This week, at the age of 99, Billy Graham transitioned from this life, to life eternal. I read recently that in his 80 years of ministry, he preached the gospel to approximately 80 million people live. When you add to that radio and television along with the ongoing impact of the Billy Graham Evangelistic association, I find it difficult to fully fathom the impact of this man’s life for the kingdom of God.
As I think about his life and his legacy, several applications come to mind. First, we should never underestimate what Christ can do with a single life that is fully committed to him. From the Apostle Paul to the likes of John Wesley, Martin Luther, DL Moody, Aimee Semple McPherson, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Joyce Meyers, Craig Groeschel or Andy Stanley, from generation to generation God has taken ordinary people and used them in extraordinary ways. We should never doubt what God can do in our own lives if we will make ourselves fully available to him.
Bill Graham had a team. While it was Billy Graham at the front of the platform, he would be the first to acknowledge that the success of the ministry was built on that great team. George Beverly Shea, Cliff Barrows, Art Bailey and others were as integral to the ministry as Billy Graham himself. While we all have gifts, what makes ministry truly effective is the synergy of all those gifts working together towards the fulfillment of a unified vision and mission. Read more about the vision I have for our church here.
The power of perseverance. I think most of us picture Billy Graham preaching to large stadiums filled to capacity with people. But it wasn’t always like that. In the early years of his ministry, Graham preached many a message to tiny crowds in small country churches and tent revivals. But he stayed the course. He persevered through the hard times. As he was faithful in the small things, God continued to open greater and greater opportunities. When ministry does not come easy, or we don’t seem to see the fruit that we hope for, stay the course. There is a pastor in Nashville that I have great respect for. In his first 25 years of ministry, his church barely reached 200. But he stayed the course. By the time Pastor Hardwick retired, that same church had grown to several thousand. The power of perseverance.
Mission over method. For several decades, Billy Graham’s ministry was built entirely on crusade evangelism. As television became a more powerful medium, Graham was eager to embrace that technology. As a crusade style of evangelism became less effective, the Billy Graham association began to take a more decentralize approach, using video with small gatherings in people’s homes. From crowds of 50,000 people listening to a live preacher to tens of thousands of home hosting gatherings of 10 to 15 people for a video message. Methods change. The mission, reaching people for Christ, is what matters and does not change. And so too for us. Our methods have changed and must continue to change. But our mission remains the same: to reach and disciple people for Christ.
Join us this Sunday as we continue “God’s Great Plan~From Creation to the Cross.” You don’t want to miss a single week of this great series.