By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
BALTIMORE, Md.—“I think it’s an exciting time for believers,” Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the international relief and evangelism organization Samaritan’s Purse, told BaptistLIFE in an exclusive interview on May 14. Graham was the guest speaker at a packed to capacity Martin’s West in Baltimore for the annual Metro-Maryland Youth For Christ banquet.
“I’m glad to hear there are some Baptists here!” Graham quipped with a big smile at the introduction during the interview.
Graham said his father, Billy Graham, “Daddy,” is 94 years old and doing well. “His mind is still as sharp as a tack,” Graham said.
Regarding George Beverly Shea’s death, Graham said, “I have so many memories…” What he appreciated the most, he said, was Shea’s offering to join Franklin during his crusades. “He said, ‘I want to be with you.’ What a blessing!”
BL: When your dad was doing his crusades it was the heyday of evangelicalism. Now, the term evangelical Christian is frowned on. People think of terms like “hate” and “bigot.” What are your words of encouragement to the church?
“I think it’s an exciting time for believers. Forty or fifty years ago it was easy to be a Christian. Today it’s not. I never shy away from saying I’m an evangelical Christian. It gives me an opportunity to share my faith.
“God will use us to sift His church.”
BL: That’s an interesting perspective: “sifting” the church.
“People watch what you live. True followers live for Him seven days a week, 24 hours a day. The world is watching,” Graham said in a voice that sounds so similar to his father. His eyes, his body language –everything speaks of the passion Graham has for standing firm on the gospel of Jesus.
“These are difficult days. I think it’s going to get harder. The government is against us.”
Graham said both the Billy Graham Evangelical Association and Samaritan’s Purse received audit letters last fall from the IRS on the same day. “That’s not a coincidence,” he said.
In fact, a Baptist Press article on May 15, written by Todd Starnes, reported that Franklin Graham wrote a letter to President Obama on May 14, the day of this interview. Graham’s letter, according to BP, includes the following paragraph:
“I am bringing this to your attention because I believe that someone in the Administration was targeting and attempting to intimidate us.” Graham described the IRS audits as “morally wrong and unethical– indeed some would call it ‘un-American.’”
Starnes reported, “Both organizations were notified of the IRS audits on the same day—not long after BGEA ran advertisements supporting North Carolina’s marriage amendment.”
“We live in a culture where the government is becoming anti-Christian so we’re going to have to stand firm,” Graham said.
BL: Yes, but it’s not going to be easy.
“Well, I like a good fight!” he said with a huge grin.
BL: That leads me right to another question. It seems as though we are on the edge of persecution in America.
“There are many forms of persecution,” Graham said.
“My forefathers came from Scotland. The king of England said he was head of the church. They said, ‘No, the Lord Jesus Christ is the head!’”
Graham said the dissenters had their heads, hands and feet cut off. Their heads were “…rolled across the town like bowling balls.” Those who escaped came to America for freedom to worship.
“They suffered for their faith,” Graham said, leaning forward. “Throughout the Middle East the church is under attack. Christians are killed. Brothers and sisters throughout the Muslim world are under attack. Our administration says nothing about it.
“If they’re going to suffer, why would God spare us from suffering?”
As he prepared to exit for his message to the YFC audience, Graham said he admires those who minister to youth.
His message at the banquet was a typical “Graham”-style address focused directly on the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“God still uses the gospel–it works, and when you share the gospel don’t hold back! Don’t try to soft pedal it. Just tell the truth.
“Paul says, ‘I’m not ashamed of the gospel.’ …There’s power in the blood. There’s power in the gospel!”
To read more of this interview, including information about Graham’s presentation at the Metro-Maryland Youth For Christ banquet, read online at www.bcmd.org.