While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage on, spreading to more people in various places, the Gospel also continues to spread - and has been received by more people this year despite the lockdowns and persecution.

Evangelist Franklin Graham, President of both the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and the Samaritan's Purse, told the Christian Post that more people gave their lives to Christ this year as compared to the number of people making the decision to follow Christ as Lord last year.

What's even more interesting here is that the surge in the number of people who have turned to the Lord was recorded at a time when churches were forced to stop holding worship services, reduce the number of people that can attend, or avoid singing if ever they can attend.

It was also recorded at a time when street evangelism, evangelistic crusades, and other outreach methods were at least hindered or canceled due to the rise in the number of COVID-19 positive cases everywhere.

"I think there's nothing normal about 2020. We've never gone through a pandemic in my lifetime. The world has never been locked down before," Graham told the Christian Post. "It's God who touches people's hearts and opens up people's eyes. The pandemic hasn't stopped it. If anything, it's advanced it."

Although he was reluctant to give numbers because "God's the one who gives the increase," "it's not Franklin Graham and it's not the institution," the son of the late beloved evangelist and pastor to presidents said about 1.7 million people gave their lives to Christ this year - a staggering increase compared to 1.4 million in 2019.

The minister believed that the pandemic made it easier for people to receive the Gospel of Christ. While COVID-19 gave some leaders various reasons to demand the temporary closure of churches and places of worship, the pandemic itself prepared people's hearts to listen to the message of salvation in Christ Jesus the Lord.

"The people's hearts have been softened a little bit. People who have not listened before are listening now," Graham said. "For evangelism, it may be one of the better years we've had."

Graham indicated that while people might not necessarily changed their minds and attitudes toward the Gospel, the pandemic forced them to change their outlook in life, particularly those who are close to death.

The pandemic brought so much fear and caused so much panic among people that they are simply looking for a message of hope - which is what the Gospel.

"I think they're willing to listen to the Gospel. People are scared and afraid. When you give them the hope we have in Jesus Christ, they're eager to accept that. When the world turns upside down is when they're eager to listen," Graham said.

What happened

Graham, in response to the restrictions and lockdowns that prevented him and his team from conducting crusades, had to look for other ways to make the Gospel available for people who need hope.

Since the BGEA could not hold evangelistic gatherings, they opted for the next best thing during the pandemic: they operated 24/7 Gospel call hotlines that can answer calls round the clock, and bought 60-second ad spots on television.

Using these means, the BGEA was able to reach out to more people with the Gospel than it would've had had it tried to go out on foot to hold evangelistic crusades. In the TV ads, for example, Graham was able to engage viewers, ask them important questions about their souls, and pray for them.