Pastor Murray Gossett still has two promotional signs in his office from the last time his church participated in a Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) event. They read: “Texas Panhandle Festival 2000 with Franklin Graham.”
The father of five, who has been the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Amarillo, Texas, for the past 31 years, cherishes the signs as poignant reminders of when his sons professed their faith in Christ. “All three of my boys, at different times, went forward during the multi-night Franklin Graham Festival,” Gossett recalls fondly. “All three continue to walk with Christ, and they’re doing good things.”
As Gossett prayerfully anticipates the Route 66 God Loves You Tour in Amarillo on Sept. 26, he realizes that a lot has changed since Franklin last preached in the region 21 years ago, and the need for mass evangelism is urgent. “The needs are greater than ever before as far as people’s lives being based on wrong values and wrong perspectives, and living out the deceptiveness of the culture,” he says. “The lures of the world are stronger than ever before.”
And that’s precisely why Franklin is embarking on an eight-city Tour Sept. 19-Oct. 2 across America’s heartland and then into the West, with stops in Joliet, Illinois; St. Louis, Missouri; Springfield, Missouri; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Amarillo, Texas; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Flagstaff, Arizona; and San Bernardino, California.
“Every generation has to be evangelized,” Franklin says. “Just because someone preached in Oklahoma City or St. Louis 15 years ago—this is another generation. There are a lot of people out there who are fearful. Businesses have failed. People have lost their jobs. A lot of people have just been sick; loved ones have died. And I think as a result of all that, there’s a question in people’s minds: ‘Does God love me?’”
For Carmen Gillespie, God’s love has continued to strengthen her and her husband ever since their 10-year-old daughter was killed in a snow skiing accident about 12 years ago. “Every morning I wake up, I say, ‘Good morning, Jesus, help me to love You more, and help me to love others.’”
So, when Gillespie received an email from BGEA inviting her to attend a local Christian Life & Witness Course to receive training as a counselor for the upcoming Tour stop in Amarillo, she says she had to attend. “You can never have enough of God’s Word,” says Gillespie, a member of Hillside Christian Church. “I’m already praying for God’s will and whatever God wants us to do, for me to be able to do and help as much as I can.”
Brent Molskness, connections pastor at Mission Bible Church in Joliet, Illinois, says he’s grateful that the Tour is launching from his city on Sept. 19.
“This will be a great opportunity in our community to see the churches working together,” Molskness says. “Coming out of the pandemic, this can be a shot in the arm for the Kingdom as we rally the troops and get everybody back together again. This Tour event gives us another opportunity to strengthen our alliances and just be reminded that the Kingdom of God is much larger than our local church.”
Lee Miller has served for six years as pastor of First Baptist Church in Republic, Missouri, about 15 minutes west of the Green County fairgrounds in Springfield, where the Tour is scheduled Sept. 23. When Miller began his pastorate at the church off Highway 60, members were considering closing the dwindling church. But now the congregation numbers over 100.
“‘As you go, make disciples, teaching them whatsoever I have commanded you,’ Jesus said, and that’s our mission statement,” Miller says. “That’s what we’re all about. And if we don’t do that, we are failing to do what our Lord has called us to do. This is a very important event for us to be involved with because we need to be reaching out. We’re going to encourage people to go, and we’ll take them with us so that we can be involved more with this evangelistic effort.”
Miller can’t wait to see how God is going to answer the faithful prayers of those who have been interceding for the Tour over the past several months. “Wednesdays, we get together and have our prayer meeting, and we remember again that this whole thing needs to be God-directed, bathed in prayer,” he says.
Back in Amarillo, Gillespie says she believes the same message of God’s love that saved her husband from suicidal thoughts following their daughter’s tragic death will also resonate with many along Route 66. Paraphrasing a Billy Graham television message that she found uplifting in the midst of her grief, Gillespie says, “Jesus loves you. And when you feel that He doesn’t love you, look at the cross. Remember the cross.”