Billy Graham Was My Hero
In Romans 1:8, first-century evangelist and apostle Paul wrote, First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
As I reflect on the life and ministry of Billy Graham, I thank God that this same faith—salvation through personal trust in our Lord Jesus Christ—was proclaimed around the world by this influential twentieth-century evangelist.
Through secular news media, religious news media, personal blogs, and every social media platform imaginable, it seems that everyone is talking about Billy Graham. News features and op-ed pieces highlight his remarkable influence to take the Gospel to the whole world. Seldom have we heard the name of Jesus Christ mentioned so much on secular television stations and other news outlets. For all of this, we are grateful.
On the other hand, we also are saddened by the loss of such a hero. Personally, I am. Many have shared stories of how their lives have been impacted through their personal interactions with Billy Graham, as I have done in brief comments through Baptist Press and social media. However, I want to expand a bit more in this blog post.
As a young boy, I came to faith in Christ after a precious family in our neighborhood invited me to a local church. Their invitation changed my life, and later the lives of my family members. Hearing the Gospel was extremely welcome to my young ears. When I later trusted Jesus Christ, He changed me forever.
Few people took me aside in those early years to teach me the beginnings of the faith. This led me to ask questions, influenced me to ask for a Bible for Christmas, and compelled me to take advantage of any class our local church offered.
One person who did minister to me, from afar, was Billy Graham through his television broadcast. On a little three-channel, black-and-white television set, I remember watching, listening, and admiring this man.
As the years progressed, I began to be encouraged and guided by other pastors and ministers. However, Billy Graham always held a close spot in my heart. I longed for the day when I would have the opportunity to tell him personally how much he meant to me.
When I became pastor of Taylors First Baptist Church in Taylors, South Carolina, my wife and I became friends with Cliff Barrows and his second wife, Ann. His first wife, who died shortly before I became pastor, had played the piano there for decades. I will never forget the time that Cliff spent more than two hours with me and my son-in-law, also a minister, sharing about the early days of the Billy Graham organization. Cliff reminisced about their evangelism team making a resolute decision to uphold the highest standards of biblical integrity in their ministry. From that came the now-famous Modesto Manifesto—a covenant for purity and accountability that served them all well.
It was not until 2012 that my dear friend, Don Wilton, who had become Billy Graham’s pastor, arranged for me to come to Montreat, North Carolina, to spend some time with Rev. Graham. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life as I visited with him for almost an hour, talking and praying with him. When I spoke of leading someone to Christ, his baby-blue eyes came alive like never before. Upon leaving the house, I began to weep. I called my wife and said that I had been in the presence of greatness. Even though I have been to amazing places, such as the visiting the White House under three presidents, nothing compared to spending an hour with Billy Graham. It was an unforgettable day.
Now, Billy Graham has gone to be with the Lord. We are so grateful for his impact and ministry to share the Gospel with the whole world.
While there may not be another Billy Graham in our lifetime, it is incumbent upon each of us to realize that God puts us in places to share the Gospel. We are supernaturally empowered by the Holy Spirit to share the same Good News in our settings that Billy Graham did before the masses. May his life and memory be a continual encouragement to all of us to share the Gospel so that our faith, too, is spoken of throughout the whole world (Romans 1:8)!