If you took a glimpse inside the Winter Gardens entertainment complex Saturday night, you never would’ve guessed Blackpool, England, has a reputation for being the Las Vegas of the United Kingdom.
From the moment London rapper Guvna B took the stage until Rend Collective closed out the night, the multi-generational crowd was engaged—standing and clapping, with hands raised and voices joined in praise to God at day two of the Lancashire Festival of Hope. From the back row of the Opera House to the overflow seating in the Empress Ballroom, more than 4,000 people in attendance leaned in attentively to the evening of music, testimonies and the truth of the Gospel.
However, the locals inside told a bit of a different story—one that is not limited to this U.K. tourist town, but reverberates around the world.
“What I’ve noticed about Blackpool is that it’s very open to the dark,” said Michelle Wilkie, who lives in Liverpool but has visited the coastal town multiple times. “I hope people can see the light tonight. I hope this can be a witness for the next generation.”
Leanne Hutchinson, a 25-year-old youth leader from nearby Preston, also expressed hopes for the salvation of her generation at the Festival’s youth night. She explained that young people in the area are familiar with faith, “but society today and technology have taken over in a bad way, and people don’t live it out.”
While young people of today face different temptations than those in Biblical times, Franklin Graham explained that humankind’s rebellion against God is a story that has extended across generations.
“We see the world today is full of rebellion,” said Franklin Graham, referencing the story of Manasseh from 2 Kings 21. He explained how the former king of Judah committed great evil in the eyes of the Lord. But when he asked for forgiveness, God set him free.
“Are you rebelling? Have you been shaking your fist in the face of God?” Franklin said, encouraging the crowd to not rely on their good works or their family’s faith. “Tonight you can chart a new course for your life.”
After sharing his own story of surrendering his life to Christ at the age of 22, Franklin Graham gave the thousands gathered in Blackpool and watching online the opportunity to do the same.
And many people did not let that opportunity pass them by.
“It’s fantastic, because we need the younger generation,” prayer volunteer and Blackpool native Steve Wardle said after talking with a young man who recommitted his life to Christ. “In our church we pray for the young people. They’re the next generation in the kingdom of God, and we’ve just got to encourage them.”
The volunteer, who attended Billy Graham’s 1982 Crusade in Blackpool, has been praying and training for the event for over a year. All that preparation became worth it Saturday night, as he connected with the young man who made a decision for Christ.
As the gray-haired counselor and bleach-blonde youth talked at the packed front of the Opera House, the young man’s brother stood nearby in support.
“It’s pretty shocking to see such a crowd come forward,” his brother Dan said. He came to day two of the Lancashire Festival of Hope, made curious by Franklin Graham and his notoriety in the region.
As Dan reunited with his brother up front, Steve said, “Thank you for bringing your brother. … You’re both such a blessing.”
Even as many surrendered their lives to God Saturday night, the temptations outside the doors of Winter Gardens did not disappear. But the multi-generational church joining together for the Festival gives hope that revival can start today and continue for generations to come.
“I am excited to see Christians uniting together to spread the Gospel, the truth,” Michelle said, “Because God is the truth.”
Searching for purpose in life? Start here.