Like a mighty army standing bravely as the enemy approaches, the leadership team for Franklin Graham’s upcoming Lancashire Festival of Hope in England is unfazed by torrents of opposition. They refuse to let what their eyes see and their ears hear contradict what they know in their hearts to be true.
There is nary a positive media report in the land. Important promotional bus signage for the Festival in Blackpool was stripped away in response to pressure from LGBTQ activists. Accusations against Franklin have been flying for months.
There was this recently in The Conservative Woman:
“Although the kind of Christianity represented by the Festival of Hope isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, most of its events seem entirely innocuous. Even LGBT activists presumably don’t object to witness teaching and prayer walks. The only feature they object to is Franklin Graham. Yet, for all the world like some Eastern European censor, they demand that Blackpool Transport pull all advertising of the entire event—and thereby threaten its success—because it features this one speaker.”
Still hope is arising in the company of men and women of God who comprise the leadership team.
“No one—I mean no one—is losing hope,” said Festival director Rod Barnett. “No one’s getting upset. No one’s fearful of anything because they know Who’s in charge.”
Given the spiritual climate of the area—the deep need for the spread of the Gospel—it should be no surprise that the enemy would seek to disrupt and destroy the life-giving potential of the Sept. 21-23 Festival.
“The area across northwest England that includes Blackpool is a pretty despairing place,” Barnett said. “It’s the suicide capital of England.”
Preparation for the Festival has included prayer walks and gatherings, a Love in Action project reaching out to the homeless community and a special visit at a pastors’ conference in February from noted international speaker and author R.T. Kendall.
“He was awesome,” Barnett said of Kendall. “He was so complimentary of Franklin, he was so complimentary of the Festival, and he made some really bold statements.”
Kendall is like that—a grandfatherly figure with a gentle disposition, but with a fire burning deep within that sometimes bursts to the surface when a sobering dose of truth needs to be communicated. He cares deeply about this Festival and about England, having served 25 years (1977-2002) as pastor at Westminster Chapel. Now living in the United States, he still comes back to England for about half of each year.
“Compared to the United States, British Christianity as a whole is left of center,” Kendall said as he began assessing the nation’s spirituality. “Even though you’ve got some robust evangelicals there, if you scratch an Anglican, you’ll probably find somebody who believes in annihilation and evolution—and they’re scared to death of the gay and lesbian community with their signs and protests.”
So Kendall’s message to the approximately 100 pastors at the conference threw down the gauntlet.
“A bunch of them were climbing off the boat and saying, ‘We don’t want to touch this,’” he said. “So I told them, ‘Throw your reputation to the wind. You’ve got a chance to stand tall. Franklin Graham will preach the Gospel. Don’t be ashamed of the Gospel! Don’t be intimidated by these people!’”
Kendall’s exhortation took root and is bearing great fruit, according to Barnett.
Kendall, 83, is a general of the faith, widely respected around the world. He takes issue with those who compare Franklin unfavorably to his father, Billy Graham, who passed away in February.
“Franklin is fearless,” said Kendall, adding that what he says will be spoken fearlessly.
“He is certainly a great exhorter. He knows the Gospel; he is unashamed. Whenever he is being interviewed, he ends up telling people to trust the Lord Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for their sins. And I admire that.”
Clearly, the Festival is in need of prayer. Barnett has a few tips on how best to petition the Father on their behalf.
“I don’t want to make the opposition the major prayer focus,” Barnett said. “The major focus should be just like anywhere else: There are a lot of people who need hope. There are a lot of people who need to hear about the love and the grace and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We’re just wanting to reach as many people as we possibly can with the message of the Gospel. We’re just wanting to love people in Jesus’ Name.”
Rick Oldland, pastor team leader for the Festival, calls the event a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Oldland and his wife, Julie, accepted Christ decades ago at a Billy Graham Crusade in the U.K. He has these words for anyone planning to attend the Blackpool event:
“There are people you know who will be changed by this Festival of Hope. Do everything you can to invite them. Invite pastors to come to the meetings. If you are a pastor, invite your leadership team. We’re going to see a spark that ignites a fire in Lancashire.”