a lot of opposition and took legal action against several venues for cancelled bookings. Why did you feel it was important to take that stand?
FG: While the details need to remain confidential to honour our agreements, we are grateful to God that many of our cases have been resolved favourably, giving us a renewed opportunity to share the hope of Jesus Christ in the public square. I am also thankful for the thousands of Christians across the United Kingdom who have stood alongside us and continued praying for the tour. I'm looking forward to telling people across the UK the same Good News that changed my life—God loves us and His Son Jesus Christ can make a difference in all of our lives if we put our faith and trust in Him. I'm not preaching against anyone. This is a message of hope for all of us. We all need a Saviour and that Saviour is Jesus Christ.
CT: Were you surprised or disappointed by the call recently from the Liverpool Mayor for your bus adverts to be removed?
FG: No, because I think it's the reality of life and the world in which we live. There are people who hate the name of Christ and they will do everything to stop the Gospel from being proclaimed and people hearing the name of Jesus Christ. We're in a spiritual battle so it's not surprising; it's part of the territory. But again, we are not here to attack people but to love people and tell them about God's Son, Jesus Christ.
CT: How does what you have experienced here compare to the US and the spiritual climate there?
FG: We've had similar issues in some places. It's much more difficult here in the UK because the US hasn't gone quite as far spiritually to the left - but it's heading that way, so five years from now there may be exactly the same barriers as here.
CT: What encouragement would you like to give to pastors in the UK?
FG: My encouragement to the churches would be that we stay strong, we stay faithful, and we preach the Gospel. That's what Jesus told us to do: to go into the world and make disciples of all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. That is the work that we are all to do.
CT: On a personal level, you have such confidence in sharing your convictions. Where does that confidence come from?
FG: This is what God has called us to do. My confidence is in Him, it's not in myself in any way. It's just God.
CT: You have four dates in the UK. What legacy do you hope your tour might have?
FG: As we come out of the pandemic, I hope and pray that many people will put their faith in Jesus Christ, that the Church will be stronger as a result of our visit, and that the pastors will be encouraged to be bold and to stand for their faith - and not to compromise. We live in a world where compromise seems to be the main word - 'let's all be happy and try to get along'. I agree with that - we do need to get along and stand together. But at the same time, we cannot compromise the truth of the Gospel, and if that upsets somebody, let it upset them. We have to stay true to the Gospel and Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He's not 'a' way; He's 'the' way. There's no other way to God except through Him, because He is the one who paid the debt of sin. No other individual, entity, person or religion has paid the debt of sin. It's only Jesus Christ who paid that debt.
Upcoming dates on Franklin Graham's free God Loves You Tour:
21 May ICC Wales, Newport
25 May Sheffield Arena
16 July ExCeL London