Franklin Graham's message to the UK: God loves you

Franklin Graham is in the UK for two more stops on his God Loves You tour.(Photo: BGEA)

Franklin Graham has returned to the UK for two more stops on his God Loves You Tour.

The American evangelist is in Birmingham on Saturday night, where he will be joined by music guests Michael W Smith and former Hillsong worship leader, Taya.

He will then be in Glasgow at the OVO Hydro on 22 June. Thousands are expected to hear him preach at both events, which are free of charge.

Ahead of his Birmingham stop, Graham spoke to Christian Today about the message he's bringing and why he keeps coming back to the UK.

CT: Are you happy to be back in the UK?

FG: Absolutely, I'm happy to be back. We've been looking forward to this and it is a great privilege to be in this city.

CT: You don't just do one event but your organisation, BGEA, partners with local churches in the run-up. How has that been going?

FG: It's been going extremely well. The demographic make-up of this city and indeed across the UK is very different from when my father [Billy Graham] was here 60 or 70 years ago. And there's a whole new group of churches that are evangelical, excited and soul-winning. Almost 500 local churches are involved in this event and they're participating on a level that we haven't seen before. It's incredible.

CT: What do you want for Saturday's event?

FG: I want people to hear and understand that God loves them and that Jesus Christ shed his blood and died for our sins, but was raised to life on the third day and if we put our faith and trust in Him, God will forgive our sins and cleanse us and give to us the gift of eternal life. That's what I want for every person that comes; to know God's love and to experience His forgiveness and to have that hope of eternal life through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.

CT: This is not your first UK tour date, it's part of a longer ongoing tour. What kind of impact are you seeing as the tour has progressed?

FG: Last year and the year before that we were in London and that went extremely well, and we will be there again next year, so it's a building process. What we wanted to do these last few years was to take time going to different cities and communities and preaching the Gospel.

It's one thing to talk about evangelism and it's another for someone to come and see a demonstration of it - to see the simple preaching of the Gospel and an invitation being given, and people getting out of their seats to come forward and confess their sins and put their faith and trust in Christ. My prayer is that there will be young pastors and young men and women out there who will see that and get a call in their heart from God that this is what they want to do with their life.

CT: The first time you came to the UK the reception was hostile, a lot of venues cancelled your bookings, and you took legal action which you won. How has the reception been this time, especially from venues?

FG: Well, the hostility was not from the churches, it was from the venues, but all of that has been cleared up. We've got a good relationship with the venues and I think God has used all of that to give publicity and to inspire people to pray, and that's so important. People began to pray and we've seen God work out every venue and every problem, and all those things have been rectified. So we're excited to be here.

CT: What keeps you coming to the UK? What needs do you see here?

FG: First of all, the UK has had a huge impact on my country. So many pastors and missionaries came from this country to the United States, so I feel that we have an obligation to invest in this country the way that it invested in us. And every generation is new and changes, and has to be evangelized. The UK has seen great cultural and demographic shifts in the last 40 to 50 years so it's important that we establish relationships with the churches to come and stand beside them and help them in this area of evangelism.

CT: So part of your mission seems to be evangelistic on the one hand, reaching those who aren't Christian yet, and on the other strengthening those that are?

FG: Well, it's sharing God's word with people who've never heard it. Then, it's sharing God's word with people who have heard it but haven't made a decision. And then it's encouraging the churches and helping to strengthen them. That's important because it is the local churches that do the follow-up and discipleship with the people who come forward to make a decision for Christ.

CT: There are big elections coming up on both sides of the Atlantic this year and in both the US and the UK there are a lot of divisions. What role can Christians play in this critical year?

FG: The first thing is to pray. Most of the world does not have a chance to vote or it can vote but it doesn't mean anything because they're not counted. But in the US and UK we have an opportunity to vote and I think it's important to vote for candidates that best represent Christian values.

We often think about those who are running at the top of the ticket for president or prime minister, but there are elections further down that are extremely important. For example in the US, we can vote for people who sit on school boards and I think those are some of the most important elections. We have seen some terrible shifts in our country because people have not been paying attention to local school board elections. Christians should run for office and get control of the school boards.

CT: You were a very strong supporter of Trump last time. Will you be voting for him this time?

FG: I was strong for his policies but I did not campaign for him, not in 2016 or 2020, and this time round we don't know, he might be in prison! The politics in our country is so messed up and it's very concerning but still we need to pray that God's will be done in leadership, not just in the US but here in this country as well.

CT: There's a lot of upheaval in our world at the moment. What would you say to someone who's asking 'where's God in all this?'

FG: God's in the same place He's always been: knocking at the heart of each and every individual. He wants to come into your heart. When we look at all the problems in the world, we can't blame God because we turned our backs on God. God is still here; we just haven't been listening to Him. But He is knocking on the heart of every individual and He wants to come in if we'll let Him. That's why we're here in Birmingham. We're praying that many people will open up their hearts to God.