In exclusive interview, Will Graham shares about gospel event in Porto partnering with 140 churches

By Chris Eyte |
Will Graham preaching in Porto
Will Graham shares the gospel in Porto, Portugal. | Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

Hundreds of Portuguese people responded to a gospel call to true life in Jesus Christ made by evangelist Will Graham, the grandson of the late Billy Graham. The Celebration of Hope with Will Graham (Celebração da Esperança com Will Graham) ran at the Super Bock Arena, Porto, Portugal on April 26. More than 140 local churches got involved in the event. 

Some 480 responded to an invitation to get to know Jesus personally, or to ask for prayer and ask further questions. An overflow audience of 6,170 people attended the celebration, which coincided with Portugal’s Freedom Day, marking 50 years since the country embraced democracy.

The Rev. Pedro Costa, pastor president of the Brethren Church of North Portugal, said the event had a “great professional quality in terms of music and technique.” 

The Afters performance in Porto, Portugal.
The Afters performed classic and modern praise songs during the gospel event in Porto. | Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

“We have never had that before,” Costa said, “with TAYA and The Afters performing a variety of well-known and original songs, from the famous ‘How Great Thou Art’ anthem to youthful songs that cheered the great presence of young people to jumping in a great celebration of praise to God.

“But the main thing was Will's message about King Manasseh and the call to repentance and salvation in Jesus Christ. 

“We now have the task of accompanying them through the churches.”

Christian Daily International spoke to Will Graham just days before the occasion, to ask about his expectations for the country of Portugal. Graham said churches in Porto had invited the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and he was thankful for the invitation. 

“We are coming here to share the good news of Jesus, it’s been a number of years since my father Franklin visited and we are excited. It feels that the time is right and we are very grateful for the invitation from the pastors in this area to preach in Porto.”

Graham said his team, excited about the opportunity, wanted to “preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and make him known to a new generation and city that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association hasn’t been to before.”

The style of the evangelistic celebration echoed his “grandaddy’s” preaching events “but with a different preacher.”

“People from all walks of life have been invited. There has been predominantly work with the local churches, working in local neighborhoods to come and help gather people.”

Graham preached in English with the help of a Portuguese interpreter. 

“We are going to invite people to come forward and make a decision about Jesus Christ and if they want to ask Jesus to come into their lives. We are also going to have some wonderful music but what’s really going to matter is people putting their faith and hope in Jesus Christ and that is what I have been hoping for.”

Graham emphasized that he had met and prayed with local pastors, generating a lot of excitement about the gospel. 

“A lot of them have been working together in this last year and it’s great to be with them and to see their hard work,” he said. “I am grateful for their involvement because this is their event and they just asked me to be the preacher.

“We will be proclaiming the greatest news there is – that Jesus loves people, and if we repent of our sins, he forgives us freely. That is the greatest message to tell and these pastors standing next to me are very excited about it.” 

Graham preached using the example of King Manassah from 2 Kings 21. “He was one of the most wicked people but he asked for forgiveness and God forgave him,” Graham explained.

“He was a wicked king who came out of exile and ruled as a good king because God changed his heart.

“It doesn’t matter what you have done in life, God is always willing to give us a second chance. Manassah was one of the most wicked people who ever lived but he changed.”

Graham’s assessment of faith in Portugal is that the Portuguese are “a very religious people, with 80 percent of them Catholic.”  

“Sometimes people put their hope in religion instead of a personal relationship with God and think if they just go to church, whether that’s Catholic or Protestant, or Presbyterian, whatever it is, that that will get them to heaven.”

Will Graham in Porto
Will Graham emphasized repentance and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ during an event in Porto, Portugal. | Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

A man in the Bible exemplifying that truth is Nicodemus in John 3, according to Graham. He pointed out that this very religious, devout, sincere and faithful man needed to be born again – as Jesus told him. 

“Nicodemus had a hard time understanding that and the Bible never says whether he did or didn’t get born again. But we see him later at the empty tomb and I believe that he did come to know Jesus personally. 

“I see the same thing in Portugal. It is very religious but putting hope and trust in religion is not the same as putting hope and trust personally in the person of Jesus Christ.” 

Graham shared about his own journey to faith in Christ saying that as a boy he religiously attended Sunday School and “did all the things you are supposed to do.” 

“My grandaddy was Billy Graham and I believed in God. But my dad Franklin explained to me when I was six years old that that was not enough. I had to ask Jesus Christ to come into my life.”

Despite being a youngster, Graham realized the answer lay in Jesus, not religion. Life did not change “drastically” but he then found a “new direction in God.”

“I realized that I was a sinner and had done things that disappointed God and I had never asked God to forgive me. I believed in him but I had never asked Jesus to personally come into my life, and that’s the difference between religion and a personal relationship with God.”

A lot of religious people are sincere but you can be sincere but still go to hell, said Graham, adding: “what is required is for us to put our faith in Jesus Christ and surrender our lives to him.”  

After the celebration, Graham said local churches would disciple the new believers. He pointed out that the BGEA came by invitation only, so the follow-up is planned by local churches welcoming those people. 

“We believe in the local church. Jesus Christ came to start his Church and that is where discipleship takes place. We proclaim the good news and get those people plugged into a local church. That is why we work with local churches. The most important thing is that we don’t come and do it all by ourselves.”

Graham also challenged any cynicism about large events, telling Christian Daily International that 80 percent of people attending a crusade had been brought by another person. Friendship evangelism is the foremost method to complement such an evangelistic event.

“Big crusade events are a great way for evangelism but whether they are the best way depends on the people involved. Everyone has got to use their gift. 

“When we go to a large crusade, even in my grandaddy’s [Billy Graham] time, it was always about one person. But 80 percent of people coming forward at a crusade had been brought by another person. In other words, someone reaching out to another person and bringing them with them.

“It is one-to-one evangelism but we do it on a massive scale, with people bringing loved ones, neighbors, and friends, and saying to them why not come to this event and hear about Jesus Christ. 

“Any time we do something, we want to do it to the best of our ability. Christians really have the most to sing about.”