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Just As You Are

by John Weston on August 8, 2018
Come with us Sunday.

Billy Graham sought to impact America for Christ. Millions of believers in the U. S. credit him as being an important part of God reaching them and putting them on the right track to salvation. Especially in the early days, there had to have been religious people who frowned on his activities as being undignified: meeting in tents or movie theaters or parks or anywhere people would come and hear the good news of Jesus. Why would a true man of God preach outside of a church building? Probably because it has been done for centuries (it took John Wesley a while to warm up to it), and because Jesus himself favored ministry outside of formal settings. I think Graham wanted settings where people would come who otherwise might not show up in a religious facility. He wanted people to “come as you are.” Graham's favorite hymn to be at the end of his services was “Just As I Am Without One Plea.” He wanted to cut through the layers of religious ritual that can sometimes insulate souls from the living God and help people engage with God personally.

Graham's strategy comes right of Jesus' playbook. Jesus was not nearly as interested in trying to convince deeply entrenched religious stuffed shirts of their need for God's forgiveness as he was making on-ramps to faith for people who thought they didn't matter, didn't measure up, or would never fit in with “the religious crowd.” After reaching out to a well-to-do, but hated chief tax collector, Jesus defends himself succinctly:

Luke 19:9-10 9 Jesus responded, "Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a son of Abraham. 10 And I, the Son of Man, have come to seek and save those like him who are lost."

When Jesus engages with Zacchaeus, it was not in a synagogue. Jesus invites himself over to the man's home, who then throws a party for Jesus and invites his non-religious friends to attend. Many “good Jews” in that day couldn't understand why Jesus would conduct his ministry outside of the box with “those kind of people.” But Jesus' followers have been breaking out and innovating to make those connections for centuries since.

Dr. Graham's legacy continues, and we all have a chance to participate this Sunday night. Rev. Dr. Franklin Graham, one of Billy Graham's sons, will be sharing a message after an evening of worship at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma this Sunday.

Schedule, Sunday Night, August 12
6:00: Leave from SUMC (caravan, church shuttle van)
7:00: Arrive @ Cheney Sadium, set up
7:30: Worship Begins led by Jeremy Camp

The event will be in the parking lot: bring camp chairs, blankets, snacks, and water, and be ready for a great evening of worship and a message of hope for all of us, especially for friends who are far from God.