In addition to his moral integrity and organizational ability, Billy Graham was also a media innovator. One of his memories of his pastor when he was a boy was that his pastor’s sermons were “biblical but boring.” Due to this model he experienced, Graham displayed a passion to minister in innovative ways to ensure he captured the attention of his differing audiences.
While Graham never tried to compete with the American entertainment industry, he did try to engage the minds and hearts of his hearers.
Early in his ministerial career working with Youth for Christ, Graham developed services with engaging music and compelling testimonies in order to gather large numbers at their meetings He is the first evangelist to use lapel microphones, amplifiers, and film in his gospel presentations. By the early 1950s, Graham had already developed “an organization, a radio broadcast, a film ministry, a financial policy, and a compatible Team.” After he began a radio ministry entitled, “The Hour of Decision,” over twenty million people listened to Graham on the radio. This broadcast was a pivotal step leading Graham towards broadcasting the gospel on television.
Graham also delved into the printed media to get his message out to the masses. In 1952, he started writing a daily column entitled, “My Answer,” where he began to dictate his answers to differing theological issues to an American audience. Following the example of the Apostle Paul who would take any opportunity available to present the gospel, Graham followed behind him and used many different media tools to spread the message. He was also the founder of two major magazines: Christianity Today, an intellectual publication targeted for pastors and church leaders, and Decision, a devotional publication to equip believers in their spiritual growth.
Graham displayed a genuine passion to reach people for Christ who would never independently attend one of his crusades, and he was willing to reach them through any means necessary.
Graham held that the unchurched people of America were not going to come to the Christian meetings to find Christ, so he began to produce films to be shown in movie theaters so that people might find Christ even while watching a film. As his crusades have endured for decades, Graham has utilized many edgier musical groups in an attempt to attract younger crowds. He stated, “As long as the essential message of the gospel is not obscured or compromised, we must use every legitimate method we can.”
Graham’s innovative spirit never decreased in his ministry endeavors. In 1993, Graham was seventy-five years old when he engaged in one of the first chat sessions on the internet hosted by America Online and Time magazine. In 1995, Graham began to use the technology of telecasts to get his message to a wider audience. In 1996, Graham conducted a television presentation of the gospel which was accessible to a number of hearers equaling half of the world’s population.
In Graham’s attempt to reach the world for Christ, he would be willing to utilize any means possible.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.