A New Direction for Churches

A New Direction for Churches

 Right now, more than 20,000 churches across the United States and Canada are mobilizing their members for My Hope with Billy Graham, which culminates Nov. 7—Billy Graham’s 95thbirthday—as believers (called Matthews, after the Apostle Matthew) invite friends and neighbors into their homes to share a meal and watch a program that powerfully conveys the Gospel message. You, too, can be involved in My Hope, one of the largest evangelistic efforts ever conducted in these two nations. Recently Decision talked with Preston Parrish, BGEA’s vice president of My Hope, and Bill Conard, executive director of My Hope, about what you can be doing now to share the hope of Christ with your loved ones.

Decision: What do Christians need to know right now about participating in My Hope With Billy Graham this November?

Preston: Prayer is the immediate step that people can begin taking right now. Write down the names of two or three people you know who need to meet Christ—family members, neighbors, co-workers, friends—and start praying that God will open their eyes to their need for Him and that He will give you opportunities to show His love to them. Then begin planning to have them in your home and show them Christian hospitality.

Christian hospitality was at the heart of the early church’s growth. They proclaimed Christ in the marketplace as well, but the home was an integral part. It may be that a missing key to the growth of the faith here in our day is that we have lost our vision, the understanding and practice of home-based outreach.

Bill: As we head toward November, this is a very important time for building relationships. We want to continue to build relationships with those around us and deepen friendships with those who are on our Matthew list. We should, God willing, be having some spiritual conversations with them, so that our faith is starting to show through. Prayer should be a strong part of our personal involvement, in some cases praying for them in their presence or telling them we are praying for them.

And we should pray not just for their salvation, but also for things that may be troubling them—if they need work, if they need better health, if they’ve got an errant child, if there is some family problem—we lift those things to God in prayer.

Decision: How can My Hope strengthen participating churches?

Preston: Many churches have gotten into a mindset that says evangelism happens every now and then, out there somewhere, in a stadium or an auditorium—and generally by somebody else.

At the heart of My Hope is the biblical truth that God wants to use each of us to show and to share His love and His Gospel. My Hope calls churches to a fresh realization of this biblical pattern, encouraging and equipping them to begin practicing it as never before. And we’re not just telling people what they ought to do; My Hope is a tool, a resource, for them to use in fulfilling God’s plan for them to be His witnesses.

Bill: As new believers come into the church, it revitalizes all the ministries of the church and helps us focus not on ourselves but on the world out there that Jesus came to save. And each new person becomes a link to even more who don’t know Christ. As the churches help these new believers grow in their faith, they will reach out to others. This creates an ongoing process of growth and revitalization and strength in the local church. We’re not just talking numbers; we’re talking about spirit, about attitudes, about the whole direction of the local church.

Decision:  How can My Hope help individual Christians share their faith?

Preston: Research shows that very few believers will ever lead another person to faith in Jesus Christ. The vast majority of Christians have not shared their faith with anyone in at least six months. By and large, evangelism is not a practice, a lifestyle, among Christians. To the extent that it is done, it is done by a highly motivated few. And yet, God’s plan is for all believers in Jesus Christ to be His witnesses.

My Hope is both a wake-up call to believers to do this and also a plan—with demonstrated effectiveness in 57 countries around the world—to help them do it.

Bill: We’ve named it My Hope because it is simply sharing our hope. What is it that gets me through the day, the week, the month or the year? What is it that gets me though an illness or the death of a family member? It is my hope in Jesus Christ that gets me through.

So this project is about providing tools so people can talk about the faith they have found, the hope they find in Jesus.

Decision: What do Decision readers need to understand about My Hope?

Preston: We desperately want people to understand this is not merely another media outreach. My Hope does involve media, and that is a focal point for people to gather friends and expose them to the Gospel. But My Hope is a grass-roots movement. It’s person-to-person, relationship-based, prayer-fueled evangelism.

Christians in the United States have had more resources, more opportunities, more freedom and more aids for living and sharing the Gospel than any Christians in the history of the church. And yet the spiritual tide in our nation is clearly and increasingly anti-Christian. Why? What’s the problem?

We believe that at least part of the answer to that question is the fact that individual Christians, by and large, are silent with the Gospel in the context of their relationships. No wonder our nation is sliding into spiritual ruin. My Hope is an effort to encourage a change of thinking and practice.

As you prepare for My Hope with Billy Graham this November, pray daily for your friends, and actively build authentic relationships with them. Bill Conard and Preston Parrish are not only leading the My Hope project; they are participating as Matthews as well. Here, they share some of their recent experiences to give you a glimpse of how you might interact with your own friends.

Bill Conard
I recently lived in an apartment complex, and Ken, one of the guys on my Matthew list, was the caretaker. He has become a close friend. I don’t have a television, so during the presidential debates, I went to his house to watch them. I brought some ice cream with me.

His son is 21 years old, and several times I’ve asked him to help me haul some things and so forth. After one of my visits with the two of them, as I was leaving their apartment, I asked, “What can I pray about for you guys?”

The father asked for prayer for his knees, so I prayed for his knees.

Then his son said, “Well, Mr. Bill, I’d like to start over.”

I said, “What do you mean?”

He said, “Well, I’ve made some bad decisions. I wish I could start over.”

“You can start over,” I said.

I asked for the family Bible, and I showed him some Scriptures. A half-hour later, he prayed to receive Christ.

Preston Parrish
My wife, Glenda, and I decided we would try to get better acquainted with our next-door neighbors, so we invited them over for lunch. We didn’t know where they were spiritually, and as we were preparing to have them in our home, we wondered whether we would be able to get a word in for the Lord.

We just decided to do what we normally do, namely begin the meal with a word of thanks to God. So when we sat down at the table, I explained, “Before we eat, we usually pause to have a word of prayer and thank God, and I’d like to do that now.”

They just politely nodded, and I prayed a brief prayer. No sooner had I said “Amen” and looked up than the man looked up and said, “So tell me, how long have you been born again?”

That opened the door for the entire conversation to be about spiritual things, about our experience with Jesus Christ, about the difference Christ has made in our lives, and about how He could make a difference in their lives, too.

So God went before us, and just by our doing a normal act of devotion—thanking God for our food—He blessed that and the door swung wide open for us to share the Gospel.

Go to MyHopeWithBillyGraham.org (in Canada, MyHopeWithBillyGraham.ca). Click on “Pastors” or “Individuals” to sign up. Or call us at 1-877-247-2426.

Write down the names of friends who don’t know Jesus. Pray for them every day, and look for ways to strengthen your relationship with them.

It’s easy to become part of My Hope with Billy Graham.

Find a training event near you, or take our online training, which gives you everything you need to know to become a Matthew who, like the Apostle Matthew, held a gathering where his friends could meet Jesus.

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