It’s not often an evangelist with the following of Billy Graham’s son Franklin hosts gospel events in communities as small as Jackson, Tenn., home to about 68,000 people.
Fresh from the success of the 2016 Decision America Tour that drew a total of 230,000 people to prayer rallies in all 50 states, Franklin Graham is focusing on small and medium-sized towns in Tennessee in May as he continues his national call to prayer.
“Last year I went to all 50 state capitols to pray at those capitols, and thousands upon thousands of you joined me on those steps praying for the future of our country,” said Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and the international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse. “God has given me a burden to go back, this time to preach in medium and smaller cities across states and regions.”
Jackson is the smallest city on the week-long tour. Graham will begin his tour May 15 at 7:30 p.m. in Chattanooga’s Coolidge Park, continue to Clarksville May 18 at Liberty Park, and travel to Jackson May 19 at Fairgrounds Park. The tour culminates May 21 in Memphis, the largest city on tap, at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium and Fairgrounds. All events are at 7:30 p.m. local time and will include prayer, praise and worship and a gospel message.
Graham is encouraging America to pray for a miracle, “the kind of miracle that will solve the racial, political and cultural divisions that are leaving people across America filled with fear and uncertainty,” BGEA said in a press release.
Seven stops are planned in Texas this fall, BGEA said, with other states targeted in the coming years. Texas tour dates and cities have not been released.
Graham is coordinating with local Christian churches to prepare communities for the Tennessee tour, said tour director Lawrence Swicegood.
“Thousands of churches and tens of thousands of people are excited to come together this May to pray for their communities in the Volunteer state,” Swicegood said.
Senior Pastor Larry Riley of First Baptist Church in Clarksville hosted a community-wide prayer meeting May 9 in preparation for Graham’s visit to the city of about 150,000 people.
“We believe it’s a wonderful time that the Lord has opened up for us here in Clarksville to have Franklin Graham here for an evangelism rally,” Riley told Baptist Press. “We’re super excited about what God is doing. We never knew all this was coming, but it’s fun seeing God work.”
May 9’s prayer meeting at First Baptist Church is the second in preparation for Graham’s visit; the first, held in late April at the church, was coordinated by BGEA.
Riley hopes Graham’s visit will encourage unity across denominational lines.
“We hope that we see people come to Christ and we hope we also achieve the understanding that as the churches in Clarksville partner together to reach our community,” Riley said, “it’s not about denominations. It’s about us reaching our community with the gospel, and if we can do that in partnership together, and he (Graham) can help us pull together as a community, that will make the impact.”
America needs spiritual change driven by transformations in individual hearts, Graham said.
“Christians are the key to this spiritual transformation in America, and that’s why I will also be challenging people in Tennessee to stand boldly for God, live according to biblical principles and get involved in their communities,” Graham said. “Through these events across Tennessee, people will have the opportunity to make a decision that will impact their lives, not only now, but for eternity.”
Graham’s 2016 U.S. tour drew 8,000 decisions for Christ, BGEA said.
The tour will also spotlight Tennessee’s musical heritage, with Dove Award-winning band The Afters performing in Chattanooga, and Dove Award-winning singer and songwriter Jeremy Camp joining the tour in Clarksville, Jackson and Memphis.
More information on the free rallies is available at Tennessee.BillyGraham.org.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)