While watching the Fox News Channel last week in an endeavor to keep up on the latest coronavirus updates, I repeatedly saw a commercial with Franklin Graham on behalf of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. I was surprised to see such a commercial, but I was even more surprised at what it said (or rather didn’t say). Here is my transcription of the commercial, which I believe to be accurate, having repeatedly paused and rewound to double-check it:
Hello, I’m Franklin Graham. Maybe your heart has been gripped by fear as millions of others have because of this coronavirus pandemic. But I want you to know that God loves you, He made you, and He created you. He knows everything about your life. You don’t need to be afraid. Jesus said, “I’ll never leave you nor forsake you.” If you’ve never invited Jesus Christ into your heart, if you’ve never trusted Him as your Savior, you can pray right now to do that. Just simply pray this prayer, “God, I’m a sinner. I’m sorry for my sins. I believe Jesus Christ is your Son. And I want to invite Him to come into my heart, into my life. I’m willing to trust Him as my Savior and follow Him as my Lord. And I pray this in Jesus’ name.” If you’ve prayed that prayer, call this number that’s on the screen, and do it right now. We’ve got someone who will pray with you, talk with you, encourage you. God bless. [The number given on the screen is 888-388-2683.”
Now, I am glad to see that there is such concern for others to come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. I am also glad to see that there is an appropriate stress on the fact that those who want to know Him as Savior and Lord must recognize that they are sinners and that they must be sorry for their sins. In addition, it is certainly a good thing that there is a stress on the need to recognize that Jesus is God’s Son. However, there is no reference at all to crucial elements of the Gospel, such as our Lord Jesus’ sinless life, His atoning death on the cross, or His resurrection from the dead. Franklin simply says to recognize that Jesus is God’s Son and to “invite” Him “into your heart.”
I am deeply concerned, then, that many may see this commercial and “invite” Jesus into their hearts with no real understanding of who He really is or what He has really done to save sinners. Consider, for example, the Apostle Paul’s’ brief description of the Gospel over against what is stated in this commercial:
NKJ 1 Corinthians 15:1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you– unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures ….
Given such a statement by Paul, it is pretty easy to see that what Franklin has said is inadequate at best and at worst misleading, since it leaves the hearer with the impression that such additional information is unnecessary.
To be sure, Franklin does encourage those who have prayed to call the number on the screen in order to talk with someone from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (which appears on the screen with the phone number), and it is possible that those who call will be further informed about the Gospel. But, if they have already been told that all they really need to do is to be sorry for their sins and recognize that Jesus is God’s Son in order for Him to be their Savior and Lord, then would they necessarily be eager to accept that He died on the cross and rose from the dead? Could it be that some may say that they cannot accept those ideas? And, if they cannot accept those ideas, why have they been encouraged already to believe that they really have received Jesus as their Savior and Lord. In addition, if they are then told that they must also believe that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, couldn’t they then claim that they have been the victims of a sort of bait and switch tactic, having been told that they have to do one thing in the commercial but another thing on the phone?
At any rate, while I appreciate that the Billy Graham Association wants to direct people to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord during this difficult time, I would rather that they be much clearer about who Jesus really is and what He has really done to save sinners. In other words, if their desire is to communicate the Gospel, then why not actually communicate the Gospel?