This weekend, Franklin Graham will come to Coca-cola field with a roster of musicians to "Rock the Lakes.
" Many of my friends and colleagues are promoting the event and attending. I wish them well, but I will not be there.
Franklin Graham is entitled to his opinions and to his speech, but I do wish he continued the tradition of his Father
, who--while committed to a strict personal piety--avoided partisan politics, sought to love his enemies, and left it to God to judge other faiths. (The link is to a 2006 Newsweek story on Billy Graham. I highly recommend it.)
It's not that politics aren't important--they are. The elder Graham, however, did not want politics to stand in the way of faith. The younger Graham makes it harder to share my faith when he adds to a perception of Christians as bigoted and/or hateful.
Secondly, I fear that the medium may become the message. If people find faith through weeks of promotion, a line-up of bands, and a packed stadium (and I am glad that many likely will) will they sustain it in its absence?
Finally, I want to invest in Buffalo. A friend of mine was invited to a fundraising meeting for the event, and the sponsoring organization was seeking to raise an additional $850,000 from local churches. Where is that money going to go? Certainly some will stay in the local economy as the stadium is leased, and hospitality is extended to out of town guests. But the organization, the speaker, and the bands are all from outside Western New York. What greater difference would the church make if we decided to spend that much money entirely in our neighborhoods? Why is it that our locaI churches are paying an organization from North Carolina to do what we can do ourselves?
Now, many would be content to simply take apart the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and leave it at that. Not me. My faith was formed, in a significant way, by Billy Graham's efforts, and I am better for it. If I am going to suggest people opt out of what was good for me, it is my responsibility to provide an alternative.
So here's what I encourage Christians to do, instead of inviting their non-Christian friends to "Rock the Lakes." Buy them dinner (at a local establishment, of course), and enjoy the night with them. If you have a chance to talk about faith, listen more than you talk, and always be kind. If you don't get a chance, don't worry. Simply plan on enjoying more meals together. If your faith is transforming your life, it will show, probably sooner rather than later. Work on that transformation, instead of your "pitch."
A decentralized sharing of meals seems less likely to change the world than fundraising, promotion, big events, and political power, but it is the method that Jesus chose. I'm going to skip the stadium, and give local, kind, and personal a try.