Graham plans crusade in Louisville; Mohler to be among local organizers

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--The last time Billy Graham held a major crusade in Louisville, Ky., he was a young 37-year-old evangelist with a simple message -- Jesus saves.

Nearly four decades later, his message of salvation through Christ hasn't changed.

The 82-year-old Graham has accepted an invitation to hold a crusade in Louisville June 21-24, 2001, in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium -- 45 years after he last held a major crusade in the city. Graham's last full-scale crusade in Louisville, held in 1956, lasted four weeks. He also had a one-day crusade in 1964.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, will serve as chairman of the Louisville crusade's executive committee.

"It is an enormous honor for the city of Louisville and for this entire area for Dr. Graham to come here," Mohler said. "Dr. Graham said he is coming to Louisville because the Lord has laid this city on his heart. We are very glad of that."

Graham's visit to Louisville is special for Southern Seminary, because it has a school and professorship named for the evangelist. The Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth prepares ministers for evangelism and missions work. One of the school's professors, Timothy Beougher, is the Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth.

A formal announcement of the Louisville crusade will take place Jan. 16, when area pastors will come together to begin planning for the four-day crusade. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association will announce in the ensuring weeks and months the speakers and recording artists who will participate in the crusade.

Among area pastors, Mohler said, "There has been a tremendous sense of excitement. Everyone has responded with incredible affirmation and excitement.

"There are few events that can come to a city that will have the kind of significance and profile as a Billy Graham crusade. There will be some persons who will measure its impact in terms of a financial impact. Others [will measure it] by the publicity that comes. The main impact is going to be spiritual. We look forward with expectation to what God is going to do during those very critical days."

Graham held crusades in two cities this year -- Nashville, Tenn., and Jacksonville, Fla. Each crusade drew more than 200,000 people. Graham has been preaching for more than 60 years. He was ordained in 1939 and founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 1950.

"When you think of Dr. Graham's crusades, you think of some of the great cities of the world -- Los Angeles, New York, London and Melbourne," Mohler said. "And yet Dr. Graham has always had a constant contact with mid-sized cities like Louisville."

Mohler noted, "A Billy Graham crusade is an awesome event," he said. "We are hoping for an attendance of about 200,000. ... It is a remarkable opportunity for persons to gather together for the preaching of the gospel [and] to hear Dr. Billy Graham -- one of the most famous men in the world, a man of character, integrity and great passion -- speak to that which is on his heart."

The reason behind Graham's popularity is simple, Mohler said.

"Dr. Billy Graham has been a powerful preacher and a figure of world influence because he focuses on the simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ," Mohler said. "That's what his crusades are about. That's what his message is all about. We're going to be seeking to call together persons committed to that gospel -- from different denominations [and] from all parts of this city and region representing different ethnic groups."


(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo title: BILLY GRAHAM.