A flood of mixed emotions came to me Wednesday morning when I received the news of the home-going of Rev. Billy Graham. I was overjoyed to think of him in the presence of our Lord. I was saddened to think of our world, for the first time in my lifetime, without him in it. Our hope is always in Christ, not in a mere mortal. However, Billy Graham communicated that hope to more people than ever before.
While I, and most of you, could write a book (as many have) on the influence of Billy Graham’s life on each of us personally, I will take time instead to share 5 lessons that were driven to the heart of this pastor by observing the life and ministry of Billy Graham.
- Be Resolved in Your Conviction of Scripture and The Gospel. Billy Graham’s tree stump confession represents a crisis point that every preacher and believer should experience. “The Bible says” is a phrase that echoed through every sermon. May we be convinced of the authority of God’s Word and never be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:16)
- Be a Man of Integrity. Spiritual Leaders are to be blameless (1 Tim. 3:2). In the early years of my calling the word televangelist became a punchline as people began to lose faith in spiritual leaders. The commitment of Billy Graham and his team to be accountable and avoid scandal, especially in the areas of money and women, made this man a bright light in the darkness! The Gospel of Grace was never used as a license for sin.
- Be Driven by a Biblical Mission and Vision. Preaching the Gospel to all nations was his call, and he avoided being side-tracked. Even his political ties were leveraged to open doors to share the gospel in places closed to many others at the time. May we know our calling, and may we be empowered to remain focused on doing what God called us to do.
- Don’t Be Afraid of Ingenuity. Media can be used for evil or good. Billy Graham used it for the sake of the gospel. While many preachers cursed the evil of a television set in every home (and the potential for evil was real), Billy Graham saw the opportunity to preach Christ in every home. While he preached to hundreds of millions of people in person, he likely connected with close to a billion people through TV and radio. In the same way we must avoid the evils of social media and other channels of communication while saturating these same streams of information with good news.
- Be Gripped by Christ-centered Compassion. Billy Graham was a gentle giant. Like Jesus, he saw the masses and felt compassion for them (Matthew 9:35-38). He stood against racism and communism in places and times that his stand was not popular. He loved all people. He was willing to meet and pray with political leaders, with whom he disagreed theologically, in their times of brokenness. After the 911 attacks I remember how comforting it felt to hear from “our pastor”, America’s pastor, as he spoke to the nation from the National Cathedral in Washington D.C.
So many more thoughts and memories will come to our minds over the next several days as we remember this man of God. Please take a moment to share your thoughts with me and others.
There will never be another Billy Graham. But as we live the Gospel he proclaimed, his mantle is passed on to many!