Interview: Franklin Graham on the Gospel and Sudan Church Building Project

The Rev. Franklin Graham is a man who wears many hats - from serving as president/CEO of the humanitarian organisation Samaritan's Purse to heading his father's ministry, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, to devoting 10 percent of his time preaching.

|PIC1|Graham spoke to Christian Today just an hour before he was scheduled to share the last message at the closing night of MissionFest Toronto this month. During the interview, the evangelist shared about his recent trip to Sudan where he met with Muslim President Omar al-Bashir, his vow to rebuild at least 600 churches in Sudan, and the power of the Gospel.

On the Gospel

CT: During your mission festivals attended by tens of thousands of people, how do you feel as you look at the crowd?

Graham: First of all, the message that I preach isn't mine. It is the Gospel; it is God's Gospel. I'm just a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ who is given the mission to proclaim God's Gospel, and when I see the people out there I don't think 'Wow, that's a lot of people' or something like that.

I just realise that out there in that audience are people who are on their way to hell and I pray that God will give me a very clear voice and that people will understand what I'm saying and people will come by faith to Jesus Christ confessing their sins, repenting and inviting Christ to come to be the Lord of their life and take sovereign control of their life.

When you see people come forward it is always a very humbling moment because you see the work of the Holy Spirit in people's lives. It is not Franklin Graham doing it; it is not my gifted preaching because I am not a gifted preacher. It is the work of the Holy Spirit of God in people's lives. You see God's hand at work and it is always a thrill and it's a humbling experience.

It is also a frightening moment too because you realize that these people are making decision between life and death, and heaven and hell.

Do you change your message according to the country and culture that you are in?

Graham: No it doesn't change. The Gospel message is the same.

I remember about 30 years ago my father was doing a tour in Africa and he was in a very remote part of Nigeria and he preached John 3:16 and several weeks later he was in England at Oxford University and he thought, "hmmm, I think I'm going to preach the same message that I preached in Nigeria word for word."

The impact that the Gospel had on the people's lives in Nigeria - people came forward, received Christ - and Oxford where you have the elite of the elite was the same thing. It pierced the hearts of men and women and they stood on their feet to confess their sins, to repent and ask Christ to come in their hearts and become Lord of their lives.

So the Gospel is the same and it has power. Apostle Paul said that I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God and the salvation to the Jews first and then to the gentiles; the Gospel is God's power there's power in the Gospel.

How do you keep yourself grounded in the Gospel and focused on God with your busy schedule and intense activities?

Graham: I try to start every day with my own private Scripture reading and taking time to pray. Then every evening I try to do the same thing. When you travel sometimes your routine gets broken and it's not as easy to do so then you try to make up on the weekend. If you have a day with some extra hours then you want to read a little more and study a little more.

It is always a struggle when you are travelling.

On Sudan

What is the significance of the ambitious project to rebuild 600 churches in Sudan? Why Sudan when there are other countries where Christians are also persecuted and churches are also burned?

Graham: The world is a big place and sometimes God just puts you in a situation and you don't really know why. We (Samaritan's Purse) have been involved in Sudan for about 15 years.

This is an area in the world that the Muslims declared a holy war against the church of Jesus Christ and it was president al-Bashir who said that by the year 2000 he was going to annihilate the church in the south. It didn't happen. As a matter fact, it so much so didn't happen that he was forced to sign a peace agreement with the south and now there is a little bit of peace there.

We have found so far 500 churches that have been destroyed. When I say destroyed I mean brick by brick pulled down. Pastors were killed and pastors were crucified. At some churches the whole congregation was burned inside the church and people were scattered. They would also take a pastor's wife and his daughters and rape them in front of him.

All of this was done to make the church flee and run.

The five hundred churches that we have cataloged so far are only on the west side of the Nile River and we haven't even begun to look on the east side of the Nile. The Nile sort of splits the country in half so we think there is over 1,000 churches and I want to build every one of them back. Not 600 but I want to build 1,000 of them back.

The criteria for rebuilding a church is one that still has a congregation that is meeting out under trees or in the bush and the church has to have been destroyed during the war. If it hadn't been destroyed during the war then we are not going to build it back.

What are some of the challenges and difficulties speaking to a non-Christian high official, such as President al-Bashir, in terms of your statement that you try to evangelise everyone you meet?

Graham: First of all, when I met him two years ago he said, 'I want to make you a Muslim.' So when I met him this time, he said that 'Last time we met, I said I wanted to make you a Muslim, and I still want to make you a Muslim.'

And I said, 'Mr. President I'm honored that you think I'm worthy.' But I said that I am a minister of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and I believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the light and that there is no other way to God except through Jesus Christ.

So I make it very clear. I said that 'You try to destroy the churches in the south; you burned them, you pulled them down and I'm going to build every one of them back. With God's help I'm going to build them back and I want $15 million from you to go towards the building of these churches.'

I said 'I don't need your money; I don't need it. God will give me the money but you are responsible for this and I think your government ought to do something to try to rebuild these churches.'

He said 'Under the Koran, I am permitted to do it,' and he said 'I'll look into it.'