Outside the Walls: Just As I Am

“Will you come?”

It took a lot of nerve to ask the question. I had been in my neighborhood for a short period of time, and I was inviting every one of my neighbors to a party to watch a video I had never seen.

I had been working as the South Carolina Baptist coordinator for Billy Graham’s “My Hope” initiative. It would be his last crusade, and it would be held in the smallest and most intimate venue he had every attempted. All across America, believers were urged to open up their living rooms and be hosts for “My Hope.”

The strategy was simple: Pray for your neighbors, build relationships with them, invite them to your home to watch this final crusade, and share with them your personal story. He was pressing the church to move outside the walls of a stadium or church building and into the homes of America.

Billy Graham was countercultural and courageous in the 20th century. He stood courageous in the face of global threats in the ’50s, spoke out against racial segregation in the ’60s, served as an example of integrity during political scandal in the ’70s, and was bold under fire behind the Iron Curtain in the ’80s. His last cry to us was to move into our neighborhoods and open our homes for the sake of the gospel. Saturation of the gospel will only occur when the people of God build intentional relationships with the lost and start gospel conversations with them.

As I mobilized state Baptists to take part in this historic event, it was interesting to hear the reactions of many of our pastors. Many were reluctant to show the video in their homes and decided instead to show it only at their church buildings. One pastor said, “My home is my haven. I go there to get away from people!” Others said, “I don’t know any of my neighbors well enough to invite them into my home.” I realized that Dr. Graham was exposing Jesus’ strategy for the future advancement of the gospel, and we had a long way to go.

When I previewed the video, tears welled up in my eyes. Personal stories from two individuals gripped me. Then, Billy Graham, 95 years old, preached the gospel as he sat rocking in his chair at his home. Finally, there was one last invitation from a legend.

I had no idea how many of my neighbors would come. As the RSVPs came in, we had to take the party outside. That night, my backyard was filled with 52 people. The gospel was clearly articulated. I told my story, and something amazing happened. I started a gospel conversation with my neighbors that has lasted for years.

Jesus is calling me — just as I am — to join Him in His mission to bring hope to a desperate world.

Will you join me? Will you come?