The air smelled pungent, the way that summer nights usually, delightfully do. A light breeze carried along the fragrance of old wood from a nearby bridge; a faint scent of honeysuckle wafted through the air. Several artists from the band "The Afters" stood on stage to prepare our hearts for Franklin Graham's message at Coolidge Park for his Decision America Tour---a tour which would intentionally and subsequently bleed over into Clarksville, Jackson and Memphis.
Graham's message was simple and concise; all have sinned and need the Gospel. Among other sins, he boldly renounced the scourges of homosexuality and abortion, and directed to the need for repentance as the only solution. Referencing 2 Chronicles 7:14, Graham noted, God will heal each individual, each state, and the entire nation:
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
Accordingly, national revival begins one heart at a time and progresses outward. Franklin's vision is to reach the local, close-knit areas for Christ by confronting the grassroots areas with the Gospel. His hope is a spiritual awakening reminiscent of those of two centuries past, headed by great men like Jonathan Edwards, but, instead of at a national level, a state level:
"What America ultimately needs is spiritual change—a transformation that starts in individual hearts. God has given me a burden to go back, this time to preach in medium and smaller cities across states and regions"
Lawrence Swicegood, director of the Decision America Tennessee Tour, commended the Tour's emphasis on local activism:
"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."
I left the Chattanooga event feeling thankful and refreshed by the reminder that wherever God is, there is hope. On my way out of the park, I turned my viewpoint to get one last glimpse of the nameless crowd surrounding. Many of these people who had just worshiped along with me, though we had not spoken a single personal word, were the same people who would be worshiping alongside me in Heaven. The sentiment was comforting, particularly after week upon week of fostered feelings of loneliness, of being a stranger in a "strange land." This world is not my home, nor was it theirs, nor is it yours. The struggle with sin weighs us down now and ridicule surrounds us, but the true Church will never cease to exist.