Missouri Baptists gear up for KC crusade
By Allen Palmeri
May 11, 2004
KANSAS CITY – One month before “The Heart of America Billy Graham Crusade" at Arrowhead Stadium, Billy Graham is healthy and ready to preach, according to Crusade Director Sherman Barnette .
Graham, 85, underwent surgery and a partial replacement for a broken left hip Jan. 6, but that is “not an issue" for the June 17-20 crusade, Barnette said. It is full speed ahead for the 415th crusade led by the famed Southern Baptist evangelist.
“The last report I got, he was excited and enthused about coming," Barnette said. “He’s in the middle of preparations to be in Kansas City.
“A few weeks ago, I sent him a (Kansas City) Chiefs cap. Mr. Graham has stated more than one time that Kansas City has really been on his heart for a number of years now, so God has just brought it together. The timing is right."
Barnette, who was reared Southern Baptist in Mississippi, said as of April 28, 187 of the 725 churches involved in the crusade are Missouri Southern Baptist.
“To the Baptists of this region, seize the moment!" Barnette said. “Take advantage of the opportunity that God has before us, because it won’t come this way again probably for a long, long time."
Bob Collins, pastor, Plaza Heights Baptist Church, Blue Springs, and a member of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Board, knows how to do just that. In 1978, the second time Graham held a stadium event in Kansas City, Collins was pastor of First Baptist Church, Tarkio, in the northwest corner of Missouri. He brought two busloads of people.
“If we’re looking at filling an 80,000-seat stadium, everyone can do something," Collins said. “You’re going to have ushers, people helping with parking, with counseling, with the handicapped—all of the things that we see on television and we think just happens, but it does not."
Barnette said that the ministry of friendship that has been the key to effective evangelism with Billy Graham for more than 50 years needs to be emphasized now more than ever. He identified First Baptist Church, Raytown, as a leader in this effort. Sunday School classes at First Raytown are being encouraged to practice the principles of “Friend to Friend," which is based on John 1:40-42.
Missouri Baptists ought to look around, look up, look out, look forward and look after, Barnette said.
“Your mission field is right where you go to school, where you go to work, where you do your grocery shopping, when you ride the bus," he said. “Just look around you. Identify those people who you know who have never made a commitment to Christ."
When you look up, you pray for your friends.
“Pray for those people by name," Barnette said. “Look for ways to cultivate the relationship with these people that you are praying for."
Eighty percent of the people who come forward to ask Christ into their hearts at a Billy Graham Crusade have been brought by a friend, Barnette said.
“It’s not just about advertising," he said. “It’s not about hype. It’s not just about Billy Graham. It’s about Christians from all over this region being involved in praying for and cultivating the relationship with lost people and bringing them to the crusade.
“Everybody you bring to the crusade, all of them will not make a commitment to Christ right then, but the opportunity is there to continue to develop that relationship," Barnette said. “Invite them to go to church with you. Invite them to your home, to Bible study."
Operation Arrowhead (Piercing the Heart) is scheduled for 10 a.m. June 5 in Parking Lot G at the stadium. “Friend to Friend" will be emphasized within a time of worship and prayer, Barnette said.
“I want to really emphasize that people pray," he said. “We can have a lot of different events and do the things that we’ve done and know to do, have a lot of activities, but when it’s all said and done, the bottom line would be is God moving in answer to the prayers of His people?"
Volunteers from churches who have yet to join the list of those helping with the crusade can call the crusade office at (816) 361-8484 or visit www.heartofamericacrusade.org.
“We would always welcome more churches," Barnette said.