Franklin Graham Preaches to 12,000 in China
May 13, 2008 - Much has changed in the 20 years since Franklin Graham first visited mainland China with his parents. Read our updated report.
by Janet Chismar
May 15 Update — Franklin Graham has just concluded a 10-day visit with officials and church leaders in Beijing, Hangzhou, Nanjing and Shanghai. Graham, who first visited mainland China with his father and mother 20 years ago, has been impressed with the vibrant growth of the church and the progress with religious expression in China.
"It's one thing to hear stories or read about China in the news, but it's another to meet with people face to face and learn directly from them about their country," he said. "Leaving China, I am so encouraged by the growth of the Christian faith in this nation and also hopeful for the direction the government is taking in the area of religious freedom."
May 12 Report — On May 11, Graham delivered a historic message, preaching to 12,000 people in the largest church in the nation. "Through all my travels, this was certainly a moment that will be special to me for the rest of my life," said Graham.
"It was also the first Mother's Day since the passing of my own mother who was born here in China," he added. "I believe, in a way, this was a continuation of her love and passion for the people of this nation."
Preaching a Gospel message about the cross, the symbol of the Christian faith, Graham asked those in attendance to stand if they wanted to become followers of Jesus Christ. Close to 1,250 people responded to the invitation.
According to senior pastor Rev. Joseph GU, this event was the largest gathering at the church. Bibles were also given out to those who responded and the church will provide an eight-week course for them on the basics of the Christian faith.
Urgent Need for Pastors — While in Nanjing, Graham spoke to faculty and students at the Nanjing Union Theological Seminary. Leaders at the seminary expressed how the greatest need for the church in China is for more pastors. The church is growing so quickly that there is not enough theologically trained faculty to prepare the next generation of clergy.
During his visit to the seminary, Graham was presented with a commemorative Bible representing the 50 millionth Bible printed in China. "This gift is significant because now China is the nation that prints more Bibles than any other on earth. I believe in the near future, God may use the church in China to touch the world more significantly than any other country."
Personal Highlights — We asked Franklin via email what he found to be the most significant moments of the trip. “Meeting with students at the seminary and sharing with them the elements of the Gospel was quite an experience. After I spoke we were able to take questions from the students and you could see their passion for the Lord. They were full of life and eager to spread the Gospel. Of course preaching to 12,000 people was also a highlight. I did not know what to expect so certainly that will be an experience I will never forget.”
Graham also wrote, “The country is much more open to the Gospel than I anticipated. I’m very encouraged. Personal evangelism is alive and well here. The biggest need in China is trained faculty and pastors. The church is growing so fast they are not able to keep up with the demand for trained pastors.”
He added, "My mother was born in China, so I've always had a love for this country, but I wasn't sure I'd ever have this opportunity or see this much change and progress here," said Graham. "To be able to come here and openly preach gives me great hope for religious expression in China."
Welcomed by Governments — In addition to meeting with local church leaders, Graham also met with several government officials and departments. U.S. Ambassador Clark Randt hosted Graham at the Embassy in Beijing and thanked him for his "significant visit" at such an important time in the history of China.
The following evening the former Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the United States held a dinner for Graham at the People's Republic of China State Guest House and invited him to the opening ceremonies of the upcoming Olympics in Beijing (Graham is currently scheduled to be in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea at that time).
"As I leave China, I know there is a greater understanding of each other and the positive impact the Christian faith can have on China," said Graham. "When I passed by the new Olympic Bird's Nest Stadium I couldn't help but pray that one day soon the church in China will have an opportunity to preach the Gospel in such a place. Until then, we can celebrate the growth of the church and the growing number of Christians in China. But we must keep praying for the people of this nation that God will continue to open doors and touch lives here."
If you are interested in the current laws of China regarding religious activity, click here.