November 7th will be Billy Graham’s 90th birthday. In honor of that celebration, I thought I would spend a few blog posts over the next few days explaining why I just genuinely love this man. Jesus has truly used him in this world, and since I read his 700 page autobiography, some things really stuck out to me:
Few people have experienced a more significant influence on the spread of the gospel throughout the entire world than evangelist Billy Graham. Many people have praised Graham’s integrity, ability, and ingenuity, and no one can deny the sheer magnitude of his ministry’s accomplishments throughout his lifetime. While still a youth, Billy Graham was converted under the ministry of Mordecai Ham, an effective itinerant evangelist. Recollecting upon Ham’s distinct message delivery style, Graham stated that Ham’s sermons “put it against a background of sin and judgment and Hell in a novel way that fascinated me.” Not only did Ham have a direct personal impact on Graham’s conversion, but Ham’s memorable style of preaching would directly influence the way that Graham would later preach to millions of people all around the world.
The timing of Graham’s ministry was not an accident or a coincidence. Some historians equate Graham’s evangelistic work to the apex of the Fourth Great Awakening. Recovering economically, emotionally, and spiritually from World War II, the United States was prime for a spiritual awakening. The numbers of death from the war reminded people concerning their mortality, and the spiritual harvest was essentially prepared by the reality of the times. Due to the circumstances of the times, Graham witnessed unprecedented numbers of people converted in American during his ministry. He served as one of the traveling evangelists for the new found Youth For Christ evangelistic association in the 1940s and saw an incredible spiritual harvest. Graham not only experienced revival in the United States, but he saw record crowds at his crusades all over the world.
As Graham’s evangelistic ministry progressed, he would eventually preach to millions of people all around the world. As he witnessed many testimonies of God’s grace being bestowed on people from every nation, Graham commented, “If I didn’t believe in Christ, I would believe in him from that point alone–what he does to the faces of people.” Even during times when his message was not popular, Graham’s oratory always “revealed an attractive voice, a pleasant personality, and a sense of humor.” Wherever Graham went to minister, his message was often favorably received by people who for some intangible reason trusted him and his message.
Observers of Graham indicated that even amidst great ministry success, he appeared to work all the harder so that he could maintain God’s approval and not man’s. “The fear that he lives with is not that, outwardly, he may fail but that, inwardly, he may fail the Almighty.” Due to his intense gratitude for what Christ had done in his own life and a deep, affectionate love with which he loved the people of the world, Graham spent his entire life in ministry dedicated to the great task of bringing more people to Jesus. While it is difficult to ascertain the exact reasoning why precisely Graham’s ministry experienced such unparalleled success compared to any other evangelist figure, certain key elements in his ministry are apparent through studying his ministerial career that have aided significantly to the spiritual harvests he witnessed over the years.
I’ll share some of those insights in posts to come…