Sunday, February 25, 2018

Remembering Brother Billy

Several decades ago a dairy farmer and his wife in North Carolina held a prayer meeting. One of the things they prayed for was someone in their area who would go on to have a massive worldwide ministry. Their prayers were answered through their own family. On November 7, 1918, the dairy farmer's wife gave birth to William Franklin Graham Jr.  

It is widely believed Billy Graham preached the gospel to more people (an estimated 215 million) than anybody else in history. He was also a spiritual adviser to multiple U.S. presidents. In an era when preachers are not as respected as they used to be, Billy was constantly on the upper rungs of Gallup's List of Widely Admired People.

During the late 1990s, I worked at World Wide Pictures, the film ministry of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. My job there was calling pastors throughout the United States scheduling evangelistic films to be shown in their churches. Although telemarketing work can get tedious, my job at World Wide Pictures was quite enjoyable. Most of the pastors and church secretaries I talked to had great respect for Billy. On rare occasions, I encountered what co-workers labeled “Billy bashers.”

There were a couple of occasions when I got to talk with the Rev. Graham himself. I met him for the first time during the 1996 employee picnic. I told Billy that God had called me to be an evangelist as well. Billy replied, “Make sure you study the Scriptures.”

The following summer at another employee picnic, I told Rev. Graham I had just finished reading his autobiography “Just As I Am” and really enjoyed it. With a serious look in his eye Billy replied, “Every time I read it, I get bored!” He had a unique way of being humorous and humble at the same time.

Billy retired from mass crusades in 2005 but remained active in getting the gospel out. A few years ago, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association led a campaign called My Hope America, combining the impact of video programs with the power of personal relationships. Christians across the United States opened their homes to share the Gospel with friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors featuring life-changing testimonies and powerful messages from Billy Graham.

This past Wednesday, Billy Graham died in his North Carolina home at the age of 99. A few ministers had prophesied that following Billy’s passing, another great spiritual awakening would occur. It will be interesting to see what happens in the days ahead. In the meantime, I’m sure multitudes in heaven are thanking Billy for his Christ-like example and commitment to preaching the gospel throughout the world.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 
- 2 Timothy 4:7

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