October 8, 2013
By Kristy Etheridge
In the last 25 years, TobyMac has witnessed thousands make decisions for Christ in arenas all over the United States.
First as a member of the trio dcTalk, and later as a solo artist, Toby has worked with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) to share the Gospel inside packed stadiums. He’s seen people from all walks of life make their way down metal bleachers and concrete stairs, weaving through dense crowds and booming noise to accept an open invitation to follow Jesus.
His own encounter with Jesus, though, happened in a very different setting, without the glare of stadium lights or pounding bass drums. Before he was TobyMac, 12-year-old Toby McKeehan accepted Christ inside a cabin at summer camp. He made the decision after a youth pastor shared the Gospel with Toby and a small group of other campers.
“It’s what affected me,” Toby said. “It wasn’t someone behind a pulpit. It was someone sitting on a dusty floor of a cabin talking about Jesus.”
The youth pastor who led Toby to Christ didn’t just share Bible stories; he shared his own experiences, building a relationship with a small group of guys who grew to trust and respect him.
“He would share with us about the things he had been through in life,” Toby said. “Just sitting on the floor with that guy, he would open up the Word and it came to life for me.”
My Hope with Billy Graham
It’s that kind of intimate, small group setting that the BGEA is praying will be the backdrop for thousands of new decisions for Christ this November, as Billy Graham spearheads a relationship evangelism project built on the foundation of trust and friendship.
From a bird’s eye view, the movement—called My Hope with Billy Graham—is massive. More than 25,000 churches in the United States and Canada have registered to participate and are in the process of training their congregations to share the Gospel with unchurched friends and family.
But at ground level, My Hope is about doing evangelism on a small scale. The project calls on believers to invite a handful of people into their homes to share a meal and talk about faith. The bulk of the message comes from a powerful 30-minute video that weaves Billy Graham’s preaching together with real-life stories of men and women who made the life-altering decision to follow Christ.
As part of My Hope, a new book from Billy Graham is being released, along with a music album called My Hope: Songs Inspired by the Message and Mission of Billy Graham. The album, which comes out Oct. 15, features TobyMac, Michael W. Smith, Nichole Nordeman, Lacey Sturm, Matthew West, Darlene Zschech, Newsboys and others.
Many of the songs are brand new; others are already well-known but have a new twist for the CD.
TobyMac’s song will be familiar to most Christian music listeners. It’s a new version of “City on Our Knees,” with the voice of Billy Graham preaching the Gospel over the music.
“It’s powerful,” Toby said. “It’s really powerful to have someone like that on it. We sort of dropped it right within the song, almost like a remix. It’s a Reverend Billy Graham remix.”
Almost 20 years ago, in 1994, Toby remembers sharing the stage with Billy Graham for the first time.
The BGEA had invited dcTalk to be part of Youth Night at a Billy Graham Crusade.
“A lot of times, you feel like, as a believer you have this responsibility to share [the Gospel]” Toby said. “I do, anyway. My gifting is really songwriting, but I feel the need to share it verbally, as spoken word. But when you’re onstage and Dr. Graham’s going to speak after you finish, it’s amazing. It’s a freeing feeling to know the Gospel is going to be presented so clearly.
“So now we’re doing that in song. It’s amazing. Technology’s your friend.”
‘One-on-One is Where It Starts’
Just as “City on Our Knees” talks about sharing God’s love now instead of waiting until later, Billy Graham’s My Hope message calls people to make a decision about Jesus now, because it’s just too important to put it off.
As My Hope culminates around Nov. 7—Billy Graham’s 95th birthday—this time, the tried and true message of salvation won’t echo through arenas; it will play out on laptops, iPads and TVs in living rooms across North America. And it will all start with a personal invitation from a believer who has already been praying for family and friends who don’t know Christ.
“With a generation that’s struggling in the United States with mass evangelism—struggling with sort of being sold something—I think to do it in a lifestyle way, to do it relationally and personally is being very wise,” Toby said.
“I do believe in people coming together in a festival-type setting and bringing their friends to that arena or that stadium, but it will never replace personal one-on-one relationships and living out the Gospel day to day with your neighbors and your friends.”
With My Hope now less than a month away, Toby hopes the album will inspire people to reach out now and build on the relationships they’ve already established with people who don’t know Jesus.
It was a relationship forged inside a dusty cabin that led Toby to Christ. Come November, thousands more will experience the love of Jesus inside homes across North America.
“As we move forward as a Kingdom, I think it is going to be one-on-one,” Toby said. “I’m excited about this. One-on-one is where it starts—it’s where it always starts.”