Hundreds of Southern students prepare for Graham crusade
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Travis Laney won't ever forget the first Billy Graham Crusade he attended.
It was last year in Nashville, Tenn., when the 82-year-old evangelist held a four-day crusade in the Music City. Laney, a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, made the trip thinking it would be his last opportunity to hear Graham speak. When the invitation was given, Laney was nearly speechless. Hundreds of people from all over the stadium streamed down the aisles, responding to the gospel message.
"It was just powerful," the Titusville, Fla., native said. "It's just amazing. You see people coming down -- just hoards and hoards of people. It's just a wonderful experience. ... It's probably one of the most prayed-over places in the world at that time."
Next month, Laney and several hundred members of the Southern Seminary community will get a chance to participate in a Billy Graham Crusade firsthand. Laney is one of more than 500 students and faculty members who will serve at the Greater Louisville Billy Graham Crusade June 21-24 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. A recent class for crusade counselors on the seminary campus drew more than 450 attendees.
Laney, who pastors a local church, will be one of the counselors.
"It's ripe for harvest, but the workers are few," Laney said. "... I just wanted to be out there to tell them the good news and to give them the answers."
Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. is serving as chairman of the crusade's executive committee.
"This is a remarkable opportunity for our students to be involved in one of the great evangelistic movements in Christian history," Mohler said. "We have urged all our students to be involved in every possible role. To miss this would be a tragedy.
"A Billy Graham Crusade comes to a community only once in a generation -- if at all. God has given us this opportunity, and we dare not miss it. Our students will gain hands-on experience in the work of a major crusade, and will learn evangelism and follow-up by direct participation."
At the counseling classes -- which are officially called "Christian Life and Witness Courses" -- the seminary community learned the do's and don'ts of crusade counseling from a Billy Graham Evangelist Association official. Several thousand counselors will be needed each night of the crusade.
Susie Futrell, a master of divinity student from Benton, Ky., attended the counseling courses.
"I have a burden for the lost," she said. "I want people to know Jesus as their savior. I want them to know the peace, joy, and hope Jesus has for them. At this crusade I am just a tool for God to use. I want to be ready to serve God in any capacity. I find it exciting that God is going to do a mighty work in Louisville."
Tommy Hullette, a master of divinity student from Newton, N.C., is spreading the word about the crusade by hanging signs in his church and posting yard signs along streets. He also plans on serving as a counselor.
"I have never seen Billy Graham at all," he said. "It's a perfect mission field. You talk to so many people who have no interest and you knock on so many doors (during day-to-day witnessing), but these people (at the crusade) are just ready to hear the gospel. It's just a good opportunity to share where you know it's right for the harvest."
Laney said he is going to hang crusade signs throughout Carrollton, Ky., where he serves as pastor.
Graham last held a full-scale crusade in Louisville in 1956. It lasted four weeks. He also held a one-day crusade in 1964.
"He's been consistently used by God unlike anyone I've ever seen," said Channing Kilgore, a master of divinity student from Whitwell, Tenn. "I want to participate because it is the Father's work. It's not about us doing our own thing, but about joining God where he is working. God will be there that night giving eternal life to all who make him Lord and Savior of their lives."
Mohler said the crusade presents students with an opportunity to share the gospel with people from every background.
"The best way to learn evangelism is to practice evangelism," he said. "The Greater Louisville Billy Graham Crusade will put our students on the front lines of Great Commission impact. Our greatest challenge in these last weeks is to get our volunteers ready to receive the harvest and to counsel persons who come forward in the crusade -- and to make certain that the stadium is filled with lost persons so that they may hear the Gospel."
Information about the crusade can be accessed on the Internet at www.louisvillecrusade.org
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: CRUSADERS IN TRAINING.
*Name changed for security concerns.