A Tribute to Billy Graham by Pastor Rick
“I have often said that the first thing I am going to do when I get to Heaven is to ask, ‘Why me, Lord? Why did you choose a farmboy from North Carolina to preach to so many people, to have such a wonderful team of associates, and to have a part in what You were doing in the latter half of the twentieth century?’” Now Dr. Graham has the opportunity to ask the Lord those questions face to face, as he has gone home to glory after 99 years of a full and rich and fruitful life here on earth.
I can remember in the final weeks of 1999 there was much written about who was the most influential person of the 20th century. Few in the secular media even mentioned Dr. Graham, but he undoubtedly, by any measure, deserved to be placed in the top five of those lists. He was not just another itinerant evangelist—though he certainly was that, preaching to 285 million souls in 185 countries over the span of 58 years. Dr. Graham was an ambassador of the Kingdom of Heaven to the nations of the earth.
In this nation he repudiated segregation in the Jim Crow south, refusing to hold crusades unless there was open seating for all. He was a pastor and spiritual advisor to every president from Harry Truman to Barak Obama. He was particularly close to Dwight Eisenhower, undoubtedly being instrumental in leading the president to a personal faith in Christ. He was a personal friend to Queen Elizabeth II, first meeting her at the time of his major crusade in London in 1954. That crusade extended to twelve weeks; night after night people from all over the U.K. filled Harringay Arena (capacity 10,000) to hear the good news of God. This was in the aftermath of two world wars that had decimated Britain’s population, wealth and faith in the existence of God. Out of those meetings thousands came to faith, many of whom became the leaders of the church in Britain for the next generation. It would not be an overstatement to say that those meetings were used by God to save the very soul of Christian faith in the U.K.
Dr. Graham was a strong voice against the godlessness of communism in the Fifties and Sixties, but he became an ambassador of the good news to the people who suffered under the oppression of communist regimes. He held meetings in Hungary in 1977, in Poland in 1978, in Romania in 1985 and then preached the gospel of Jesus Christ in Moscow in 1988. He also proclaimed Christ in Beijing, China in 1988 and even ventured into North Korea in 1992. Before preaching in the north Dr. Graham held meetings in South Korea. On the 100th anniversary of the gospel coming to the Korean peninsula, he preached to a million people in a public square in Seoul.
Throughout his ministry Dr. Graham was a friend of the nation of Israel and helped to open up a healthy dialogue between evangelical Christianity and Jews. He also met with Pope John Paul II many times and was a leader in helping to forge ties between the streams of Christianity from around the globe
Perhaps lesser known, but of equal importance to his public crusades was the work Dr. Graham did to help convene and guide what is known as the Lausanne movement. In 1974 2,700 Christian leaders from 150 nations convened a Congress for World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland. This was a breakthrough gathering, helping to cast a vision that the Great Commission was not only a task to be pursued, but rather a goal to be accomplished. It also opened up channels for dialogue between established Christian movements in the Western world and emerging movements in the third world. The legacy of the Lausanne movement is ongoing. It helped put an end to a colonial approach to missions and made room for perspectives on the nature of the task of the gospel and evangelism to arise from the global south and east. Christianity is now the fastest growing faith in the world as thousands are coming to faith in Christ daily in places that historically have not been known as “Christian.”
Amazingly, in a very public and successful ministry that spanned nearly six decades Dr. Graham was known as a genuinely humble man and his ministry was not marred by scandal. Most of us old enough to remember have “come to know” Billy Graham through watching his televised crusades or hearing him on the radio or reading some of his many books. Many of us know people who first gave their lives to Christ through a Billy Graham crusade. Dan Rouleau, of our own congregation came to personal faith in Christ at the Graham crusade in Hartford in 1985.
In reflecting upon Dr. Graham’s life and death I am moved to great gratitude for this humble, faithful , courageous voice for the gospel who has been such a blessing to my own journey of faith as he has been to millions across the globe. I have always thought that when Billy Graham did go home to be with the Lord that I wanted to do what I could to honor him and to ask God to multiply his mantle to hundreds and thousands of anointed evangelists across the globe to carry the message forward. Will you pray with me this prayer?
Father, thank you for Billy Graham—for his life, his witness, his voice for the simple and powerful gospel of Christ. We honor him before you Lord and we honor you for using him so mightily. Would you use the occasion of his passing to cause the gospel that he preached to be trumpeted by the media across the earth. And will you raise up hundreds and thousands to carry the banner of the cross with even greater anointing and effectiveness than you have done with Dr. Graham. And Lord, will you use me to be a witness and a voice of this same powerful gospel with the people who I know and come in contact with. Amen.
Thanks for letting me share these thoughts with you. If you would like to read more about Billy Graham I would recommend two books: Just As I Am by Billy Graham himself and A Prophet with Honor by William Martin.