Personal Integrity of Billy Graham

Part 2 on my series on Billy Graham:

One of the major hallmarks of Graham’s ministry has always been his scandal-free ministerial career.  When ministers speak of how to handle oneself in ministry while maintaining integrity, Graham’s name is frequently cited as a model for all ministers in which to aspire.  “His crusades, his leadership, and his personal character serve as a model for those who would be leaders in time of awakening.”

Graham’s evangelistic career followed the ministry of a famous evangelist named Billy Sunday.  Graham learned a lesson from the negative backlash concerning Sunday’s inappropriate handling of funds, which resulted in Sunday’s decrease in public approval.  Due to this negative portrayal of an evangelist, Graham made some significant changes for his ministry.  Early in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s development, Graham insisted that he and his entire organizational staff be placed with a set salary so that no one could accuse them of using the crusades to make a profit.  Beyond being careful with the finances collected at crusades, Graham has also used the majority of his book royalties to fund many charitable organizations.  Graham stated, “Like it or not, money is an essential part of any ministry, and safeguards must be put in place to avoid abuses or misunderstandings and to handle all finances with integrity and openness.”

While many evangelists’ perceived sly personalities damaged their popular perceptions, Graham’s dynamic charisma never clouded his authentic sincerity.  While in London, amidst great skepticism and persecution concerning his first crusade, newspaper reporters described Graham as possessing “dynamic sincerity.”  C. S. Lewis once told Graham that “you have many critics, but I have never met one of your critics who knows you personally.”

Regardless of how unpopular his message was to a sinful world, Graham proved time and time again that his personality and character found approval with the masses.  With the media constantly searching for something negative with which to expose Billy Graham, he has never provided them with any scandals or actions which could result in the ruin of his integrity to the mass public.  One of Graham’s mentors and professors, W. T. Watson, was accused of immoral behavior when Graham was in college.  Graham genuinely believed that the charges were false against Watson.  While Graham vehemently defended Watson’s innocence, this episode forced Graham to develop strict procedures in which to minister to ensure his moral integrity would never come into public speculation.  Early in his organization’s development, Graham and his staff developed ministry and professional guidelines to ensure the staff’s own protection.  Graham stated, “From that day one, I did not travel, meet, or eat alone with a woman other than my wife.”


Another arena in which Graham showed his moral integrity was that of race relations.  During a time in America when racism was rampant and the political environment concerning that issue was hostile, Graham stated bravely in 1953 that he would never participate in a segregated crusade.  Even before the apex of the Civil Rights Movement, Graham was groundbreaking in his approach to view every man and woman the same through God’s eyes regardless of ethnicity or race.  After his conversion, Graham stated that he could never understand how segregation could exist within the local church.  During his ministry, he desired to unite races in the tumultuous South where he was raised.  His impeccable character and moral integrity granted him support from all differing groups of evangelicals and even world leaders.

Travis Agnew is a Christian, husband, father, pastor, author, blogger, and religion instructor.

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