I originally wrote this post in honor of Billy Graham’s 96th Birthday. As I celebrate this great man’s homecoming, I needed to declare again why I love him.
I’m sure I could come up with 50, but I’ve zeroed in on 5 of the biggest reasons that I love Billy Graham.
Culture didn’t drive his preaching. Politics didn’t dictate his delivery. He wasn’t seeker sensitive, He was Spirit sensitive. Like John Wesley, you could honestly say that Billy Graham is “a man of one book.” Although many tried to sway him, Billy took the Bible literally and declared it’s simple, clear message faithfully. After 60 plus years of preaching, he still defers the power of his ministry to the Word of God.
#2 The primary focus of Billy Graham’s preaching was the cross of Christ
As I listened this week to what might be Billy’s last public message to the world, you could not miss his focus on the cross. His theme, especially for America at this time, was “My Hope.” With so much of the preaching in America centered on people’s felt needs, it was refreshing to hear Billy clearly address the most vital need in America: forgiveness for our sins. He never strays too far from the centrality of the cross and the power that is available to all those who repent of their sins by faith in Christ’s finished work.
#3 Billy Graham has maintained a life of integrity
Maybe one of the most important nights in Graham’s ministry happened in a hotel room in Modesto, CA in 1948. Billy and his young team laid out some principles for their ministry and they all agreed to live by them. They would be above reproach regarding money. No matter how high the offerings were, they would receive modest salaries. They would also let local leadership manage all the funds for each crusade. Billy’s team agreed to stay away from even the appearance of evil with other women. They would not even get in an elevator alone with a woman! They would avoid any exaggeration when it came to describing the fruit of their ministry. And Billy’s team would refuse to criticize other ministries or even respond to criticism. These principles became known to them as the Modesto Manifesto, and they gave themselves to this for over 50 years!
He is certainly one of the most recognized people on earth. He has had the ear of presidents and kings. Hundreds of millions of people have listened to him speak. Multitudes have changed their lives because of his message. Yet when anyone speaks of Billy Graham, they mention his humility. My heart was moved as I listened to this great man describe where he has failed. He wishes that he had studied more. He believes that he should have prayed more. And he regrets being away from his family so much. What a tender heart.
#5 I love Billy Graham because of the impact he has had on my family
This one is very personal. In 1961, Billy Graham held a crusade in Philadelphia, PA. My parents were leaders in their church but not in a relationship with Jesus. They had much of what the world considered success: two beautiful daughters, a job that came with respect, and a brand new home that my father and grandfather built. But they were without hope and without Christ. They traveled with their church to the arena and climbed the steps to seats near the very top. They listened to Ethel Waters sing “His Eye Is On The Sparrow,” and watched Cliff Barrows lead a massive choir. Then they heard Billy preach a simple message from the Bible and call for people to repent of their sins and commit their lives to Jesus Christ. My parents walked down all of those arena steps and stood at ground level where a trained volunteer helped them invite Jesus into their hearts. Their lives were changed that night in Philly, and even though I was yet to be born, mine was too.
Within a couple of years, my father answered God’s call to be a pastor. My parents left that respectable job and their dream home, packed up their daughters and their newborn son, and moved into a duplex in Wilmore, KY. It was there my father began his training for ministry at Asbury College. For over 50 years, I’ve had the privilege of watching them be faithful in their service to Christ. That family of 5 multiplied to over 40 and I am so thankful to be able to say that we all love and serve Jesus.
And it all started that night in Philly under the faithful ministry of Billy Graham. I love him.