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Franklin Graham says bus ad ban backfired as thousands head to Blackpool to hear him preach

While much of the build up to Friday's appearance at the Festival of Hope has been negative, a packed theatre heard the US evangelist preach a message in which he repeatedly told those gathered that 'God loves you'.

In the run up to the event, thousands – including MPs - signed a petition calling from him to be prevented from entering the UK because of comments he previously made about Islam and homosexuality.

Adverts for the event were also banned by Blackpool Transport after being deemed offensive.

Despite the criticism, speaking to Premier just hours before the festival, Graham said: "I'm excited to be here.

"Everyone I've met has been warm. I know there have been some that have protested but that's OK. "

Franklin, the son of legendary evangelist Billy Graham admitted he did feel the pressure of preaching at events like this describing it as an "exhausting" experience but said the event would be a success even if just one person's life was turned around.

Acknowledging his critics, just like he did earlier in the year when he again spoke to Premier, Graham extended an invitation to all who oppose him to come and listen to what he had to say.

"I want them to know they're invited. I've not come to speak against them," he said. "They've accused me of speaking against homosexuality – I'm not. They've accused me of speaking against Islam – I'm not. I'm here to preach Christ and him only."

Some Christians who campaign for full inclusivity for LGBT people are hosting their own event in opposition to the festival labelled the Rainbow Weekend.

When asked whether he had a message to those Christians he said he's not been invited but would relish the opportunity to "go and tell them what God has to say".

Addressing the issue of the banned bus adverts, Graham said it was a surprise to hear of the move because they were simply "advertising hope".

He told Premier he felt it was an issue for the local churches to deal with but suggested the ban actually backfired.

"I feel there is a spiritual dimension to this and when we have opposition like this God usually turns it round for God.

"Today, almost everyone in the city knows that we're here and that's pretty good advertisement."

Graham also hinted at a return to the UK in the not so distant future.

"We're looking at the possibility of coming back in 2020 and taking on a series of cities starting in the south then all the way to Scotland and coming back to London - taking the gospel and sharing the hope we have in Jesus Christ.

"Secularism has permeated our societies – so we're going to march from the south to the north. As people get saved they'll phone ahead to others in other cities. There is power in the gospel."

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