Billy Graham almost accidentally announced his retirement from crusade evangelism. "I felt in my heart that this would be the last year of my crusades, and Nashville is one of the cities God laid on my heart to visit," the evangelist told The Tennessean shortly before his early June crusade in the Tennessee capital. "Probably Jacksonville [where Graham is scheduled to hold a crusade in November] will be the last one."A week later, Graham explained, "That was the medical patient in me speaking. But I went on to say that I would never stop preaching, which was the evangelist in me talking."That has not stopped promoters of Amsterdam 2000 from billing the international conference of evangelists as Graham's swan song."That's probably more of a promotional hype than an intentional focus of the conference," says John Corts, general director of Amsterdam 2000 and president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. "We heard the same questions 15 years ago at the last Amsterdam conference."The invitation-only gathering is expected to bring together 10,000 evangelists, church leaders, and theologians from 185 countries for training and encouragement. "We expect the major focus to be on encouraging these evangelists and helping them find their place in the family of God," Corts says. Training seminars in everything from theological concepts to how to craft a sermon will fill most of the conference.Though Graham is the focus of the meeting's buzz, other luminaries scheduled to speak include Luis Palau, J. I. Packer, John Stott, Ravi Zacharias, and Archbishop George Carey.Though the majority of plenary speakers are coming from developed Western countries, about 70 percent of the attendees are from the developing world, and planners have done their work accordingly.The plenary speakers were chosen largely because of their name recognition, Corts says. But of the "master teachers" leading intensive seminars, all but one are from outside the United States.
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