Remembering a farm boy for God…
The recent passing of Dr. Billy Graham at the age of 99 is bittersweet. It is bitter because it may signal the end of a very special season of gospel favorability in our nation, and perhaps the world. It is sweet because Graham has been reunited with his beloved Ruth, he is well and now he walks in the presence of the Savior that he so obviously loved, served, and proclaimed for decades.
Many of us in ministry today would say that Graham in some way affected us, mentored us from a distance and inspired us to serve God and live lives of integrity for Him. As a young Christian and a 14-year-old boy called to ministry, I would take an old portable cassette recorder, plug in a small microphone, and set it in front of our home television set each time that Graham aired. I would record his messages and then listen to them over and over again.
Graham’s leadership, when evaluated in the years to come, will certainly reflect his visionary impact on others. Harold Myra describes it this way; “One of the most profound effects of Billy’s leadership has been his stoking the fires of other leaders beyond his own organization. He wasn’t building his own empire, he was building something bigger.” I can tell you from this preacher’s perspective, he will be deeply missed. And that, for a number of reasons. For example, just knowing that Billy Graham was alive and remained among us has to me, provided a strange sense of spiritual security on some national level. Knowing that God had not yet called home this servant who had proclaimed the gospel so faithfully to so many people, gave some additional hope that God might yet move again across our land… and we pray that God still will do so.
Graham’s life and ministry remain as reminders (and will continue to) of what God can do with anyone who surrenders completely to the purpose of God. Graham was born in 1918 on a dairy farm outside Charlotte, NC with no early aspirations of preaching, much less being a world-renowned messenger for God. He was just a farm boy, who wanted to play baseball until he was saved at 15 in revival meeting under the preaching of an Oklahoma evangelist named Mordecai Ham. From there everything changed. God burned His call of ministry into the heart and life of this teenage farm boy and began to order his steps. Eventually, those steps would take him before kings and queens, before presidents and rulers, and by Wednesday, February 21, 2018, have taken him and the message of the gospel to 215 million people on 6 continents.
Several years ago, I authored a paper assessing Billy Graham’s leadership over the years. In it, I state that Graham’s leadership and influence is not the result of some happenstance events of his early ministry. No, it is, in fact, the culmination of his response to “God’s overture” toward him and his willingness to follow that divine initiative. And we are all better for it. So, thank you, Billy Graham, for a life well-lived for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
By the way, you can read my paper assessing Dr. Graham’s Leadership on my blog or on our website. You can also listen to Dr. Graham’s message archive at billygraham.org by clicking on the TV & Radio link. Thanks also to
I love being your Pastor! And remember that God is always trying to take you someplace new.
For God’s Glory Alone,