Billy Graham preached the Gospel across Australia over four months in 1959, God poured out His grace in a mighty way. More than 3 million people heard the message of Christ, and more than 130,000—some 1.2 percent of the nation’s population—responded to the invitation. In the years that followed, attendance in Bible colleges and seminaries increased, and statistics showed a decrease in alcohol consumption and a brief halt in the increase of crime.
Sixty years later, Australia is a far different country. The population has grown from 10 million to 25 million. Immigration has transformed Australia into one of the most multicultural countries in the world.
And despite the vibrant ministries of some churches and a strong response to the Gospel during various evangelistic efforts, Australia has, like other Western nations, become increasingly secular. Only about 7 percent of Australians now attend church weekly, and 30 percent of the population identifies as having no religion.
“With secularism dominating our culture—so much so that many political leaders do not seem ready to defend key religious freedoms—and with church leaders who seem more interested in cultural identification than Gospel integrity, this is the time to be clear on the life-changing message of Jesus,” says Karl Faase, chairman of BGEA and Samaritan’s Purse Australia.
And so, next month, Franklin Graham will mark the 60th anniversary of his father’s landmark Australian Crusade by preaching the Gospel in the six major capital cities across the continent: Perth, Darwin, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Sydney.
“Franklin’s Australian Tour comes at a critical time in our history,” says Jorge Rodrigues, executive director of BGEA in Australia and New Zealand. “There is a stirring among many Christians; some are working for unity and boldness in proclaiming the Gospel.”
Still, many churches seem apathetic about proclaiming the Good News of salvation, which only augments the nation’s secularization.
Many children grow up without any understanding of who Jesus is, says Wendy Francis, Queensland director of the Australian Christian Lobby. “This has left us with a huge spiritual dryness that only the Good News of Jesus Christ will satisfy.”
David Dawson, founder of MMM (Mobile Mission Maintenance), echoes that thought. “There’s no doubt about it,” he says. “Australia is really a pagan nation. You don’t talk on the street about Christianity, church, God or Jesus. They are just not in the vocabulary of our government or the man on the street. … The Gospel is needed in this nation like never before.”
The need goes beyond a simple lack of knowledge about the Gospel. A study by the McCrindle research firm found that about one-quarter of Australians actually have negative attitudes toward Christianity, in large part because of sexual abuse scandals in several denominations, both Protestant and Catholic.
Even so, the nation recently elected a prime minister, Scott Morrison, who is boldly evangelical, and Crusades in recent years by Franklin Graham and Will Graham have shown repeatedly that when confronted with the Gospel, many people recognize their need to repent and put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
God has promised that His Word will not return void, and as the Tour dates approach, it’s clear that He is already moving. As Graham Tour organizers meet with church leaders, they hear story after story of people who want to be involved, many of whom trace their own salvation to BGEA’s ministry.
By early December, more than 1,000 churches were participating in the Tour, and more than 6,700 people had attended Christian Life and Witness Classes, which are set to continue through mid-January. The classes provide Biblical teaching and practical help for following Jesus Christ and for telling others about God’s plan of salvation. More than 3,000 had signed up to be prayer volunteers during the Tour.
“Lord willing, the Graham Tour will see thousands come to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior,” Rodrigues says, “and in addition it will encourage thousands of Christians to step out of their comfort zone in faith to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.”