5 Reflections on the Life and Ministry of Billy Graham

Billy Graham

Famed Christian evangelist Billy Graham passed away at home in North Carolina on Wednesday, February 21. He was 99 years old.

Most Americans are familiar with the name “Billy Graham,” and most Americans have a positive perception of Graham. This is a testimony to his consistently Christlike character through decades spent in the public eye. In this post I want to offer 5 reflections on the life and ministry of Billy Graham.

  • Graham shows us it is possible to be “above reproach.” In 1948 Graham and several associates agreed on something known as the “Modesto Manifesto.” This unwritten agreement established guidelines designed to protect the integrity of a minister of the gospel. Because of the recently maligned “Billy Graham Rule,” Graham’s ministry was never stained by sexual misconduct or financial impropriety. Graham’s decades long ministry stands in stark contrast to the lives of many Christian celebrities who have made shipwreck of their lives.
  • Graham shows us the urgency of evangelism. Even those who disagree with some of Graham’s methods ought to appreciate his earnest desire to preach the gospel and see people meet Jesus. While I have concerns about some of Graham’s methodology, I’m reminded of a story from the life of another famous evangelist. DL Moody was once criticized for his approach to evangelism. When Moody pushed back his critic admitted that he himself wasn’t much of an evangelist. Moody quipped that he preferred his approach to no approach.
  • Graham shows us it’s ok to use the phrase, “The Bible says …” Despite using a simple approach, Graham was not a simpleton. He was capable of using sophisticated philosophical arguments in his preaching. Instead he trusted in the power of God’s Word and the work of God’s Spirit. The world may laugh at those who trust in the authority of God’s Word, but the gospel is still the power of God for salvation for those who believe. Even in 2018, no pastor need apologize for using the phrase, “The Bible says,” and using it with authority.
  • Graham shows us we ought to long for heaven. In 2005 Graham released his last book, Nearing Home. He knew his time on earth was short, and he wrote with a tangible longing for heaven. He missed his wife. He longed for rest. He wanted to be in the presence of Jesus. Even those who aren’t approaching death’s doorstep can learn from Graham’s longing for heaven.
  • Graham shows us how to communicate the gospel with clarity. The gospel really is a simple message about God’s holiness, our sinfulness, and the person and work of Jesus. Graham shared that message and called people to believe with an infectious North Carolina charm.

I’m grateful for the life and ministry of Billy Graham. While I don’t share all of his theological convictions, and I’m uncomfortable with some of his evangelistic methodology, I’m inspired by his Christlike character and his passion for evangelism.

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