CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Christian Examine)—Heaven, a new film by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, is set for release online Oct. 27 and on DVD Nov. 7—marking Billy Graham's 96th birthday.
It's part of the ongoing My Hope campaign designed to cap Graham's 65-year global ministry.
"Heaven is being released to churches as an evangelistic tool," according to a BGEA press release.
The 30-minute video Heaven is about a firefighter caught in a burning building, a woman whose father is murdered, and a man who has the answers they seek.
It's a film that reminds viewers earthly life can be gone even before "good-bye" can be said, that every human was born to die.
And then what?
A recent Barna Group study found that while 73 percent of "born-again" Christians believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith, little more than half – 52 percent – have actually done so in the last year. Among "evangelicals" – the group that overwhelmingly believes they have a responsibility to share their faith – fewer than one-third – 31 percent – have talked with non-Christians about Jesus in the last 12 months.
"Evangelism is clearly the hardest activity of the church, but it's also the one most closely tied to the health of the local church," said Steve Rhoads, BGEA's vice president for My Hope. "We want to come alongside pastors and help them as they motivate their congregations to reach out in love."
Heaven was produced to provide multiple streams of conversations for those fearing death, those dealing with relationship issues in this life, and those curious about the hereafter.
"Both stories [in the video] are real, and with Billy Graham's preaching, it will be a powerful story of life and death for the people who see it," Dallas Anderson, a My Hope area coordinator, told Christian Examiner at an event in Layton, Utah. "Ultimately, death is the one thing all of us will face."
"My Hope combines the impact of video programs with the power of personal relationships," according to the MyHopeWithBillyGraham.org website. "Christians can share the Gospel message with friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors using one of several evangelistic video programs featuring life-changing testimonies and powerful messages from Billy Graham."
My Hope with Billy Graham, first available in the U.S. last year, on Billy Graham's 95th birthday, actually dates to 2002, when BGEA overseas developed the concept of pairing short videos with church members' personal evangelism.
"It [My Hope] started because in many parts of the world, there weren't any crusades," Anderson explained. Videos were produced in many heart languages, which spread throughout the nations where those speakers could be found.
As a result, more than 10 million professions of faith in Jesus and recommitments to follow Him have been made internationally since 2002. More than 305,000 churches and their members in 4 million homes have participated internationally.
"Mr. Graham had a deep desire to bring this message to America," Anderson continued. "This is a way to combine on a massive scale relational evangelism with the proclamation of the Gospel."
Last year 25,000 churches in the U.S. and Canada were involved in My Hope. Together they reported more than 112,000 decisions for Christ, "and we are hearing about more every day that simply weren't reported," Anderson said.
The My Hope campaign starts with riveting videos produced in the U.S. for the U.S. by BGEA, which combine people's heart-wrenching stories with snippets of Billy Graham preaching at crusades over the years.
The BGEA concept is that churches and their members share the videos in a variety of settings. This leads to evangelistic conversations that can lead to spiritual decisions.
Last year's videos started with the 30.05-minute Defining Moments, which showed how circumstances changed the lives of Illusionist Jim Munroe, NFL player David Tyree and singer Lacey Sturm.
Then came the 23.31-minute Lose to Gain, in which a comedian, pro-skateboarder and young professional learned the difference between what they wanted and what they truly needed. Along with that was the 9.43-munite Seeking Success, in which pro-skateboarder Brian Sumner was living the American dream until he started thinking, "Does any of this matter?"
This Easter, the 29.31-minute video The Cross was released. In it, Billy Graham "brings a timeless message of hope and redemption in Jesus Christ to America once more," according to https://myhopewithbillygraham.org/programs/, where each of the films can be downloaded at no cost.
The first copy of the video Heaven also will be available for free. Additional copies will be available in multiple-copy packs at the cost-recovery price of $1 each.
With My Hope videos, Christians can share the Gospel message with friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors.
"Last year the emphasis was on people showing the videos in their homes," Anderson said. "This year we're looking forward to reports of creative ways the videos are used."
Jerry Coleman, outreach pastor of Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, last spring challenged a small group of 40 men to bring an unchurched friend to a free Friday night Steak and Hope Dinner for men.
The My Hope video Defining Moments was on the evening's agenda. After watching it, all but four or five of the 82 men present made a decision for Christ. Coleman followed up with those who didn't, and last month one of those made a profession of faith.
Citing another example, Anderson said a church in the southern U.S. rented a furniture store for the evening last year, inviting people to sit on the new furniture to watch one of the My Hope films.
The My Hope website told the story of a 12-year-old boy in Ohio who watched The Cross on television at Easter and afterwards called the telephone number on the bottom of the screen.
"His voice was quivering. I could sense the sadness in his tone. It touched me so much," said Judy Turner, the volunteer who took his call. "He just simply told me he was lost. ... When he prayed, he acknowledged that he is not good enough, but that Jesus is. He said, 'Jesus, I trust that Your blood paid for my sins in full.' He was so happy."
After he prayed, the young boy asked, "Would you pray for my dad? He is in prison."
"This broke my heart," Judy said in the report. The Holy Spirit prompted Judy to share Psalm 27:10, which promises that God cares for us, even in the absence of our parents.
"I told him that the Lord will be real to him, and that He will be a father to him – even when his earthly father is in prison," she said. "I am overwhelmed that God would touch a heart like that and give a child saving faith. Through The Cross, God gave him the courage to call and talk to a stranger about his soul."
As recorded in The Cross, Billy Graham seated in a rocking chair in his North Carolina home, with gestures made famous over the years by countless television cameras, gets the final word:
"With all my heart I want to leave you with the truth," said the evangelist who will be 96 on Nov. 7. "[God says] He loves you and He's willing to forgive you of all your sins."
Watch the official trailer for Heaven