“[Scotland] You Could Become a Spiritual Superpower”
Many Scots remember Billy Graham and his 1955 All Scotland Mission in Glasgow with real affection. Several decades later, they welcomed him back as if he were a long-lost son.
Civic leaders of all shares of political loyalty publicly associated themselves with SCOTLAND 91, which was centred on the country’s three major cities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow. The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland not only endorsed the Mission but also gave Billy Graham the privilege of addressing it, and afterwards awarded him a standing ovation.
Billy Graham’s message to the General Assembly:
I am highly honoured to be present here today, and to be invited to speak to you.
As you know, my own ancestors came from Scotland, and I was reared in the Presbyterian Church, so I have not only great respect for the Church of Scotland and the spiritual heritage it represents, but I have great affection for this land and its people. Perhaps no nation of comparable size has had such a profound impact on the United States as has Scotland.
I also want to thank this General Assembly for the support you’ve given to the brief evangelistic Mission we are about to undertake in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Glasgow. Your interest and prayers have been a source of great encouragement to me.
I have only been here a few days, and already I can sense big changes that have taken place since we were last here in 1955. From what I have read and what I have seen already, there are signs of your material prosperity and growth – although there are some social unresolved social problems. As Scotland has changed, so has the world. The obvious blessing of modern technology have unfortunately added their own threats. While injustice and violence have been with us since the beginning of time, more people than ever seem to be trapped in a vicious cycle of political, racial, economic and social injustice throughout the world.
When John R. Mott called the great conference in this very Assembly Hall here in Edinburgh in 1910, with a motto “To evangelise the world in this generation,” optimism was reigning supreme. It was thought by many church leaders that the twentieth century would be a “Christian century”.
But that optimism has not resulted in either a Christianised world or a Christ-like world.
To the contrary, non-Christian religions, philosophies, and cults are ascending in prominence, while political and sociological ideologies are collapsing – largely through moral bankruptcy that even the most well-intentioned Christian social philosophers of the past did not expect or anticipate.
If ever there was a time for the Church to take a lead, it is now. World leaders are looking to you for leadership. George Gallup, the pollster, said the other day that “the greatest need in the world today is for changed hearts.”
As a background for my brief remarks today, I would like to remind you of the familiar worlds that St Paul wrote to the church in Corinth:
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech, or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5, KJV).
First, in these few words of St. Paul, we find our MANDATE.
We see that Divine wisdom and human wisdom are in contrast, with the Apostle Paul claiming that he was not relying on human insights and resources, however brilliant or original they might be.
Scotland has produced some of the greatest preachers and professors in the past 200 years, You sent your brilliant leaders to the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other parts of the world, and they had tremendous impact. The grandsons and the great-grandsons of this church have touched the world.
But something has happened in the recent years. I have read the statistics and statements of some of your leaders about decline of the church – not only in your influence but in numbers. Are we being positive enough about the preaching of the Gospel? Could we be making the same mistakes of the past?
When visiting Scotland, John Wesley wrote on May 15, 1774, “My spirit was moved within me at the sermons I heard both morning and afternoon. They contained much truth, but were no more likely to awaken one’s soul than an Italian opera.” So oratory alone might move people to admiration, but only the proclamation and reception of the World of God has the power to change people permanently.
Our mandate is to proclaim the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Second, there is the MESSAGE.
And the message is the Cross. It is the proclamation of the Cross and the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ that lies behind the greatest surprise of the last 2,000 years – namely, that such an apparently feeble group of Israeli tradesmen and civil servants, joined by an intellectual, highly educated tentmaker, could have overturned an entire worldview that dominated the thought forms of people everywhere in the first three centuries.
They did it by the wisdom and power of God,
I have had the privilege of preaching the Gospel in over 80 countries of the world. In many parts, the church is flourishing. In other places, it is stagnant or in need of a spiritual revival. In 1955, I saw in Glasgow the inscription, “Let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of thy Word and the praising of thy Name.” That became a watchword for our own Mission, and we proclaimed the Word of God.
Third, there is the METHOD.
Of course, the method centres in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our very weakness gives the Holy Spirit room to demonstrate His own power in a way that defies human exploration.
I attended the enthronement of the new Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey. He once said, “Churches die when leaders die. Churches die from the top downwards/ Show me a growing church and you have shown me visionary leadership. It is leaders who make growth/ Where you have spiritual leaders, men of prayer, women of prayer – imaginative, alert, intelligent – there we have growth.”
Every Christian is an evangelist, not an entrepreneur. I am certainly not suggesting that the method we use if the best method. It is only when we get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit work that we see results.
I have read that the churches are still in a state of decline in terms of membership, but thank God for those hundreds of faithful ministers and lay people who are standing in the gap and making up the hedge, And we praise God that there are signs of growth.
It is my prayer that God’s Holy Spirit will touch this land once again. From this little country could come the beginning of spiritual renewal and revival that the world so desperately needs, and, I believe, longs for. You could become the world’s spiritual superpower.
Fourth, there is the MINISTRY.
This carries with it the idea of people having total commitment to the Person of Christ and endeavouring to serve Him as His disciples in the church. It is through the week-by-week faithful teaching and training that spiritual growth and social conscience develop.
In the very next chapter of the epistle, Paul reminds the Corinthians that one sows, another reaps, but God gives the increase. We are not praying for great crowds, but we are praying for a spiritual harvest in Scotland during the coming days and we appreciate your prayers.
John Mott’s vision of 1910 was not accomplished in a single generation, but there is no reason why it cannot be started in this decade and completed in the twenty-first century, The fact that we are again meeting in this great city of Edinburgh may be more of a coincidence. May Scotland again become the centre of spiritual awakening and a source of inspiration to the church worldwide. The God of grace has called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus.
I see no reason to be discouraged, because we have the power of God behind us, and the gates of hell are not going to prevail against the church.
God bless the Church of Scotland.
“Will Graham will be continuing his Grandfather’s legacy in Scotland, preaching at the Central Scotland Celebration of Hope in Falkirk.”