Charlotte Training Brings My Hope Buzz

By Trevor Freeze

The eighth training for an evangelistic outreach covering all of the U.S. and Canada took place in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday and for one South Carolina pastor, two things provided by My Hope with Billy Graham left him more excited about sharing his faith than ever — “resources and training.”

A decade has passed, but Adam Johnson remembers the feeling well.

A new Christian, Johnson — 25 years-old at the time — was eager to share his faith with anyone who would listen. So he invited some of his neighbors over to his house and tried to share the Gospel.

“I remember my nerves were wracked,” said Johnson, the associate pastor of Tega Cay Baptist Church in South Carolina. “I didn’t know what to say when they came over.”

Awkward and uncomfortable, Johnson’s evangelistic moment felt more like good grief than Good News.

“It wasn’t the brightest success story,” he said with a slight chuckle.

Fast forwarding 10 years and Johnson still has a zeal to reach his neighbors for Christ. But like a lot of us, he could also use some help.

And that’s where My Hope with Billy Graham comes into play. Perhaps the final call from Billy Graham, a nationwide evangelical movement has begun, culminating the week of Mr. Graham’s 95th birthday — November 7, 2013.

Just 11 months away, My Hope with Billy Graham gave Johnson a clear contrast to his first solo 2002 evangelistic experience.

“I tried to do something like this without the resources and the training,” Johnson said.

Johnson and more than 175 pastors and church representatives were exposed to those resources and training on Tuesday at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association headquarters in Charlotte, N.C.

The eighth such event in the past few weeks, the My Hope with Billy Graham training has been equipping pastors and church leaders across the U.S., from Portland, Sacramento, Kansas City and Evansville, Ind., to St. Louis, Birmingham, Ala., and Washington D.C. Dozens will be hosted around the U.S. and Canada in 2013.

The opportunity to actually reach unsaved friends, family and neighbors with the Gospel of Christ is enough to get many excited. The training and program resources have others eager to sign up.

“Very excited,” said Drew Kuehl, 33, youth pastor of Community Bible Church in Beaufort, S.C. “We’re a very evangelical church and we want to jump on this opportunity.”

Kuehl thinks this is a real opportunity for believers to put their faith into action to reach the lost in their circle.

“Inviting people we have established relationships with is the key,” Kuehl said. “Anytime you’re trying to share Christ, showing an interest in their life is going to make them a lot more receptive.”

So how exactly does My Hope with Billy Graham work?

The simple answer is one living room at a time.

But on a broader scale, it’s believers who are willing to open their homes as “Matthews,” just like Matthew did when he invited his friends over to meet Jesus.

Only this time, meeting Jesus will happen through a 30-minute program shown via TV, DVD, streaming video or through other media. The program will be a mix of culturally relevant music and testimonies, along with Billy Graham preaching woven together to create a unique Gospel presentation.

The “Matthew” will then share a brief testimony and give an opportunity for their visitors to make a commitment to Christ. Follow-up materials will also be distributed to help disciple new believers.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Sharion Brandenberg of Seigle Avenue First Church of God in Charlotte, N.C. “I can’t wait to go home and share it (with my church).”

Spencer Singleton, pastor of of Study House Church in uptown Charlotte, is also sold on getting involved with My Hope with Billy Graham.

Hours, as Singleton says, are ticking away.

“It’s a critical time for evangelism in our country and I think it’s time for outreach,” Singleton said. “It’s not just about being saved and living a comfortable life.

“He gave us a commandment to share the Good News — and people need Christ.”