William Franklin Graham, Jr (November, 7, 1918 - February 21, 2018)
The Bible tells us that Christ graciously gives gifted people to His Church for her growth and maturity. Among these are the evangelists. Today we learned that the best known American evangelist has died; he is now present with the Lord whom he served.
Much should and will be written about the life and influence of Billy Graham. He was a counselor to presidents, and the catalyst for many of the para-church organizations that sprang up after WWII. His own organization - the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association - has a long track record of financial integrity and blameless moral conduct - a tribute, in many ways, to Graham's own honesty and honor.
Born in 1918 and coming into prominence in the late 1940s, Billy Graham's evangelistic crusades took him all over the world. He was quick to embrace new technology - particularly television - in an attempt to reach even more than the millions he already reached in his stadium preaching tours. The Lord used his voice to proclaim the good news of Jesus in a clear and powerful way, and many came to a saving knowledge of Christ under his preaching ministry. Even for those who never heard him preach, his confidence in the scriptures and concern for the lost were well-known.
The founder of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Donald Grey Barnhouse, had a friendship with Dr. Graham. In a 1977 interview with Christianity Today, Graham said, "One of my great regrets is that I have not studied enough. I wish I had studied more and preached less. People have pressured me into speaking to groups when I should have been studying and preparing. Donald Barnhouse said that if he knew the Lord was coming in three years he would spend two of them studying and one preaching. I'm trying to make it up."1 At another point in his ministry, Graham said of Barnhouse, "He knew the Scriptures better than any man I ever knew."
There are bound to be disagreements among sincere Christians over questions of theology and methodology. After all, the apostle Paul tells us, "For now we see in a mirror dimly." But today we rejoice in the life and ministry of Billy Graham, preacher and evangelist, remembering Paul's words to the Ephesian church: "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."
1. "Taking the World's Temperature" (interview), Christianity Today (Sept. 23, 1977): 19.