I stood on the steps of the Quirino Grandstand at Rizal Park, along the shore of Manila Bay, and looked out at the large crowd of people massed in front of me. Tens of thousands had come to attend the Greater Pangasinan-Metro Manila Celebration, and I had just finished telling the audience about a Savior who loves them so much that He gave His life to pay the debt for their sins. Even more, He conquered the grave, and now we can have the eternal hope of Heaven through His resurrection.
As I prayerfully called out the invitation, giving the opportunity for Filipinos to surrender to Christ, I was struck by something.
In 1977 my grandfather, Billy Graham, stood in this same exact spot and proclaimed the Good News. Then, in 2006, my father, Franklin Graham, preached from these same steps. Now, here I was. Three generations, three outreaches, one location, and—most important—one Gospel message!
Next to me stood my interpreter, a third-generation pastor as well, one of 14 cousins who all went into ministry and are making an impact for the Kingdom.
As I turned my eyes back to the flood of people pouring forward to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ, the generational impact of the Gospel once again came clearly into focus.
You see, when we hold evangelistic outreaches, we keep records and follow up with every person who responds to Jesus, helping to plug them into a local church where they can grow in their newfound faith. Because we record these responses, we are able to know how many people made spiritual decisions. And, my friends, we rejoice greatly over each and every one of those.
However, over the years I’ve come to understand that evangelism isn’t just horizontal, but vertical as well.
Now, often when we speak about horizontal and vertical in the scope of evangelism, we’re referring to horizontal as man’s relationship with man, and vertical as man’s relationship with God. However, in this instance, the horizontal means the here and now, and the vertical is the potential generational impact.
For instance, on Sunday night in Manila, nearly 4,000 people responded to the invitation, repented of their sins and accepted Christ as Savior. That huge group of inquirers stretched from one end of the grandstand to the other. That’s the horizontal. Those are the people giving their lives to Jesus in this place, at this moment in time.
The vertical comes in as that young couple who had an encounter with Christ at Rizal Park gets married and begins having kids that they raise in a Christian home. The vertical comes in as an entire family walks forward to kneel at the foot of the cross. The vertical comes in as parents see the change in their teenagers who responded to the Gospel and want that same hope in their lives. The vertical comes in as the expectant mother recognizes her need for the Savior and then raises that young child in the way he should go.
Yes, each and every one of those people who responded to the Gospel message in the Philippines (more than 19,400 over the course of nine different meetings) are precious, but when I watch them come forward I think about their children, their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren. Families that may have spent generations lost and wandering, now on the right course as they shine the light of Jesus. Families that may impact Manila and the Philippines for the next century.
A perfect example of this is the story of Ron Baker, a bus driver in Sydney, Australia, who—in 1959—was hired to transport attendees to and from my grandfather’s historic campaign in that city. Mr. Baker was an alcoholic whose world was in shambles. His marriage was on the rocks and his life was spiraling. He hated the hope-filled and joyous Christians who rode his bus.
His wife was invited to the Crusade, and she made a commitment to Jesus as her Savior. Later, Mr. Baker himself stepped into the stadium to see what was taking place, and he, too, was radically changed as he opened the door of his heart to Christ.
Mr. and Mrs. Baker, suddenly on fire for God, reconciled their marriage, were set free from the vices that ensnared them and raised their young family in service to the Lord. Not surprisingly, decades later their children and grandchildren are in ministry, making an impact as ambassadors for Jesus.
A family that could have otherwise suffered through generations of alcohol and substance abuse, broken homes and heartbreak have instead known years of peace and the joy that comes from a personal relationship with Jesus.
As you look around you, I would encourage you to be mindful of not just the neighbor who needs to know Christ, but the neighbor’s children and grandchildren; not just your colleague, but your colleague’s family.
And, even closer to home, consider the generational impact of Jesus within your own house and lineage. If your children and grandchildren are following Jesus as Lord, never take that for granted. Encourage them in their walk and in their ministry to others. Praise God for His faithfulness and pray every day for His continued blessing on your family.
At the same time, I know that many of you reading this are brokenhearted because your children and grandchildren have chosen to walk away from the Lord. They’ve heard the hope of Christ, they’ve seen your example, but they’ve strayed like the young prodigal.
Dear friends, if that’s where you find yourselves, never stop praying. Allow the light of Christ to shine through you, and trust that the same vertical, generational impact of the Gospel will one day take root in your family. Yes, your child or grandchild must make their own decisions, and their decisions may take them to the pigpens of the world, but they’ll also see your faithfulness and feel the draw to come home.
It was once said that Christianity is always one generation from extinction. While I understand the thought behind this, I don’t believe it for a second. God will always raise up a remnant of believers, who will—through the vertical impact of the Gospel in their own families and beyond—carry on the hope of Jesus.
I’ve been blessed to see this around the world, and I pray you’ll have the opportunity to see it in your life and family as well.