Just a Farm Boy from North Carolina (Billy Graham)
Why Billy Graham?
Billy Graham, who died last year at the age of 99 was perhaps the most influential Christian of the last century. It is estimated that he preached, in person at his crusades (not via TV), to some 250 million people in his life time and ended up a friend to the good and great of the world, from the Queen of England to numerous Presidents. (Those numbers and those people are, by the way, not on their own, any indication of divine blessing.)
Why did God call a farm boy from North Carolina to what turned out in the end to be such a great task? And what can we learn from his life?
(1) God likes to choose the outsider
It is very much in God's ways to chose people who are despised by the world to accomplish his great purposes, because then he gets the glory (which is always a righteous desire in his case, since he is, in point of fact, the author of all good). So he chooses a farm boy from North Carolina shaped by the hardships of the Great Depression. He deliberately bypasses those who are wise in the eyes of the world and chooses nobodies, like Peter the fisherman, and Paul, the outcast Pharisee.
I myself remember in the church circles of my youth, that some pastors would speak disparagingly of Billy - a little too ignorant and uncouth for their liking! One of them even wrote a book against him and his system of inviting people to the front!
(2) Billy was a Team Player
Billy Graham had a wonderful team around him, some of whom stayed the course of his whole ministry, men like Cliff Barrows who organised the meetings and George Beverly Shea who sang at his crusades. He recognised that the church was a body, and he but one cog.
(3) Billy was a learner
Always willing to learn, even when he was older, he was reading and listening and developing. He learnt from his mistakes and always looked forward, not backward.
(4) Billy developed a strong ethical code for "The Billy Graham Evangelistic Society"
He would not be paid mega-church millions but the wage of an average US pastor. He would not be found alone in a room with a woman who was not his wife. His counsellors had to counsel, women to women, men to men, and so on. Anyone sniffing around for dirt found none - because there was none to be found.
(5) He was Gospel Bold and Gospel Confident
He would not miss an opportunity to share the Gospel. After a visit to a light bulb factory he talked about Jesus, the light of the world. He found some way in his interviews of turning the message to the Gospel. He called people to Christ and not to courses. Although not adverse to apologetics he preached a simple message about sin, the cross and forgiveness: convinced that inside that "foolish" message lay great power.
(6) He was faithful
Billy Graham was a faithful preacher. Perhaps not the best preacher, but faithful, right to the end. He didn't mess about with secondary truth, but dedicated himself to the simple Gospel all his life.He wasn't distracted by evangelical fads or new gospels, but stick to biblical orthodoxy.
(7) He was godly
Billy Graham was personally a godly man who exhibited the fruit of the Spirit and was ever prayerful. On one occasion he was asked "how often do you pray" to which he instinctively responded, "I am praying that the Lord would help me give you the right answer."
Of course, none of us knows what the Judgement Seat of Jesus Christ will reveal. My guess is that Billy Graham will prove to be one of the very few men who though famous, were truly great in the eyes of the Lord Jesus whom he loved and served.
My summer's reading is going to be Prophet with Honour: The Billy Graham Story, by William Martin.
The above is based, in part, from a talk by Hugh Palmer, given at the EMA, June 26th 2019
This post is taken from our Pastor Roy Summers’ blog, where he discusses and comments on a wide range of current subjects and issues both in the world and in the church.