Is a Graham Crusade in Utah Doable?

The Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 11, 2003
http://www.sltrib.com/
BY PEGGY FLETCHER STACK

    Utah pastors are exploring the possibility of bringing a three-day Franklin Graham evangelical crusade to the state, possibly in 2004 or 2005.

    On Tuesday, Graham’s representatives will meet with a cadre of pastors at Southeast Baptist Church in Cottonwood Heights to discuss the feasibility of such an evangelistic event.

    Such a meeting would require a cooperative effort involving the evangelist, his team and local Christians and churches. The objective would be to “bring uncommitted individuals into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and firmly establish them in a local church,” according to Graham’s promotional materials.

    But conversion doesn’t come cheap.

    A crusade, or “festival,” as these gatherings are now being called, could cost up to $500,000 and require the effort of dozens of churches, said the Rev. Greg Johnson, who founded Standing Together to unite Utah’s Christian community for prayer, service and strategic evangelism.

    The Graham people proposed the meeting, Johnson said, possibly because Utah is one of only five states that has never hosted a crusade by Graham’s famous father, Billy Graham.

    Until now, there has not been “a strong, solid united front of local Protestant churches,” Johnson said.

    It could also have been because of Billy Graham’s reluctance to get involved in any conflicts between Mormons and other Christians.

    The elder Graham has had a long-standing friendship with Mormon hotel magnate J. Willard Marriott, Johnson said.

    Billy Graham may have feared the Utah churches would want him to say Mormonism is not a Christian faith, he said, and “was not willing to wade into that issue.”

    One of the questions the pastors will ask Franklin Graham’s representatives will be: How would he deal with Utah’s “cultural sensitivities,” in other words, the “unspoken divide”?

    The other issue is money.

    In 1997, many of these same churches sponsored a similar crusade, known as UtahAlive!, which featured British-born evangelist John Guest, who has a public ministry much like that of his mentor, Billy Graham.

    It went on nightly for two weeks and cost $400,000 but did not meet organizers’ expectations. The churches were left with a $75,000 deficit, which took more than a year to pay off, Johnson said.

    Guest was not a large draw, leaving the University of Utah’s Huntsman Center half full, he said. “It was disappointing to all of us.”

    Still, Johnson is willing to consider launching another effort. He remembers as a teen attending a Billy Graham crusade in Anaheim, Calif.

    “It was just wonderful,” he said. “Life-changing. Energizing.”

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