Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling
On February 21, 2018, world-renowned evangelist, Billy Graham, transitioned from life as we know it here on earth to eternal glory with Jesus. Born on November 17, 1918, Graham’s 99-year lifespan began by humble means. Reared on a dairy farm near Charlotte, NC during the Great Depression, Billy learned early on of the uncertainties of life and of the value of hard work. At age fifteen, Billy made a personal commitment to Christ through the ministry of Mordecai Ham, a traveling evangelist, who visited Charlotte for a series of revival meetings. Five years later, having proven himself an able minister and communicator of Scripture, the pastor of Peniel Baptist Church (Palatka, FL) ordained Billy into the pastorate of the Southern Baptist Convention. From there the pace of his stellar career would accelerate, but not until he earned a degree from Wheaton College in 1943 and joined hands in marriage with Ruth Bell (daughter of a missionary physician).
Graham first pastored at the Village Church in Western Springs, IL. While the pastorate offered stability for his young family, Graham’s passion for evangelism could not be contained to parish life. Seizing the opportunity to reach a broader audience through Youth for Christ, Graham launched his itinerate career traveling throughout the US and Europe proclaiming the Gospel to the armed forces and to communities devastated by war. However, it was the Los Angeles Crusade of 1949 that would garner international attention. Preaching under tent in city center to an overflowing audience, Graham’s crusade was extended from three to eight weeks. From there, Graham would travel to New York and London (where he would also have a personal audience with the Queen). Still, his rise to notoriety would never interfere with folowing God’s lead. Graham preached to the Bushmen of Australia, to the village tribes of Africa and the Middle East, to the urban crowds of major metropolises. In 1977, with God’s help, he even broke through the Cold War barrier of the former Soviet Union and began a Crusade that reached nearly every Eastern bloc country, including Russia.
Part of the reason that his Gospel message was able to impact a broad range of people and cultures is because he refrained from endorsing politicians and Christian leaders who were politically active (such as Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority). In response to Falwell, Graham declared:
“I’m for morality, but morality goes beyond sex to human freedom and social justice. We as clergy know so very little to speak with authority on the Panama Canal or superiority of armaments. Evangelists cannot be closely identified with any particular party or person. We have to stand in the middle in order to preach to all people, right and left. I haven’t been faithful to my own advice in the past. I will be in the future.” — The New York Times
“Standing in the middle,” Graham faithfully served as a spiritual advisor to twelve successive US Presidents, extending from Truman to Obama—all the while refraining from delving into the politics. His stance was based on the observation that Jesus did not engage in the religious politics of his day and instead focused on proclaiming the Good News. Graham faithfully proclaimed the Good News through his 400 plus crusades (spanning 185 countries over six continents), his thirty-three books, the Billy Graham Evangelism Association, the weekly Hour of Decision radio broadcast, the syndicated newspaper column, My Answer, and the worldwide-circulated magazine, Decision. He was also honored with numerous awards including the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation of Freedom Award (2000) for contributions to the cause of freedom. Indeed, Graham was wholeheartedly committed to speaking the truth that brings “freedom” from the tryanny of sin in our lives. This is why Billy Graham is a world changer.