Jesus left the 99. Billy Graham left at 99. Yesterday morning, I was enjoying breakfast with a fellow minister when we received a rather memorable news alert. We suddenly became aware of Rev. Billy Graham’s passing.
I thought of a story that I had both heard and verified some years ago. A woman would call Dr. Graham’s ministry annually to acquire the schedule and locations of his evangelistic crusades throughout the world. She did this for many years. Eventually, the regularity of her inquiries sparked the curiosity of those fielding the calls. When asked why she desired his annual preaching schedule, she let them know that many days prior to an event she would travel to the host city and check in to a hotel only to pray continuously for fruit in Rev. Graham’s ministry. There is an inseparability between intercession and the harvest of souls.
What does Billy Graham’s life say to us in his absence?
Reverend Graham understood that the gospel of Christ is the Power of God (Rom. 1:16). Show me a Pentecostal without the gospel and I will show you someone who only thinks they are walking in the power of God. Conversely, show me a denomination that defines the gospel only on a social level and I will show you a stagnant or declining church.
Billy Graham did nothing too complicated or fancy. He shared the simple gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that anyone could understand. Certainly, there is a place for apologetics; but there was not much room for such in his ministry. At some point, each of us must take a leap of faith to believe Christ to be who He says He is. It is not the role of a believer to amass enough facts to cognitively bring someone to faith in Christ. There must be the conviction of sin and a mustard seed of faith.
Have we made generational ministry too complicated? Are not millennials and boomers both people? The gospel is simple and is to remain so for every generation.
Many have titles; not all have testimonies. To be called “Reverend” is to be likened to one who lives reverently. We don’t use the word “Reverend” to refer to or introduce our ministers to others much anymore. There is either a good reason for this or this is only a social pattern, or maybe both. Those who stand in pulpits or teach in our churches need to be above reproach. Reverend Graham’s life reminds many of that (James 3:1).
Dr. Graham chose to look first at a person’s heart and not to at their political ideology. He was a pastor to presidents going way back to Truman. We refer to our presidents as the most powerful people on the face of the earth. Sticking with the power theme, it seems like they are actually second to the one counseling them with the power of the gospel of Christ.
My sister came to faith at a Billy Graham meeting in Atlanta many years ago. She is a totally different person today. That very statement can be said of literally millions because of the obedience Graham seized to preach the gospel (2 Tim. 4:2).
How might we honor the life and ministry of Dr. Billy Graham? That’s easy. Honor Graham by first honoring Christ. Let’s not talk about the importance in history of Dr. Graham’s ministry without actually sharing the gospel ourselves. Millions of people came to faith through his ministry, far more would have come to Christ during his lifetime if each of us also shared the gospel with others. One man will never do anything close to what an army of believers can do when mobilized. Jesus said something about that… (John 14:12).
I received many other news alerts on my phone this week. These alerts had much to do with police officers being shot, students being massacred, and planes falling from the sky. The church has much work to do.
Jesus left the 99. Dr. Billy Graham left us at 99. The true test of a great ministry is its continuation beyond death. What would this world look like if all those who came to faith through Dr. Graham shared their faith like Dr. Graham? Share the good news of Christ and thwart the works of the devil. Is this following statement true of you? If not, why not? “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…” (Rom. 1:16).
-Dr. Gary Hewins
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