The Rev. Billy Graham calls her “the best preacher in the family.”
On Tuesday, the daughter of the famed evangelist, Anne Graham Lotz, announced that she will preach a free, two-day revival for women in Augusta this fall.
Organizers expect to fill James Brown Arena with more than 8,000 women Sept. 21-22.
“When I leave, I pray that the church is strengthened,” said Lotz, who spoke to pastors, news media and volunteers about her plans for Just Give Me Jesus, the worldwide series of revivals she has held since 2000.
More than 700 pastors within 30 miles of downtown Augusta were invited to First Presbyterian Church of Augusta on Tuesday morning to hear her speak. The event was followed with a media appearance at noon.
“It’s an incredible day,” said Blanche Conger, the chairwoman of Just Give Me Jesus Augusta, “and it has been an incredible journey.”
Members of Just Give Me Jesus Augusta have worked behind the scenes to bring Lotz to Augusta since 2010. The group is now tasked with raising $250,000 to $300,000 to fund half of the revival. Lotz’s organization, AnGeL Ministries in Raleigh, N.C., will provide the other half.
“For years, my heart’s passion has been for personal and corporate renewal,” Conger said. “The greatest need in the world today is revival in the church of God.”
It’s why Conger has led busloads of women from Augusta and Aiken to some of Lotz’s earlier revivals in Atlanta, Raleigh, Charlotte and South Carolina’s Upstate. It’s why a group of local women have met for nearly two years to pray and study biblical models for revival before inviting Lotz to speak.
More than 140 people in the community wrote letters in support of a Just Give Me Jesus revival in Augusta. They represent 61 churches, 22 organizations, and 15 civic and government leaders in Augusta, Aiken and North Augusta.
With their urging, Lotz accepted. It’s one of two revivals she’ll hold this year, with the other scheduled for April in Indianapolis.
Just Give Me Jesus, the name of both the revival ministry and one of Lotz’s bestselling books, was born out of a period of personal turmoil, Lotz said Tuesday.
In the late 1990s, the dental office where her husband practiced for 30 years burned to the ground. Ruth Graham, her mother, was hospitalized five times. Hurricane Fran devastated their Raleigh home.
All three of her children got married in an eight-month period, leaving Lotz with an empty nest. Four weeks before her son got married, he was diagnosed with life-threatening cancer.
All the while, Lotz continued speaking, writing and preaching.
“I reached the point that was like, I felt like I was going under. I just cried out to God,” she said.
“The cry of my heart was – and this is the way I put it – ‘just give me Jesus,’” she said. “I wanted a fresh encounter with Jesus.”
When Lotz speaks in September in Augusta, she hopes to encourage women to cry out for Jesus, too.
The events are targeted to women, although anyone can attend, and husbands often choose to accompany their wives.
“I believe women have enormous influence,” she said. “I think women have more influence and power than they sometimes give themselves credit for.”
Tuesday evening, more than 500 women were invited to hear about Lotz’s vision for revival in their lives at First Baptist Church of North Augusta.
She preached a sermon about Jesus’ second coming and the signs of the times to a full house, underscoring the importance of the Just Give Me Jesus revival in September.
“What time is it?” she asked. “It’s time to wake up.”
While many people will look to the elections in November as a hope for things to change, Lotz disagrees, saying elected officials don’t have the answers.
“Jesus is the answer,” she said.
Lotz said she never set out to duplicate the crusade ministry of her father or the festivals of her brother, Franklin Graham.
“I’m just doing what my heart’s cry is,” she said.
The result, she said, is a stripped-down revival with minimal staging and fuss. There will be no emcees, no introductions and no announcements. The stage will be bare, except for a cross at the center.
“We substitute lots of stuff for the real acting of the Holy Spirit,” she said.
There are months of preparation ahead as the committee organizes hundreds of ushers, translators and Bible study leaders, who will offer seven-week studies after the revival.
“It goes without saying,” Conger said, “but we’re counting down the days.”
Correspondent Charmain Brackett contributed to this article.