Interview

Remembering the 1978 Billy Graham Crusade, Part 3: Hope for the next generation

by Gabriel Ong // December 5, 2018, 11:16 am

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The year 1978 saw Singapore’s largest evangelistic campaign in living memory. The Singapore Billy Graham Crusade, held from December 6 to 10 that year, saw about 20,000 Singaporeans who came forward during the Crusade to be counselled after impassioned preaching from Dr Billy Graham, the great evangelist who passed away earlier this year age 99. 

This year, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Crusade, Thir.st co-organised a private forum — “Remembering the Crusade – A Church United for the Gospel” — that saw about 40 church and lay leaders interact with a panel of four members of the original Crusade organising committee.

In this article, we hear from the four panelists – in their own words – on their lessons and hopes for the next generation.

ONE GENERATION COMMENDS YOUR WORKS TO THE NEXT

Canon James Wong, Vice-Chairman, Organising Committee

We have this new generation: 40 years have passed since the 1978 Billy Graham Crusade in Singapore. In the next 40 years ahead of us, there will be many people to reach. So we need to discern the times that we are living in and what we should do.

It’s harvest time! We need discernment in harvest time. God is bringing this generation together to work for the harvest. There will be opportunities for us to reach out to the lost. We need to discern the times that we are living in and what we need to do.

I believe that this generation of younger people has been raised up by God for a purpose; grace isn’t just for ourselves. We must reach out to the lost and unreached and gather in the harvest when it is time.

I pray that God would use you, the younger generation, for the harvest. For this harvest. We have moved on from the Billy Graham generation. The older ones may be passing away, but God is raising up a younger generation to get in there and gather in the harvest – to reach out to our nation and region.

Canon James Wong speaking to the next generation.

It’s harvest time! God is bringing this generation together to work for the harvest.

There are 600 million souls around us, so we have a great mission ahead of us. We need to discern the times that we are living in. I pray that all would be able to believe in Him.

We must reach out to the lost – not necessarily only in a large crusade – but by also evangelising in schools, colleges and in the universities. The student population is very important: They will grow up and go into the marketplace and where God has placed them in their vocations, and there reach out to their colleagues and gather in the harvest.

I’m believing in God that the next generation will help bring a new wave of revival into Singapore, where we will see a new generation of young people coming into the Kingdom of God.

20,000 Singaporeans came forward during the Crusade to be counselled.

GROWING A PASSION FOR THE LORD AND THE LOST

Jim Chew, Counselling Chairman of the Singapore Billy Graham Crusade 1978

Having a passion for the lost … it’s hard to describe.

I go back to the Gospels as they are pivotal. I go back to John 13 to 17 again, the last words of Jesus for humanity before being hung on the cross – what was really on Jesus’ heart. And some of my favourite portions of Scripture are the servant songs of Isaiah – I keep going back to those servant songs.

I just want you to know Him more deeply, for the more deeply I know Him, the more I want of Him. I see how little I truly am and become hungrier for more of Him. Everything first begins with your relationship with the Lord, and that comes before ministry.

The Lord once asked Peter “Do you love Me more than these?” (John 21:15). That question comes to me very often, and I tell the Lord: “Yes, you do know I love You.”

I can identify with Peter. That’s where I am but I want more. And the overflow of that is a passion for the lost, having the heart for the Lord. And I have a list of people I pray for every day, who are still lost – some of my old friends who I’m still in touch with.

It starts with Jesus and it is all about Him.

The young audience listened attentively to the panelists at the private forum.

Dr Ernest Chew, Vice-Chairman of the Singapore Billy Graham Crusade 1978

I’m thinking of Matthew 9 where the Lord saw the multitudes, and His heart was moved in compassion. That’s what we must have.

You know the phrase: “ To know Christ to make Him known.” So the important thing is to draw closer and closer to Him individually and corporately.

We come to know the Lord through a relationship. The important thing is the Word and prayer, compassion and obedience. These are things which are basic principles and we just have to keep on being nurtured.

He will give us that heart of compassion, the vision, and then of course the mission.

And as dear Canon James Wong said, yes, the harvest is truly plentiful! Pray to the Lord of the harvest that He may compel people out into His harvest field – that is what compassion is really all about.

The world will know we are Jesus’ disciples if we have love one for another, so that is really the thing that unites us – the Gospel – the Lord Jesus who is the Gospel.

Jim and Ernest Chew: Bound by brotherhood, Bible and Billy Graham

Jim Chew, Counselling Chairman

God has undoubtedly blessed Singapore. Christian politicians have told me that when they get to Heaven, they are going to ask God why he blessed this nation so greatly.

We have been blessed in order to be a blessing. And if we forget the promise that God gave to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3, we would really be very nearsighted. There is a world out there.

I still remember when (my father) Dr Benjamin Chew was in one of our church council meetings when an elder said: “Charity begins at home. We’ve got to really just build our church over here.”

My father just banged the table as hard as he could said: “Charity does not begin at home! There is a world out there!”

He had a heart for the world. God might not call every one of us to some other place; He might keep some of us here, but we’ve always got to have the same vision our Lord does.

WORK WITH THE END IN MIND

Dr Ernest Chew, Vice-Chairman

While Jim and I are from the tribe of Benjamin, I remember that there are still other tribes. Scripture has been given for our learning and our warning that we don’t get in the way of the Lord uniting the tribes.

And one day we will be there. Every tongue and tribe and nation will be there.

Always see the end from the beginning. You know as a historian, you tend to be backward looking. But as a Christian, it’s important that you always have a forward perspective … we want to be the sheep and not the goats (Matthew 25).

So, all the nations, yes, that’s the vision. To be gathered before the King and we will be accountable to him.

And may we all hear, well done, good and faithful servants.


This is the third article of a 3-part series on the panelists at “Remembering the Crusade – A Church United for the Gospel” – a private forum held for local church workers to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Crusade. Click on [Part 1] or [Part 2] for the rest.

About the author

Gabriel Ong

Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.