The Evangelist: The Worldwide Impact of Billy Graham

Holy Wednesday. While sorting some of the piles of books in the living room, I saw Lewis Drummond’s The Evangelist: The Worldwide Impact of Billy Graham (2001, Word Publishing), and remembered my excitement and joy when, in May 2003, I was able to persuade my cousin Meliza to come with me to what I thought would be the last of Billy Graham’s evangelistic crusades. And since the crusade was in San Diego (at the Qualcomm Stadium) just when I was spending my service leave there with beloved uncles and aunts, I felt truly blessed.

To ascertain the place of William Franklin Graham (b. 1918) in history, evangelist-scholar and former seminary president Lewis Drummond (1927-2004) analyzes the life and ministry of Dr. Graham with respect to 12 Biblical and historical principles of evangelism: 1) the Holy Spirit, 2) the call and the gospel, 3) the sovereignty of God, 4) the centrality of Christ, 5) Holistic ministry, 6) The Christian approach to suffering, 7) The Bible, 8) Boldness, 9) Godliness, 10) Revival, 11), Worldwide ministry, and 12) The church.

Using data from Dr. Graham’s own books and booklets (numbering 26 at that time), as well as articles and books about, interviews with, and videos of Dr. Graham, Dr. Drummond shows Rev. Graham’s life and ministry to be faithful to, if not exemplary of, the twelve principles. He therefore concludes:

Billy Graham … has set the standard of [evangelistic] leadership. The church is broader, stronger, and bolder because of him. And light has been shed around the world by his clear presentation of Christ and the lives changed by commitment to Him.

I agree.

One thing I like about the book is that it portrays Billy Graham as someone with strengths as well as weaknesses, supporters as well as critics if not foes. I also like the conceptual framework that the author uses to evaluate Billy Graham’s life and ministry, though I don’t quite agree that worldwide ministry should be a principle (together with, say, the Trinity) for historical evangelism.

Now for some choice quotes.

Billy Graham on Jesus Christ:

“I have spent my lifetime proclaiming one central truth: there is good news for the people of the world. At the heart of that good news is Jesus Christ.” (p 66)

Billy Graham on the role and power of the Holy Spirit in salvation:

 “I’ve learned my greatest lesson. It’s not by power or might or any fancy sermon, it is wholly and completely the work of the Holy Spirit.” (p 54)

Billy Graham on the Word of God:

In discussing his use of the Scripture, Graham says, “I do not quote [verses]…to uphold my views. I try to take my position on the basis of what the Bible teaches.” For Billy Graham, the Bible always speaks to all peoples; therefore he uses it to the full. It has been estimated that Graham quotes up to forty or fifty Bible verses in each sermon. (p 114)

Billy Graham on suffering. After saying that persecution is a privilege, he gives Christians some cautions:

First, as Christians we may suffer because of our own poor judgment, stupidity and blundering. He contends, “There is no blessedness in this.” Furthermore Graham insists, “We  must be careful not to behave offensively, preach offensively, and dress offensively.” And we must never adopt or embrace a martyr’s attitude. (p 96)

Billy Graham on ecumenism:

“I have found that non-essentials separate people more often than essentials. In reading the history of denominations, it is interesting to note that… divisions have always resulted from somewhat minor differences… I made up my mind to fellowship with all those who love Jesus Christ with all their heart, and are seeking to serve Him.”  The evangelist confesses, “I have  sometimes been critiziced for doing this, but I would rather lose a few friends than the blessing and favor of my Lord.” (p 174)

“I am neither a fundamentalist nor a modernist… The ecumenical movement has broadened my viewpoint and I recognize that God has his people in all churches.” (p 190)

On Billy Graham’s humility:

Photographer Russ Busby, who has traveled the world with Graham documenting his ministry said, “The biggest asset Billy has is his humility.” (p 180)

And finally, a beautiful segue to the upcoming glorious Feast of the Resurrection:

“The New Testament teaches from one end to the other that Christ indeed is risen from the dead. The most thrilling fact of human history is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (p 73)

Amen!

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