Franklin Graham Festival... it's not his daddy's crusade

By: Gordon Boyd
By: Gordon Boyd

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The Franklin Graham Festival of Faith hits Knoxville Friday, and brings with it a little bit of country, some alternative, and some rock-and-roll, all of it aimed at the soul.

And most all of it is free, something they hope will draw all ages, in all stages of faith -- from strong, to struggling, to starving -- much as Billy Graham's crusades always have.

But this is not his crusade.

At their most critical moments, the son's Festivals and the Father's crusades.

Robert Tatum with Franklin Graham's Festival of Faith says, "The message is still the same, the invitation is still the same."

Franklin Graham says, " I want you to know that God loves each and every one of you here tonight."

Tatum says, "The counseling aspects are still the same."

But for much of a Franklin Graham service, Rev. Larry Fields of Central Baptist Church Bearden says, "I may bring some ear plugs to the youth meetings because I know they've got some real rocking bands."

And festival-goer Kathy Dowling says, "It won't be singing out of the hymnals."

The music carries most of the message.

Tatum says, "The idea is to bring in artists that would attract more of the un-churched crowd"

Rev. Fields says, "That's not my style, but that what relates and what brings the kids in so they can here the gospel."

Dowling says, "I really wanted to do it and I'm glad I could be a part of it."

13-year-old Kaitlyn Dowling not only is attending--she'll be a stage performer.

"I love Jesus and I want to tell everybody around it, because he's number one in my life."

Her mom is one of the festival's 5-thousand volunteers, and says, " The kids are gonna be so fired up, go back to their church, talk to them about Jesus and God."

But lest ye believe the festival will be all youth, all the time, Tatum says, "Friday and Sunday, we'll have a choir. So that'll appeal to those who are pretty used to that type of setting"

All of it, from New Orleans--to Manila -- To Knoxville, is about a call to commit.

"God doesn't want you separated from him."

Katherine Dowlin says, "I just think it's gonna revive our whole, from young kids up to grandparents."

Her daughter Kaitlyn says, "There's about three of my close friends coming...and maybe they'll join, and next time there's something like this, maybe they'll be in it with me."

Saturday's focus will be on kids, teenagers, and college students.

Organizers say they'll have at least five dozen UT Police or Knox County Sheriff's Deputies on security detail, and the festival folks are paying for it.


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