A few weeks ago I was blessed to have been able to go to the National Apologetics Conference hosted by Southeastern Seminary. I saw amazing presentations from talented men of God and met several amazing people along the way. One of the men I met at the conference was a guy named Wayne with the Billy Graham Library. Wayne talked to me for at least 15 minutes or more and was very genuine and engaging in our conversation. To be honest he completely was the opposite of what I expected when I walked by the table. I am used to being visually judged because of the tattoos on my arms and typically am not given half a thought by many people of his generation but after our conversation I realized that I was the judgmental one and had to repent of that. I am so thankful that God has genuine men and women of God out there that see the spirit of God in believers and not the outer core that we wear as flesh.
Wayne invited me to the Billy Graham Library for their “Vision For Evangelism” weekend and I reluctantly said I would think about it and gave him my info and honestly didn’t really expect to hear back from him. A few days later I had an email from him asking if I was still interested in going to the vision weekend and I tried to get information out of him about it and it just seemed ambiguous and I was sure they were going to try to sell me something, again me being judgmental and again I had to repent of my wrong thinking. So I told Wayne I would definitely make the drive down to Charlotte and see what they had to say but I wasn’t sure if I could afford a hotel room since I literally live from sermon to sermon on love offerings. Again I was shocked and humbled when Wayne said the Billy Graham Association would cover my room and he would send me the reservation numbers as soon as possible.
I began thinking that since God set all these chance meetings up and he funded this trip then God may be orchestrating the whole thing for a reason go figure right. I was really getting excited for the weekend, even though it was still very shrouded in uncertainty. I decided that whatever it was it would be an adventure and an opportunity to meet other passionate believers and a free night in a hotel with meals provided, even at that it was going to be worth it.
I was anxious all day Friday and got to the hotel about 2 hours early, checked in to one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever stayed in and then just rested for the next hour. I drove the 2 miles to the Billy Graham Library and got stuck in traffic after I missed my turn so it took me around 25-30 minutes to go the short distance. I was the first one to arrive and got to walk around the inside of the Billy Graham Library and talk to some maintenance staff. It was overwhelming from the very beginning.
The Billy Graham Library really isn’t a library at all, I mean yes it has books, but it’s set up more like a museum of evangelism. It showcases the life of Billy Graham and illustrates that from humble beginnings and devotion to the call of God on one mans life that we can make a great impact for the kingdom of God. After I’d been in the museum a while I saw the smiling face of Wayne and he remembered my name. We talked for a few minutes and he was very excited that I came and said that I was the only one that committed to coming from the Apologetics conference. I definitely felt the providence of God in that moment knowing that many were asked to come to this event but for whatever reason I was the only one from that venue that decided to make the trip.
Several students from Garner Webb University and other schools came to the vision for evangelism weekend and we all met in the lobby of the museum under the big cross shaped doorway. We talked for a few minutes and Wayne, the historian, gave us some information about the library as well as Billy Graham’s life and then he prayed over the meal we were about to share together.
There were approximately 18 or 19 of us that came to the Vision For Evangelism weekend and the ages ranged from 17-30, me and one other guy being the old men of the group so to speak. I sat next to some guys from Garner Webb University and we all talked about who we were and where we were from over a fantastic meal provided by the Library staff. Halfway through our meal the Vice President of the Billy Graham Library, Tom Phillips, came and apologized for his tardiness explaining that he just drove back from a last minute meeting with Franklin Graham.
Tom introduced himself and cast vision for the weekend and explained that we were the first group to ever go through this training weekend and that we would essentially be guinea pigs for the program and they wanted us to critique everything and let them know how it all went, etc. We all went around the dinner table and gave a quick introduction to everyone else and explained who we were and what we did. After dinner we went on a tour of the Library that took approximately 2.5 hours to complete. Wayne guided us on the tour and gave us a brilliant account of the history of Billy Graham’s ministry. We saw artifacts and pictures from the 60+ years of Dr. Graham’s ministry and the heaviness of his words and simplicity of his sermons really weighed on me. There were several moments during the tour that I felt the Holy Spirit so strong in the building that I just wanted to weep. I felt so affirmed and confirmed as an evangelist that I just wanted to leave right then and go preach.
I think the thing that struck me the most was that Billy Graham started out his ministry much like mine, just a heart to preach and a desire to please God and a willingness to literally preach anywhere. I was so amazed and humbled at his devotion to God and it really convicted me about needing to study and pray more than ever to show myself approved by God and to effectively be able to communicate God’s word. I learned so much during the tour and spent the rest of the night in prayer after I got back to my hotel room as was encouraged by Tom for us to do. I felt the seriousness and importance of this weekend for me to come up with a vision for my ministry for how I will be evangelizing to the next generation.
I arrived Saturday morning back to the Library about an hour early and decided to walk the grounds and continue to pray in the wood line on one of the park benches. The property surrounding the Library is simply beautiful, all of it. Wayne greeted me as I went into Library and when I got to the conference room we were all meeting in Tom met me with another big smile. Those two men of God are amazing examples of humility, service, and genuine faith in Jesus. I can’t express my gratitude for their kindness and the love they showed all of us this weekend. Tom spent the morning teaching us more about Billy Graham’s vision, ministry and the characteristics of Jesus and etc. It was a great time of learning, praying, and thinking. Our meeting and lesson would often get interrupted by prayer when the Holy Spirit felt like we had reached saturation we would all stand up, join hands, and pray. Truly an amazing example of a spirit led meeting.
After lunch we were told that we would need to write down our Vision For Evangelism for the next generation on a certificate that we were to hang up. Prayerfully this is what I wrote:
My vision for evangelism is to preach the Gospel unashamed like a man already dead. Preach with a fire and passion that through the Holy Spirit many will be saved by Jesus. My heart is to be a missional-minded evangelist preaching to all nations and illustrating the glory of God’s creation and power of His salvation.
I felt like that summed up what my vision should and would be for my ministry and my life to come. Tom asked if anyone wanted to read theirs and after a few people read I decided to read mine. Knowing my testimony, after I read my vision Tom said “Not bad…for an atheist.” I busted out laughing, as did most everyone else, it was truly a great testament to the genuine personalities of the staff at the Billy Graham Library. Very down to earth.
They gave us a plaque with a replica nail that pierced the hands of Jesus, 2 certificates (one being our vision), several books and an experience that will last a lifetime. I walked away from this weekend humbled, fired up, affirmed and more passionate than ever to preach the Good News of the Gospel of Christ! If you are ever in the Charlotte area, I challenge and encourage you to prayerfully go visit the Billy Graham Library and take the time to soak up the experience and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you and ask Him what His vision for evangelism is for you in your life.