Franklin Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, will embark on a Decision America Sunshine State Tour, visiting six Florida cities in January with a message of hope. The free tour will begin on January 11 in Jacksonville Beach, followed by stops in Plant City, Panama City Beach, Key West, Boca Raton and Fort Myers. Franklin, the son of the late Evangelist Billy Graham, will be in South Florida on January 18 at the Sunset Cove Amphitheater in Boca Raton at 4 p.m. for an exciting evening of prayer, music and a powerful message of Good News.
As a speaker and author, Graham regularly addresses current moral and social issues, calling Christians to stand for godly values while providing biblical context and application to national and world events.
He and the organizations he leads have helped people impacted by crisis including 9/11 and other terrorist attacks; civil war in Sudan; the Iraqi and Syrian refugee crises; and national disasters ranging from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to earthquakes in Japan, Haiti and China. He has also met privately with six U.S. presidents and world leaders from Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Just before Christmas, Graham shared his thoughts with us about his leadership role, growing up Graham and the upcoming Florida tour.
Les Feldman – We admire your outspoken role of leadership in politics. What is the reaction that you generally get, understanding that leaders lead?
Franklin Graham – Our world has changed so much in the last 25 years. We used to have some great Christian leaders who spoke out on some of these issues. You had Jerry Falwell, Dr. Kennedy and others who were able to defend the faith. But what is so surprising today is there are so few voices speaking out. As an evangelist I want to warn people about the danger of sin, and I want people to know that there are consequences to sin. I want people to know that Jesus Christ paid the debt of sin, that he shed his blood on the cross and died for our sins and then God raised to life. But I want every person to know that God will forgive them. But the issue is the churches, so many are giving in because of culture and acceptability, and they don’t want to be on the outside of the crowd. They want to kind of fit in with the crowd. And I want to warn not only sinners to repentance but I want to warn the church that we have a responsibility and that is to hold to the truths of scripture and to present the truth of the scripture to the next generation.
LF – Wonderful. Along those lines, what do you feel are the next steps? We’re in difficult times right now. You constantly point out that we need prayer for our leadership, for our president. In bringing the factions together, what do you feel is necessary at this point?
FG – Well first of all there has to be revival in this country. You can’t bring oil and water together. You’re not going to bring darkness and light together. There has to be a revival. People’s hearts have to be changed. And the only way that can be changed is through the preaching of the gospel.
LF – Samaritan’s Purse is global. It’s an awesome undertaking. Based on the disaster relief that you provide, how many countries can you actually be in at the same time in providing disaster relief?
FG – Well that’s a good question. We operate in about 110 countries. When I say operate, we have people inside those countries, nationals that work with us at some level or another, whether it is Operation Christmas Child or whatever. As far as providing relief in a large way, it would probably be around 10 or 15 countries at a time that we would be able to get in a large way and then many others in a smaller way for just a short period of time. We don’t go in and stay in every country. We work on a particular need and then we leave.
LF – What message are you trying to get across to the public at this time? I know you are a spokesperson for the Christian community, but your political and personal points of view stretch well beyond that. What’s the message?
FG – Well, what we call the Decision American Sunshine State Tour that we are doing in January. First of all, the greatest decision that any of us have to make is what we’re going to do with Jesus Christ and whether we are going to accept his sacrificial death on the cross for our sins, and that’s the greatest decision that we’re going to make in life. But also I want the church to know – I’m talking to believers now, not the unsaved, but believers – the greatest decision before us now is the direction our nation is going, and their vote can make a difference. And I encourage Christians to vote. I don’t tell them who to vote for, but vote for the candidate that is going to support biblical values, conservative judges, traditional American values. And those are important. Not every candidate out there is going to necessarily believe in God, but they may support the values that are Christian-based that this nation was built on. We’ve got politicians out there that are totally opposed to the principles that made America great, and they want to radically change this nation and turn it into socialism.
LF – I’m sure you’ve been asked this a lot, but what was it like growing up the son of Billy Graham?
FG – Well that has always been a very difficult question for me to answer because I don’t have any other home to compare it to, and I just assumed the way I grew up was just normal for everybody, and I think that’s true of other people who grew up in a home of a person who was well known. But I am just grateful for my parents because the life that they lived publicly was the same life that they lived at home. There weren’t two Billy and Ruth Grahams, there was just one. And they lived a very consistent life, so I’m very proud of my parents, very thankful to God for the way they raised us children. Of course, all of us grow and have to make our own decisions in life, and we make our own mistakes, but the example our parents set in the home had a huge impact I think on all of us.
Shelly Pond – I’ve read your book “Rebel with a Cause,” so I know you were a self-described rebel in your youth. What was it that finally caused you to follow headlong after Christ, and do you ever waver in your faith now?
FG – Well, no, I do not waver in my faith. I think all of us in life ask the question, Why God? Why did this happen or why did um… many times a loved one is lost, and so, why? Many times in life we don’t get those whys answered. We’ll have to wait till we get to heaven to find out sometimes the whys, but I’ve never wavered in my faith, and I am just thankful to God that he loves me, that he’s forgiven me and that he’s sent his son from heaven to this earth to die for my sins. And if I had been the only person to ever live, he would have sent his son Jesus Christ to take my sins. I’m just thankful that he loved me that much.
SP – You were just in Cambodia, and I understand 23,700 people came out to hear you proclaim the gospel in Phnom Penh. You’ve spoken all over the world. Is there anything unique in speaking to Cambodia and then coming here to Florida? Are the messages different?
FG – The gospel is the same whether you preach in Cambodia or whether you preach in Florida, and it’s the Good News that God loves sinners that Christ died for our sins, then God raised him to life and if we’re willing to surrender and repent and turn from our sins and believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we’ll be saved. And there is power in that message. Also I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation. There is no other message for salvation other than the cross, and so it preaches in Cambodia and it preaches in South Florida.
SP – The people of Florida are probably a little different from the people in Cambodia.
FG – Chuckled – No, they are sinners just like the people in Cambodia, and they need a savior.
SP – So I understand you have 4 children and 12 grandchildren. We’re headed into the Christmas season. What does Christmas look like at the Graham household?
FG – Well, last night I had a hard time sleeping, so I got up and my wife was not in bed. We have a little room off our bedroom, and she was in there frantically wrapping presents at midnight. So right now Christmas at the Graham home is lots of wrapping paper and stuff strewn everywhere. But we’ve got some of our grandchildren coming, and we’re looking forward to it. But normally Christmas we try to get some of the family together between Thanksgiving and Christmas. My wife’s birthday is Christmas Eve, so we have to have two celebrations, and so the family usually shows up either Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day, so we’ll see everyone before the New Year.
LF – The message that you want to get across, I know we touched on it at the beginning of the interview, and I’m taken aback at your willingness to be a very, very ,very outspoken leader, some would say controversial. Does that come naturally to you or do you feel it’s a responsibility?
FG – I don’t know if… I think it may just be the home that I was raised in, the things I had during life. Paul says, “let your yes by yes and your no, no.” And I think it’s important that we lead today, and for myself to speak the truth. I’m not for compromise. We live in a world where politicians are always compromising. But you cannot compromise on what the Word of God says. You can’t say something different from what the Bible teaches. So, I’m just trying to hold to the truth of the Scripture, and if somebody can open up the Scripture and point me wrong, I’ll be glad to look at it and review it. But until then I’m going to keep speaking what the Bible says. It’s not what Franklin Graham says. It’s what God says, and I think that’s what people need to remember: It’s what God says. I say a lot of things where I’m sure I wish I had said it differently. I think we all do that. But when it comes to Scripture, you cannot compromise on what the Word of God teaches.
LF – You have a lot of family in Florida. Your sister Gigi is here and she’s a supporter of our efforts. Anything you want to say to her for Christmas?
FG – Well first of all I love my family and my sister, and I’ve got a brother on the West Coast, but all of us, we only have so many years left in life. So I think it’s important for our family and for the people who read this to just make the most of the days that we have left. And let’s make them count for God.
LF – We want to wish you the happiest of holidays and Merry Christmas to you and the Graham family. And what you’re doing with Samaritan’s Purse is beyond awesome. I just wish the public had the opportunity to see a documentary to see the operation of Samaritan’s Purse and the installation in Boone, NC. It’s incredible. And from the bottom of our hearts we thank you for all that you do.
FG – Well thank you, and a Merry Christmas to you all and a Happy New Year. I look forward to being in Florida in just a couple of weeks.
Visit DecisionAmerica.com for more details on the Decision America Sunshine State Tour, coming to Boca Raton on January 18.
Franklin Graham Brings Decision America Tour to the Sunshine State
Franklin Graham is taking the Decision America Tour to six Florida cities in January: Jacksonville Beach, Plant City, Panama City Beach, Key West, Boca Raton and Fort Myers. Appearing in Boca Raton at the Sunset Cove Amphitheater on January 18 at 4 p.m., Graham will proclaim the Gospel and join believers in praying for our nation, our communities and the lost. The festival style events are free and will feature live music from Jeremy Camp and Dennis Agajanian with a powerful message of hope.
“We need an awakening across this nation,” Graham declares, and he invites all to bring their family and friends to pray and hear the Good News.
“The greatest decision that any of us have to make is what we’re going to do with Jesus Christ and whether we are going to accept his sacrificial death on the cross for our sins… but also I want the church to know – I’m talking to believers now, not the unsaved, but believers – the greatest decision before us is the direction our nation is going.”
Graham encourages Christians to vote. “I don’t tell them who to vote for, but vote for the candidate that is going to support biblical values, conservative judges, traditional American values. Those are important. Not every candidate out there is going to necessarily believe in God, but they may support the values that are Christian-based that this nation was built on.”
A ministry of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the Decision American Tour was launched in 2016 when Graham travelled to all 50 U.S. capitals challenging Christians to pray for the United States and its leaders, and to live and promote biblical principles at home, in public and in the ballot box. In 2017 he took Decision America to cities throughout Tennessee and Texas. An estimated 120,000 people experienced the tour throughout California, Washington and Oregon in 2018 with thousands making life-changing decisions for Jesus Christ and many more inspired to boldly stand for His truth. And close to 100,000 heard the gospel through Decision America Tours in North Carolina and the Northeastern United States in 2019.
The Decision America Tour welcomes church and individual involvement in Florida. You can get involved by inviting your friends and neighbors to an event, joining the Promotional Team as they go out in the community with posters and flyers, serving on site or providing financial support. Specific event times and locations follow. All events are free and no tickets are needed. For more details, visit DecisionAmerica.com.
The Sunshine State Tour Locations and Dates
Jacksonville Beach, January 11, 4 p.m. at Seawalk Pavilion
Plant City, January 12, 4 p.m. at Florida Strawberry Festival Soundstage
Panama City Beach, January 14, 7 p.m. at Aaron Bessant Amphitheater
Key West, January 16, 7 p.m. at Coffee Butler Key West Amphitheatre
Boca Raton, January 18, 4 p.m. at Sunset Cove Amphitheater
Fort Myers, January 19, 4 p.m. at Hertz Arena