Epic-Sized Preparations Underway for Los Angeles Graham Event

( [email protected] ) Jul 14, 2004 11:11 AM EDT

Hundreds of thousands are expected to attend the Greater Los Angeles Billy Graham Crusade this fall at Pasadena, Calif.’s Rose Bowl Nov. 18-21. According to the Los Angeles Times, preparations are underway for the event that “would awe the most seasoned of political operatives in this year's presidential campaigns.”

With only four months left before the long-awaited Graham event, thousands are continuing their painstaking efforts and prayers that began as early as December. "A crusade is like an iceberg. Scientists tell us you see just about 10%," Los Angeles crusade director Jeff Anderson told the LA Times. "The very visible part is what is seen by the community — four days of public meetings attracting hundreds of thousands of people. But what the watching world does not know about is the 90% of the crusade that is not seen — the prayer, the local leadership, the evangelical training, the outreach and the logistics."

Anderson said 1,037 churches representing 91 Christian denominations have enlisted to participate in the crusade, 766 individuals have volunteered to serve as ushers and section captains, and 2,355 of the needed 6,000 counselors have signed on, as have 1,993 local church choir members who will be part of a hoped-for 6,000-voice choir.

In February, March and April, 14,000 prospective counselors attended four training sessions at 19 locations throughout the Southland. Additional sessions are planned for September. So far, there have been 45 organizational meetings involving local pastors and other church representatives.

As early as December, Graham's staff began asking key local pastors if they thought Los Angeles area churches would be open to a crusade. The Rev. Lloyd Ogilvie, the former senior pastor at Hollywood Presbyterian Church and chaplain to the U.S. Senate, was asked to organize an executive committee to set the planning in motion. Ogilvie is honorary chair of this year's crusade, which is co-chaired by Pastors Kenneth Ulmer of Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood and Jack Hayford of the Church on the Way in Van Nuys.

"We need a spiritual revitalization, a spiritual awakening in our community," Ogilvie said. "I think we need it in a way that brings together the many different facets of our diversified population and represents all phases of the churches in our community. There's no one today who could bring the community together in a focused concern for spiritual awakening other than Billy Graham."

Anderson said organizers keep in mind the bottom line: "It's to expose as many people as possible to the good news of the gospel, that Jesus Christ came into the world, that he died and that he rose again, and that he offers hope and peace and life," he said. "This is the message that Billy Graham has taken around the world for more than 55 years and he comes back to Los Angeles to share it again. All we are doing is preparing the way for this special gospel message to be presented."

This year's crusade will come near the 55th anniversary of the 1949 weekend when a young Billy Graham closed his first Los Angeles tent revival, which launched him into worldwide prominence. Since then he has preached the Gospel to more than 210 million people in more than 185 countries, according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA).

Graham has held evangelistic crusades in Hollywood in 1951, and in Los Angeles in 1958 and 1963. In 1974, he returned to Los Angeles for a 25th anniversary celebration at the Hollywood Bowl. He also held crusades in Anaheim in 1969 and 1985.

The upcoming Los Angeles crusade was originally scheduled this month, but when Graham fell in his North Carolina home in May and broke his pelvis, the Los Angeles event was pushed back to November. Pastor Greg Laurie's annual Harvest Crusade, which is being held recently in Angel Stadium in Anaheim, was reduced to one day instead of the traditional three or four, to avoid competition with Graham's original July date at the Rose Bowl. The Heart of America Billy Graham Crusade to be held in Kansas City also was delayed.

As Graham has aged — he is now 85 — there has been widespread speculation that every crusade would be his last. But for Anderson--who has worked for the BGEA for 28 years--and the rest of the staff, the efforts continue to advance. "I've done nine 'last Billy Graham crusades,' " he said.

Prior to the Greater Los Angeles Crusade, Graham is scheduled to speak at the Heart of America Crusade to be held October 7-10 in Kansas City. Before Graham’s injury in May, the L.A. and Kansas City events were scheduled for July 29 – August 1, and June 17-20 respectively.